Graduated? So What Now?

I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of people on my Facebook and Twitter celebrating the joys of Graduation recently. It’s a super exciting time for some but for most through the brief haze of achievement there’s that awful dread of WHAT NOW?! A few people may have internships or jobs lined up which relate to their chosen field of study. I must say, particularly in Stoke on Trent, these people are going to be few and far between. Staffordshire University, although it contains a large concentration of Art’s based courses, isn’t in a very ‘art’s based area’. Jobs for young people around these parts which aren’t in a call centre, as a carer or working in Bet365 are kind of a rarity. I get questions all the time about where I work and how I came about my job. So I thought I would share with you my experience after (and a bit before) graduating, which was a year ago now, and boy, has a lot happened this year alone…!

As you know I attended Staffordshire University, I didn’t actually go to uni until I was 23. Back in my day at school there was a distinct lack of career guidance and around 80% of my year went to the school’s 6th Form, 19% did nothing and 1% actually went to college. No one even mentioned University to us at school or the importance of building a career, it seems that 10 years ago we were all expected to enrol to 6th form to keep the schools funding up from the LEA and as for the rest of our lives their attitude was pretty much ‘fuck it’. It’s a bit of a shame to say and think back on now, but thankfully schools are pushing higher education more and encouraging young people to develop actual careers. Anyway, I went to uni and came out with a BA (hons) in 3D Design Crafts. The idea of this was that the course would help me to make my own job. If I cannot find companies or jobs in Stoke on Trent which I would enjoy then I thought I could train myself  in a field I like and create my own. Although I haven’t really set up my own creative, crafts or jewellery business as of yet I still enjoy it as a hobby, but lack in time and motivation right now to carry on making! But I still have those vital skills for when I do decide to do it. Throughout uni, well, since I was 16 I have always ALWAYS had a job. I have never been unemployed. The first job I had when I left school was as an administration assistant for a local MP, then I decided to go to college, then I decided that wasn’t for me, then I worked in a shop, a call centre, a warehouse, you name it, I’ve worked there….And even though they’re not the best jobs and I’m not well off or am able to afford all the things I lust after, I can still remain proud in the fact that everything I do own I bought for myself and worked for. I can value everything more because it wasn’t a hand out from mummy and daddy. Working whilst you’re at University is a great fall back for when you leave. Before I started Uni I worked for Tesco as a Stock Control Clerk. It really started to depress me after a year or so. 42 hour weeks, waking up at 5am, including Saturdays was for me, no way to carry on living.

It was really getting me down. I switched to a few departments in store but still felt like I was wasting my life in a mundane job with little prospect. I know you can build your way up the career ladder in such places and some people do enjoy this line of work and similar career, but I knew that  for me personally, it wouldn’t make me happy. At all. So I enrolled to uni and reduced my hours to 11 a week – working a monday evening and saturday evening and going to uni monday to friday on top. When I left uni I didn’t feel too panicked as I had this job, and although it wasn’t enough money etc etc I still had something to fall back on. I really wanted to go into teaching when I left uni and applied for the Design and Technology PGCE. I got on. But I couldn’t afford the fee’s to either live or study, so had to decline the offer. I felt gutted, but dusted myself off and decided to apply for teaching assistant jobs; you know, if I can get onto a course to BE a teacher, surely I could be a teaching assistant…. How wrong was I!? Every job I went for as a teaching assistant received on average 200 applicants! I applied for around 60 I’d imagine but every time I’d get to the 2nd interview stage and someone else more suitable/with more experience got it. My hope was fading fast. I got SO down about it all. Going on to a Masters or PGCE is a good way to get that extra step up on to the employment ladder but not all of use are able to afford it. Mega sad face. Feeling disheartened I then on a whim applied for a job with Student Finance, and got it straight away! It was going around the West Midlands on my own, doing talks to 6th form students about why University is such a good idea. I had my own little van and everything, only trouble was it lasted a mere 6 weeks and then I was back to square one with my 11hours a week at Tesco. I then decided that being a carer for troubled teenagers in a childrens home would be the next best thing. Extreme teaching I thought! So I applied for some homes and got a job in one. It was AWFUL. Really, if the first day of a new job goes slow you know you’re in for a rough ride. Unfortunately I had handed in my notice at Tesco so didn’t have that to fall back on this time. I worked for around 3 months doing 16-24 hours shifts at a time, it was the most mentally exhausting experience of my life. I could emphasise with the kids in my care but there’s only so many mornings you can start your day at work by having a cup of tea thrown at you and being called a ‘c*nt’. It drags you down beyond belief.  I was losing hope once again and after many nights in tears I once again wondered what my life WAS. 28grand in debt (plus interest!!) for THIS!!?

If you were following me on Twitter at that time, despite my commentry of how awful the job was and how much the other people I worked with grated on me I was trying to look on the positive side by making a joke of it all, you also would have noticed my job search going on at the same time…. During this search I mentioned I would fancy being a Social Media Executive, as I do spend  such a large majority of my time on Social networking sites…. And as if by some magical turn of FATE my current boss saw my tweets…  We had been following each other on Twitter for about a year and never really conversed that much on there….After that tweet though he told me that his company were thinking of creating such a job and he would keep me in mind. I didn’t think much of it at the time as I just assumed it was polite chit chat, but then on the following morning he asked for my e-mail to send me over the job description, and as you can imagine I took it, I took it straight away!!

So now, after 10yrs of life in and out of the ‘real world’ I’m now an Internal Communications Executive for a Digital design company. Although it is a part time role, it’s something I am endlessly enjoying, it’s for the type of people I want to work for, in a job I am good at. I know this little story went on a bit, but the general moral of this is; YOU WILL GET THAT JOB YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED. You just need to carry on doing what you love. I’m not going to tell you to not get down about feeling like crap about the job you’re in (or maybe not in if you can’t find one) because I know how down you can feel. I know how much it makes you feel like a complete failure and how  it effects every part of your life. But you just need to know that despite this shit spell there will be the perfect opportunity just for you out there. Try not to get jealous of others, this is another thing I did, I just got insanely jealous of people who seem to have their life sorted out! Maybe jealousy is a slightly good thing though, as it did make me more determined to get what I want. And in the end it kind of fell into my lap anyway! Another thing you have to remember nowadays is that everyone seems to have a degree, the job market is just so competitive, try not to be too hung up on rejection, if a company doesn’t want you to work for them then why do you want to work for that company?! It’s not a case of you’re not good enough for them, they’re just not good enough for you, because you’re gonna be pretty awesome anyway aren’t you?

As you have read, my job was pretty much found through Twitter, and I think this is a great place to sell YOURSELF directly to your potential employer. It shows your unique tone of voice, it’s your chance to converse with them and make idle chit chat about mutual interests and get your name on their radar. As Twitter is a bit more public, if you’re a creative person it’s your chance to directly show people you admire your work, just @ them some of your stuff, you might be shy but it will do no harm and it’s… THE INTERNET no one needs to be shy on there! I do hope this blog post gives some people not knowing about their future a little bit of reassurance. And if you want to ask me anything else then please do! I’m always happy to help. But don’t be disillusioned by my wonderfulness, I don’t actually know everything like I appear to make out I do! Haha. Oh and if you are one of the incredibly lucky ones who have got their post grad life sorted – CONGRATULATIONS, I hope you enjoy it as there is an abundance of people who would love to be in your shoes right now. I should also add that I know some very successful people that didn’t go to university at all, it’s not all about further education, if you can get yourself a great job straight after school jump at the chance, as you can go to university any time in your life, there’s no rush. Take every opportunity you can!

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