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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  1. April 28, 2014 / 10:35 pm

    Very interesting read, I am in a similar position to you were . . went to uni and been doing random jobs for five years since. Don't know what I want to do and starting to feel I should just pick something and work at it rather that chopping and changing minimum-wage jobs all the time!

  2. July 30, 2012 / 9:03 am

    I've just graduated too! It was really mix of excitement and heck.. what now? Lovely post 🙂 x

  3. July 24, 2012 / 8:49 pm

    Very very good post, I read with such interest! Great to hear a true graduate story, it's not all rainbows and lovely jobs, and I know, I still have eff all idea what I want to do! I just want a job I love, and I'll find it someday! xx

  4. July 20, 2012 / 9:38 am

    This is such an inspirational post! I didn't go to uni because I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I've been doing the same job for the last 10 years and most of the time I enjoy it. It's only just recently that I've been thinking about a completely different career change (scary thought). Hey you're never too old to try something new. Really good post Terri 🙂

    • July 24, 2012 / 10:46 pm

      It's never too late to follow your dreams! (cheesy I know) but any one can go to uni nowadays so if it's something you want to do, go for it! 🙂

  5. July 19, 2012 / 8:31 pm

    It seems a lot of people are in the same boat as you! I'm 19, finished my A Levels last year and about 6 months before finishing I decided I didn't want to go to uni – I change my mind far too much and thought "do I really want to spend so much money on something I'm not sure about?" I went for an apprenticeship in Business Admin and I'm working at an electrical company – not fab but I'm being trained on the accounts system at the moment so I got lucky there. I'm on a rubbish wage at the moment but it's supposed to change next month (fingers crossed).

    I agree, this country needs to up it's opportunity levels, for people that do graduate from university and also for people who decide they don't want to go!

  6. July 19, 2012 / 11:34 am

    Thank you so much for writing this post as you've basically written what seems to be going through my mind daily with debt, jobs, and the whole "is it worth it?" scenario. I have been looking at Staffordshire University to apply to next year for the Journalism course but I was worried about the actual location. But you've shown me that opportunities are around wherever you go, you just have to have the motivation and let fate do it's thing! Are there any specific reasons why I should go to Staffs? 😉 Thanks again! xo

    • July 19, 2012 / 8:21 pm

      ERR Cuz I live in stoke maybe!? Haha, just joking. I'm going to write a post next week about the better places to go in stoke, for going out and eating etc, I hope it'll be useful?! It's a good little place I guess, it's not like a real city it's way smaller and everyone seems to know every one!

    • July 20, 2012 / 3:19 pm

      Haha! I'll keep an eye out for that 🙂

  7. July 19, 2012 / 7:53 am

    I graduated 13 years ago & I still don't know what I want to do, I struggled when I left uni and took a gap year working in Australia. Job market has been crap ever since I got back in 2000. I did temp work for years as couldn't get a perm position. Fell into something I liked stuck with it for 7 years and was made redundant, now I have been stuck in a dull job for 2 years, desperate to leave, but I guess I should be grateful I have it in the first place. Stick with it folks because at some point it's got to get better otherwise the whole of UK will be claiming benefits, me included.

    • July 19, 2012 / 8:24 pm

      You've had a great experience being able to live in Australia though! It's a shame that this country is so shit for opportunity. Something needs to change, stat!

  8. July 18, 2012 / 11:07 pm

    Great post.
    At 6th form, our careers advice were rubbish, I wanted to do something with design, but because I was good at maths and physics they menaced me into choosing Mechanical Engineering. I didn't enjoy the course. I really wish someone had told me to just choose something I'd enjoy.
    During 6th form and uni I worked part time on tills at Asda and hated it, the most brain numbing job ever.
    I applied for loads of job, first in Engingeering and similar only to be told I wasn't qualified enough, then jobs in anything i could to be told I was over qualified.
    My fiance is self employed making sports equipment in a sport that we both compete in. I started helping a bit inbetween job hunting, then we got busier and busier that this has become my full time job too. We both work from home making for and competing in a sport we both do. It's hard work and we never really switch off, but I love how we see huge benefit in working harder, taking on more products etc, rather than getting the same £6 per hour in Asda no matter how hard you work.
    My parents hate that I don't have a 'real' job, but we're pretty happy.
    (sorry for the huge ramble!)

