It’s nearly 2 years since I graduated from university. In that time I’ve learnt a lot. When I first graduated, shit hit the fan for a little while and it’s taken me until now to get myself back on track. Which hasn’t been the easiest thing in the world, but I’ve learnt a lot en route.
Today I want to focus my biggest pieces of graduate advice. This isn’t me saying that I am the all-knowing grad life oracle. But I do have 2 years of experience and, despite everything, I’m doing pretty well so far, so I at least vaguely know what I’m talking about.
1. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
This sounds like such a downer to start things off with, but bear with me.
Graduate life can be hard. Major life changes take a while to get used to. Especially when they involve leaving behind a lot of your friends and entering the world of taxes and offices and salary negotiations.
You’re young and you’re learning, so stop expecting everything to be perfect. Perfect is boring. If we all graduated and got our dream job and lived happily ever after and that was it, life would suck. Maybe you’ll end up in the wrong job, or the wrong city, or with the wrong people. Shit happens.
2. USE YOUR CAREERS SERVICE
Chances are you’ve never set foot in the Careers Service before. I didn’t either until just before I graduated. Now I regret it not using it sooner. Which is why I’m telling you to do as I say, not as I did.
Even if you’re not career-minded and your big post-uni plan is to move overseas or something super hip like that, it’s always a good idea to visit the Careers Centre at your uni. These places receive masses of funding but they’re so under-used. I know it seems like a drag and the future is scary. But these people are paid to help you out with your future.
When I finally visited my uni’s Careers Centre, they helped me out tons. Even after I graduated, I continued to use them. Check how long you can use your uni’s Careers Service for after you graduate, as most will help for a year or two after graduating.
I got directed towards grad schemes I’d never heard of. They gave me super helpful job application tips and even looked over drafts of applications before I submitted them. When I did get interviews, I went to them for mock interviews and they sent me tips and videos to watch to help me perfect my technique. They were a lifesaver.
3. BE REALISTIC IN THE JOB HUNT
One thing that took me a while to learn was how to apply to graduate level jobs. And, more importantly, how to be realistic about it.
Y’see, applying for jobs after uni isn’t the same as applying to jobs before uni. Chances are, you’re applying to very different kinds of jobs now. Jobs that pay a lot more money and require a lot more brain power and responsibility.
With different jobs, comes a need for a different approach to applying to them. At first, I tried to apply to tons of jobs at once. I set myself goals of applying to 10 in one week, or 3 in one day. I tried to apply to jobs before the deadline closed that same evening. None of it worked out well.
Be realistic. Take your time applying to jobs. Do your applications one at a time, set aside at least a day per application (I prefer to spend 2-3, to allow for lots and lots of drafts and spell-checking), and don’t leave it ’til the last minute. As the old saying goes: it’s better to whole ass one thing, than half ass several.
4. STOP COMPARING YOURSELF
Comparison is the enemy of joy. This needs to be your new mantra. It’s something I repeated to myself over and over when I first graduated, because otherwise I might have lost my mind.
Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Step back from social media for a bit. Ignore Facebook and Instagram. Check Twitter less. For god’s sake, never lurk on LinkedIn. It’s all a recipe for disaster.
Everyone is going to be talking about what a great new job they have, or their beautiful new flat with their perfect significant other, or the round the world trip they’re having a blast taking. It’s going to suck to see it all, and you’re going to be envious. You’ll find yourself jealous of people doing things you know you don’t even want to do. So focus on yourself, and ignore the lot of them.
5. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Basically, graduating brings a lot of weird, scary changes and life decisions with it. I’m going to be real with you: sometimes it sucks. There are still a lot of times I miss uni and all of my friends being around and all the cool stuff I got to do when I didn’t have bills and a full-time job and other boring stuff.
Sometimes it can be super fun though, and it’s important to enjoy those bits. Trading in weekly all-nighters and necking VKs in sticky clubs for weekend breaks to visit friends who moved away and blowing half your salary at after-work drinks isn’t actually the end of the world.
Don’t be too serious, if you can help it. Change is weird. So take things a step at a time, spend a lot of time with the people you love, and make time for looking after yourself.