University years fly by, everyone says it but it’s hard to believe until you’re actually there at the end of your final year, faced with life post-university. It’s that time when anyone who actually moved away from home to go to uni starts to envy those who, for whatever reason, commuted from home because life for them seems so much less terrifying. Here you are, probably hundreds of miles from home, you’ve forged a new life for yourself with friends and quite possibly a partner in a new place and suddenly, when uni is over and you can no longer live in cheap accommodation and claim student finance, everything gets very scary very quickly.
You have two choices, really, go home and live with your parents again or stay where you are in your new life. Going home would feel almost like you’re undoing all the growing you’ve done at uni but staying put means finding somewhere to live and a way to bring in an income. So you’re faced with searching for a job as quickly as you can to ensure that you have something as soon as you finish uni, you’re also at this point probably trying to save money and find somewhere to live as well which is equally scary and confusing; you’ll soon be missing the simplicity of renting student accommodation!
I found myself a graduate scheme in an e-commerce company which I applied for in January of my third year; much earlier than many people start looking for jobs. I wasn’t planning to apply for anything, and found this particular graduate scheme randomly whilst job searching just for the hell of it. Being a graduate scheme there was no pressure to start immediately and the scheme had four intakes throughout the year, with graduates starting at different times, so I applied. It seemed like a good option and it paid pretty well, I put all my eggs in one basket thinking that if I walked straight into a well-paid graduate scheme straight out of uni I’d be made for life. Unfortunately it didn’t work out like that.
You’ll probably have at least some idea of what you want to do after uni, whether or not your degree was relevant, but if I could give current students one piece of advice right now, it’d be do not put all your eggs in one basket.
Money is so important, which is a shame but it’s the sad truth. Having a job is absolutely necessary to ones survival with the cost of living being so expensive. I was offered my job in February, and didn’t finish uni until June, so really I had loads of time to keep job hunting. What I forgot to do was be picky. The way I’d always seen it was I needed a job and it didn’t matter if it was the right job for me or not as long as I had money coming in, and I regret putting all my eggs into one basket and not shopping around a bit for the right job.
It became clear very early on that the job I had got was not for me and I soon regretted how complacent I got in that February after I was offered it. I didn’t look elsewhere, I didn’t spend the time trying to find something better or more suitable, I simply got the job and stopped looking. I wanted to go into marketing, but marketing only made up a quarter of the two year graduate scheme and while I knew that would be enough to give me some good experience and skills, I also knew that when it came time to move onto the other departments; one of which being in the warehouse, I wouldn’t enjoy the job at all. But still I went with it because I needed a job and it paid well.
What you need to remember is that although getting a job and earning money is paramount to you staying alive and living a fulfilling existence you are allowed to pick the right one. The right one isn’t necessarily the one that pays the most, nor is it the one that you get offered first. You have to go to that place every single day of the week for whole days at a time, possibly for the rest of your life, you really don’t want to be doing that somewhere you can’t stand. Doing a job that makes you wake up in the morning dreading the day ahead is no life really and you can do better. That’s a sentiment I didn’t really consider until I lost that job, and losing it was a blessing in disguise and no matter how worried I was about how I would continue to pay the rent or buy food or pay bills, I couldn’t help but feel relieved.
I started job hunting the next day, applying for anything suitable. I had in mind around 4 jobs that were the main ones I was hoping to get and last week I got one of those 4. I have to wait a bit to start, and probably won’t start till the beginning of November but this time I did what I should’ve done before and applied to loads of jobs with favourites in mind so I could pick and choose a bit. Now, touch wood, I’m going to be working in a job I enjoy in a place that doesn’t make me wake up in the morning wanting to cry.
The one main thing I learned is that life goes on, and it really wasn’t the end of the world. I’ve managed to get by on the money I had and I’ve been able to pay the rent and other bits and bobs. I’ve lost out on some things; my boyfriend and I had a weekend to Dublin planned at the end of November to celebrate both my birthday and my graduation (next month is quite a big month!) which I have had to cancel. I’ve not been away for years and it would’ve been the first actual holiday me and my other half have had in the two years we’ve been together, not to mention my graduation/birthday is something I wanted to celebrate, but ho-hum, we will have to wait and book something again in the new year. My other concern is Christmas; my favourite time of year. I love buying presents for people and this is the first Christmas that me and my other half will be together on Christmas day in our own place, which I was hoping to decorate to the rafters with Christmas decorations. All in all the ill-timed loss of my job has ruined many plans that should’ve been amazing this year, it’s made me miserable and depressed and worried about the next few months but luckily I’ll start a new job soon and be back on my feet in no time. There are always people out there worse-off, and my situation could be a whole lot worse.
When you’re finishing uni it’s a scary time and you’re faced with lots of big decisions about your life. Getting a job is important, but don’t forget to sit down and really think about what you want, and don’t be afraid to turn down job offers or quit jobs part-way through if they aren’t right for you. As long as you have something in the pipeline to fall back on and you keep your options open it really won’t be the end of the world. If you’ve worked hard the past three years to get your degree then you will find something. My advice; start looking early. I started just after Christmas in my final year of uni, there are graduate schemes and graduate positions out there that won’t require you to start work straight away, so it’s always worth applying to those early on. Apply for as many things as you can, keep your options open and don’t feel guilty about being a bit picky. Yes you need a job but do you really want to have spent 27 grand and three years of hard work on a degree to settle for the first job you find just because it’s the easy option? That didn’t work for me at all. Apply for jobs, go to interviews and be picky as much as possible while you’re still in your final year at uni because things will only be more difficult once you’ve finished and that cheap accommodation is gone, not to mention the student finance payments!