    • July 19, 2012 / 8:22 pm

      Why would anyone hate what you're doing now?! I'm envious you work for yourself! And doing something that doesn't destroy your soul!!

  9. July 18, 2012 / 10:48 pm

    Oh man, the first part of that story is exactly the same for me. I've just graduated and have no idea what to do next! I had the same thing about being a TA too, for some reason they expect you to be a qualified teacher! Scary times ahead xx

    • July 19, 2012 / 8:22 pm

      It's ridiculous, one TA job I applied for actually needed someone with a crafts degree and my experience and they chose some old woman with no idea about crafts! GRRR.

  10. July 18, 2012 / 10:36 pm

    I've just completed my degree this June and graduate September with a 2:2 in social care and social policy. I already hold a qualification which makes me a qualified nursery nurse/teaching assistant, but decided that wasn't for me. After finishing Uni I now have absolutely no idea what I want to do with my life, or where I want to be career wise. It is such a huge weight on a young persons shoulders having to decide courses and degrees to suit their future degrees, when there are so little jobs out there!
    I have worked since I was 14 so I am no stranger to work, for 2 and a half years on a market stall at weekends, and my current job now is in a retail store, which I've been at 4 and a half years, part time. As much as I am grateful for being lucky enough to have a job throughout my studies, it is very difficult to find a career which has full time hours. I think thats' the biggest problem these days, the few jobs there are, they are mainly part-time. Thanks for a lovely post, it perked me up to hope there is light at the end of the tunnel.

    • July 18, 2012 / 10:38 pm

      Completely agree, full time work in something you want is such a rarity! When you think about it though, I guess you have a good 50 years of working life to decide which direction you'll go in so there's no rush I guess!

  11. July 18, 2012 / 10:33 pm

    I graduated in tourism business managament last year. After working at Debenhams over Christmas, I found my dream job (not a 'forever' job though) for a cake company on Facebook, and after the boss saw my blog, I was given the job straight away. Unfortunately though I am now being made redundant in coming weeks as money is tight, and I have no idea what Im going to do now :'( xx

    • July 18, 2012 / 10:35 pm

      I remember seeing you worked in a cake shop!! Have you not learnt any skillz to pay the billz and maybe make some cakes yourself? Do commissions and sell cupcakes etc at little craft fairs?

    • July 19, 2012 / 8:18 pm

      Yeah my Mum keeps telling me I should do this! I think it might be an option if I can't find a decent job elsewhere. Im not even that good at cake making though so might be embarassing lol x

    • July 19, 2012 / 8:23 pm

      I don't think anyone would mind a bought in cake if it was decorated for the person personally, I know I wouldn't. It's the same as making T Shirt I guess. The base is the same it's what's on it that matters!!

  12. July 18, 2012 / 10:18 pm

    I graduated with a First class degree in Psychology a year ago, and have been struggling ever since. I worked in a shop, and then as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities, but I ended up leaving because I wasn't given training I legally should have been given and it was such long hours (36.5 hour shift was a real highlight) it made me very unhappy. I'm now looking for more psychology-relevant work as I eventually want to do a doctorate in clinical psychology, but I'm struggling to find anything, and what I do apply for always wants more experience than I have. It's too late to do a Masters this year but I'm going to apply for one next year as having a First class degree isn't enough anymore. This post has helped me feel more positive though 🙂 Well done on all you've achieved x

    • July 18, 2012 / 10:23 pm

      Care work is unfortunately one of those jobs where they bend the rules so much it's a wonder anyone sticks it out. It's such a shame as the people you're looking after genuinely need the care, it makes me so sad and frustrated especially seeing it first hand in this kids home. The staff were for want of a better word – thick. They contradicted eachother and me and argued with children about trivial things, it's no wonder they get frustrated and hit out but I couldn't work like that any more. And my final straw was similar, easter sunday – no extra pay, someone rings in sick 16 hour shift turned into a 24 hour one then into a ___whatever they hell they want one. Ridiculous.

