From the age of 11, you’re prepared by your teachers for the GCSE exams you’re going to sit. After this you prepare for your AS’, then you’re A2…all in the hopes of getting to a good uni and studying a subject you’re fond of. You prepare for your first term at uni, making new friends, changing the way you learn and live. You prepare for your exams, your second and then eventually final year of university, all with that motivation of the end being in sight, no more exams, no more revision and no more late night essay writing, you’re finally free!
What no one prepares you for is the feeling of panic, worry and stress after you finish. No one prepares you for the feeling of confusion, feeling like you don’t know where you’re heading and unsure of the next steps you’re going to take. After spending 17 out of 21 years of your life in education and under the instruction of your superiors, its all we’ve ever known, so being completely independent and free of all ‘you must do this’ ‘here’s what you need to do for this’, its easy to feel lost.
I remember when I was sat in the library, hours into uni work and I’d remind myself of how amazing I’d feel when I was finished, a summer of fun, no responsibilities; unfortunately it hasn’t gone exactly the way I’d hoped it would. The truth is that I felt unemployed, I felt guilty when I spend the day relaxing, I felt pressured to get a great starting job and I felt like everyones waiting with bated breath to find out what the philosophy graduate does (or doesn’t do) with her life. I used past tense because I no longer feel like that, I’ve come to realise that the real truth is that none of the above is true, the only pressure and negativity I face comes from me… it really is so true that we are our worst enemies and our biggest haters.
I’ve always been the type to expect the best from myself and to always feel like I need to be doing something productive. When I have a day to relax, I get bored, I feel guilty and I get cabin fever to the max! At the moment I have no where to be, if I want to I can get up at 1pm and stay in bed all day, I have no huge purpose…and it’s so daunting. I think it’s partly because I didn’t take a gap year, from the age of 11 I’ve been working towards a big goal, towards exams or a particular grade and qualification. Except now my only goal after uni is ‘get a job’, there’s no exact route to achieve this, there’s no text book for guidance, it’s just me, on my own journey to finding something that I love doing so much that I want to do it for the rest of my life.
Whilst yes, this blog post has started on a fairly negative note, that’s not the intention and most definitely will not be the outcome of this blog post! I’m not writing this blog post just to moan, I’m writing it with the intention of reaching out and hopefully helping others who feel the same, to remind others that they are not alone. Now that I’ve explained how I’ve been feeling, I’m going to speak about my current plan and tips for others that might be in a similar predicament to me.
For me, the last couple of weeks have been stressful and I’ve changed my mind so many times. But now I’ve devised my next few steps and established a positive outlook on my current situation. I realised that I’m 20 years old, I’ve not been finished from university for a month yet (as I’m writing this, as it’s posted I’ll have been finished for a month and 2 days!), I am allowed a break, and you are too. I’ve allowed myself to accept that I don’t need to say yes to every job interview invitation, I don’t need to take a job from a recruiter simply because they’ve called and its a job. I want to do a job that I’m passionate about, that will excite me and that I will look forward to every morning, I’ve accepted that this might take a little while to find, and that’s ok.
I think as a generation we are so competitive, so we feel like any job we get offered is the job we should immediately accept, even if it isn’t exactly or even at all what we want. But would you do that with anything else? If you walked round a market with the intention of finding a new pink, silky scarf and you went to the first stall and saw a red tartan scarf, would you take it? Yes, it’s a scarf, but its not pink and it’s certainly not silky. No, you’d realise that there are loads of other stalls you haven’t yet been too, and the chances are, one of those stalls will sell the pink and silky scarf you’ve been dreaming of. Even if you didn’t find your pink, silky scarf at the next 10 stalls, it might be at the last stall, yes it’s taken you a little bit longer to find it, but now you’ve got exactly what you wanted and you’re going to be so much happier with your pink silky scarf than you would have been with any other. What I’m trying to say in a really long-winded way, is that you do not need to settle for or let go of your dreams simply out of haste and panic. If you want something, look and look again, you’d hate to stop at stall 49 and settle for something else when your pink, silky scarf was a stall 50. We need to love and feel passionate about what we do, we’re going to invest so much energy, thought and time into it, so make sure it’s right for you.
Another thing I’ve been doing and another tip for others, is to stop comparing yourself. I find it so hard not to beat myself up over the fact that ‘x is working here’ or ‘y is earning this much’, their journey is their journey and your journey is yours. We all move at different paces and we should all support and encourage one another – we might have different destinations but we can certainly ride the bus together and get off at different stops.
Instead of trailing through Indeed, refreshing it multiple times a day in the hopes that you’re dream job appears, do some research, strengthen your CV, do some networking, learn about the field you want to go in to. All of these things will help you be the best possible candidate you can be when the job does come around or when you eventually feel ready.
Finally, relax! Remind yourself that you have earned a lie in, you’ve earned a week away somewhere, all of these things will enable you to feel truly ready to start work/job searching when you eventually do. I’m sure the majority of my readers are 18-23, so join me in looking at the bigger picture, May-September is 4 months, 4 months of summer to rest, research, network and improve your CV, in the grand scheme of things is NOTHING. How many sets of 4 months do we experience in our life time? For the sake of truly knowing what you want to do and how you want to achieve it, as well as truly feeling ready to start moving towards achieving it, those 4 months are invaluable.
Don’t feel pressured to start working now, you don’t want to look back and wish you’d taken more rest or taken more time out to travel. Does travel interest you? It does me. I know so many people who say that they regret not travelling, I don’t want that for myself. If you’re like me and you didn’t take a gap year, consider whether travelling is something you’d like to do. It’s much harder for you to begin a career and a few years later take a year out to travel, now is the best time. For me it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do and luckily its something Mat and myself have in common. Before then I plan to do a bit of relaxing, getting some relevant work experience, networking and earning some money to fund the trip of a lifetime.
In conclusion, whilst the end of uni for me has been an extremely daunting and surprising experience, it has forced me to really think about what I want and where I want to go. Yes I’m no longer being spoon fed and there’s no concrete rules to follow to live the rest of your life, that’s better because now it’s totally in my control. I’ve learnt that comparing and competing with others won’t make me happy, there will always be someone who gets their faster, or earns more sooner, none of those things matter so long as you keep hold of the overall aim, to do something you love, when it’s right for you. When it’s meant to happen, it will happen. If you get a no from somewhere, that’s because a bigger and better yes is around the corner (advice from my dad).
Sorry for the extremely long blog-post this week, I just feel so passionate about making sure I’ve done my best to make someone else feel better about their similar situation and to remind others that “you don’t have to have you’re whole life planned out, just your next step” (said by my extremely supportive friend Bea). What I’ve come to learn is that school and university had time frames for a reason, we had deadlines to hit, exams to be ready to take…the rest of your life is on your own set time frames, theres no date when you need to have a job, or need to be earning x amount, so take your time, go with the flow and enjoy the ride.
Until next time