The Graduate

Life Plan Blueprint

  • Step one: Go to school ☒
  • Step two: Get good grades ☒
  • Step three: Go to a respectable university ☒
  • Step Four: Make a tonne of lifelong friends and get a good degree☒ ☒
  • Step Five: Leave university get a great grad job, become financially independent, and lead a fabulous life full of brunches, bars, first dates, new friends, and complete with hip apartment fit for only the coolest young professional… ☐

As the years of university flew by this idea of the perfect post uni life remained the same. Shaped by images of shabby chic flats in up and coming London boroughs, or by TV shows featuring a groups of twenty something friends living in a Manhattan loft, the general idea of post-uni life was hopeful to say the least. But as the final months of university passed by, images of the perfect grad job, spacious apartments and chilled after work drinks with pals began to fade into the reality of cramped London flats, nights in with your mum and dad, and an unsatisfying work life balance. In the end the excitement of leaving university can end up leaving you feeling lonely and disillusioned.

According to a recent study 49% of graduates felt that their mental health had declined since leaving university. And it’s no surprise, for the first time ever you are left to make your own choices and find your own plan. For years it had been pretty simple, you go to school, get into a good uni, and after that you had some vague visions of what life would be like. But now you’ve graduated and the life you might have pictured is not just vague it’s completely uncertain. Of course this uncertainty is not always bad, it can be exciting too, with the possibility of travel, seeing new places and meeting new people, but what I’ve found is the excitement comes in waves, followed by a tsunami of anxiety and worry about the endless yet paradoxically limited possibilities of post-uni life.

Welcome to Casa Mum and Dad

For many graduates, including myself, leaving university means moving back in with your mum and dad for a little while. At first it can be nice coming back to the reassurance of your childhood home; your room is mostly how you left it, and your favourite home cooked meals are now a regular occurrence again. In fact, the comfort of home after living in a messy student house can be refreshing, and having your mum and dad around can be soothing… until it’s not.

Let’s just say Sherlock Holmes has nothing on my mum when she wants to know who I am texting and what the latest gossip is, and sharing a TV remote with my Dad is frustrating to say the least. And although I’ve only been back at home for two months even a couple of months can be a couple too many.

It’s not that I don’t like some aspects of being at home or that I won’t missed my parents when I’m gone, it’s just that right now I miss my independence and even my privacy. I miss being a total slob without my mum and dad asking me what’s on my agenda for the day. I miss going food shopping and making my own meal plans for the week.

I miss coming home from a night out at 3 am with my housemates in tow and spending the next couple of hours eating a grimy take-away as we debrief on the night’s events.

But perhaps most of all I miss being in a town, a city, because although Durham (my university town) might be tiny in comparison to London, it’s a hell of a lot bigger than the small village where my parents live and where the bus into the nearest city leaves once an hour… until 7pm when escaping the village is impossible without a car.

Long-Distance is Never Easy

One of the biggest challenges about leaving university is having to say goodbye to your friends who may also happen to be your housemates. Although I know we’ll see each other again it’s been hard knowing I won’t see them every day and that we’ll have make it through long distance.

But perhaps the hardest part about long distance friendships post-uni is that there will always be a group within your group of friends who end up living close, with many graduates congregating in London. And while it’s great for when you need a place stay, if you choose to go against the grain and move to Manchester, Leeds, or maybe to a new country, it can be hard knowing that life goes on without you.

Whether its Instagram stories or tales from nights out, watching your friends make new memories without you can leave you feeling left out, especially when you realise that making new friends in the real world is a little harder than it was in fresher’s week.

The Job

For many there is a real pressure to leave university and find that perfect job in the perfect location (usually defined as the London metropolis), but this fantasy is often met with unexpected financial, as well as social challenges.

Films like the Devil Wears Prada might have us believe that it’s possible to land a job as assistant to the Editor of Vogue without any prior experience or even interest in fashion, but the reality of endless application forms, the emphasis on previous internships, and the sheer number of graduates all applying for the same job would have us believe otherwise.

With most of your friends ending up in London, it can feel isolating living abroad.

Experience truly reigns supreme, even trumping your actual degree classification. After all what’s a 2:1 without the sixth month (unpaid) internship on top?

The catch 22 of getting a job without any experience in order to get some experience so that you can get a job can be exhausting.

Eventually you might land a job, but that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect job. I know some friends are struggling to find excitement in their job while those in their dream jobs might be struggling to cope with the workload and pressure that comes with working in certain industries. And even if you land a job you’re excited about, it doesn’t mean it will impress everyone, nor fit the high flying aims you might have previously had.

I myself applied for a graduate scheme in Germany with a pretty big sports apparel company. In the end they didn’t give me the job but they offered me a 6 months paid internship, something I am really excited about. It’s an opportunity to learn and gain experience to take forward to a potential grad scheme next year. But despite my pride, a friend seemed to pity me when I was venting how nervous about my first day. Trying to make me feel better, they explained that there was no need to worry, ‘’it’s not a real job, it’s just an internship’’…

This one hit me pretty hard as the days I had spent working on my application video, weeks waiting to hear back from the hiring manager, and the hours I spent preparing for the assessment centre all came flooding back. To me this internship was something I couldn’t be more proud of, to them it was not even a real job, and certainly not worth getting nervous about.

Social Media Strikes Again

Not only do we want to fulfil our own expectations, we want to meet the expectations of others, whether that’s society’s expectations, peer pressure, or the need to make you parents and family proud.

But when we come up short, or even come up trumps, the reality rarely meets those earlier visions of what post-university life would be like.

Of course feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and anxiety are not helped by social media post from those seemingly high achievers with their perfect life, perfect flat and maybe even perfect relationship. But the chances are even those insta achievers might be struggling with post-uni life (why else would they seek reassurance on social media).

So maybe it’s time we all opened up to each other a little more, instead of making things a competition about who made the best post-uni career leap, let’ just take a step back, congratulate each other on getting through the roller-coaster of university and be sure to give each other a helping hand when it comes to post-uni struggles and fears.

Concentrate on making your own way in the world and stop comparing yourself to others.

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