    • July 18, 2012 / 10:27 pm

      Definitely, it's scary how little they care about the quality of training given – I literally watched DVDs for a day when legally you need to attend weeks of training and get certificates. I didn't have anything I should have – like first aid, food hygiene, manual handling, medication, epilepsy… Very scary. Every time I brought it up they assured me they were 'working on it' but I shouldn't have been allowed to work until I had the training. I thought it was best to cut my losses and leave! I also found similar problems with staff – everyone did things differently and argh. I know I'm better off but I wish I could find a job!

    • July 18, 2012 / 10:33 pm

      Ditto, I had the same issues with restraining. ''you can't restrain a child until you're training but if you need to restrain one you have to'' ermmmm WHAT?!

  13. July 18, 2012 / 10:10 pm

    This sounds exactly like me, working since 16 (I had 3 jobs whilst I was doing my A Levels), throughout Uni I had a part-time job, but then when I graduated I got on to a teaching course. Qualified last year and my first job was… working in M&S food hall. Wowzers – reality check or what! Have had a few supply jobs but unemployed for September – 30k+ debt and the whole situation is pretty shit to be honest!

    • July 18, 2012 / 10:24 pm

      It is, thinking about my debt gives me palpitations so it's in the back of mind (for now) nothing I can do about it!

  14. July 18, 2012 / 9:47 pm

    Thankyou so much for this post, really. It came at exactly the right time. I graduated a year ago, and after working at my Student Union for a year (I won an election, I was one of those student election candidates running around campus like bellends giving out sweets and yelling at people to vote!) I'm now in the unemployed camp. I've been fretting over the fact that I might not be able to get a job I love and want to progress into a career in. But your story has really perked me up, it's amazing how something small like following someone on Twitter can end up in a job! 🙂 Well done to you for keeping at it, you definitely deserve a job you love! x

    • July 18, 2012 / 10:23 pm

      I'm so glad people are taking something from this post! I wasn't going to publish it as I thought it would be droll ramblings of a post grad, so thank you so much for this comment!!

  15. July 18, 2012 / 9:45 pm

    I graduate last year in Photography, I laugh a bit at myself because I probably should have done something a bit more 'academic', but it wouldn't have made me happy. I'm now working for minimum age at a cinema, free films is great and everything but it's not what I want, even if it's the first paid job I've had since graduating. I've done a couple of unpaid internships so it's not like I don't have experience in my field I just don't have very good luck.

    Now, I'm moved out with my boyfriend, who has a real graduate job, and I'm just searching for anything that pays more than what I'm earning now, which is something I never thought I'd stoop to. It's nice to know people are in the same boat, I was technically unemployed for a whole nine months but I almost feel like I'm in the same place. It's nice to know there are other that feel the same way that I felt, and I know how tough it is to keep thinking things will get better but eventually they will.

    • July 18, 2012 / 10:27 pm

      There's some good money to be make in photography tho! Have you ever thought about freelancing and shooting some weddings and things like that? I know a guy (@Briscoe_photo) who did photojournalism and has turned that around into his own freelance photography business! Hes also a fireman! I'm sure he wouldn't mind if you had any questions about doing something like that.

  16. July 18, 2012 / 9:27 pm

    i've just finished my second year at uni (foundation degree in graphic design) and i've decided not to go back this september. i've been looking for a job for around 3 months solid and i've not had a single interview for anywhere i've applied. what makes things worse, is that i've never had a job in my life. and the only experience i have is within design and taking care of animals and horses. it's the worst situation that i've ever been put in, and i can't do anything about it! jobs in design and animals/horses are so difficult to come by without having mega qualifications for them. i'm applying for a job nearly every single day, and it isn't just where i live, i'm applying for jobs everywhere and i'm getting nowhere.

    soul destroying is putting it mildly. i've only ever had one interview, for pets at home…and is adly didn't make it to the second stage of interviews. i don't understand?! i was practically perfect for that job, but then again they're in it for the money they don't really give two shits.

    how did you manage? i genuinely don't know how i can carry on jobless. i actually WANT a job. i'd work my ass off. i'd even be brew bitch, i just want to have a reason to be up early in a morning to work for a company. i just want to do something :/ uuuuugh lets hope i have a job soon. i'm not seeing any point in life otherwise.

    • July 18, 2012 / 9:35 pm

      Oh dear!! I just had to keep telling myself things MUST get better! And there's always someone in a worse situation no matter what my situation. Trying to be thankful for what I already had but it was still hard when I didn't have what I REALLY WANTED. Maybe you should consider completing your course though? I mean it's only another year and then you have that extra qualification which might be the little push at job interviews etc. Your degree is going to be on your CV forever whereas being a brew bitch is a short term win! Does this make sense what I'm trying to say?! Haha.

    • July 19, 2012 / 12:58 am

      I totally understand what you're going through. I just finished college doing a course that won't really help me get a job. The thing I want the most right now is independence and a house with my boyfriend but for that I need a job. However I look for a job everyday but 50% are for HGV drivers and others want quals or experience. Any other jobs are part time and ideally I need a full time job to pay the rent, bills, buy food etc. (My boyfriend can help a bit with money but he's going back to uni in September.)
      I've only been looking for about two months or so and it's so frustrating when you look at the long list of jobs you can't do or are unsuitable. I have applied to loads too but have had no replies, even a thanks but sorry would make me feel like I'd been considered even a little.
      I want to work so much so I can start my life because at the moment I feel like I am in limbo.

  17. July 18, 2012 / 8:00 pm

    I never went to uni. I did my A levels and then took a job in a call centre. That call centre happened to be in a field that interested me. It was an incoming call centre therefore people called me about their projects etc. It was a field that interested me so I ensured that I learnt that job inside out and after 2-3 years I was approached by a manager in the company suggesting a new job role to apply for I did this and was assisting project designers in admin behind the scenes stuff. But rather than just get on with that I took every opportunity to learn with the designers about THEIR roles. I was then approached again when an opening for a trainee designer came up and got the job. I was sent to college where I achieved the qualifications needed and passed all the internal technical assessments. It took hard work and determination but you can work your way up in a company you just have to show enthusiasm and think outside the box for once! Best of luck in your new career it just goes to show that opportunities can fall in front of you when you least expect them.

    beckys makeup

    • July 18, 2012 / 8:15 pm

      That's amazing! Congratulations!

  18. July 18, 2012 / 7:31 pm

    I'm just going into my second year of Uni, and
    What to do after I graduate is always at the back
    Of my mind. Like you Ive always worked and my mum can't afford to help me out – it's really inspiring to see that hard work really does pay off and that dream jobs aren't just fairy tales and magically happen, you've put some hope in me ! Thankyou So much for sharing this! Xxxx

    • July 18, 2012 / 8:16 pm

      No problem at allllll! I'm just seeing so many people already panicking on facebook and twitter and thought this might help! A been there done that kind of story!

  19. July 18, 2012 / 7:23 pm

    I think you're the only blogger that could make me read that many words and not bore me to death, great post! I'm still at college now and pretty much have no idea what I want to do with my life. Its reassuring to know I will get there in the end if I try hard enough.

    • July 18, 2012 / 8:16 pm

      Wow, that's a compliment if there ever was one! Thank you!