I’ve decided there must have been a massive cover up. I’m talking world-wide. I can’t be entirely sure when it happened, but some time in between now and the beginning of the universe, important people got together, made people make them coffee, and decided that graduates were forbidden from ever admitting that adjusting to post-University life is difficult. My suspicion is that LinkedIn was involved somehow.
“So, how’s the new job going?”
“Yeah yeah, good thanks. And you”.
Imagine that 26 times over and you’ve got post-graduation life.
Ironic considering the reality is actually a lot closer to that scene in the Inbetweeners Movie when Carli breaks up with Simon and he waltzes into his house, asks what’s for tea and then bursts into tears.
Maybe I’m a pessimistic twat with a fetish for talking about emotions - but hear me out. I actually really like my jobs. I work with creative, kind, driven people. I find satisfaction and fulfillment from what I do. I think my jobs are interesting and well fitted to my likes and dislikes and I’m challenged to improve myself and my skillset.
So, what’s the problem?
The issue is not about work; it’s about adjusting. Moving from University to working life is a complete shift in lifestyle. I can’t speak for everyone, I recognise that some people may have totally paralell experiences to mine. Afterall, I can only glean ideas from my own experiences but I used to have SO much more time to myself. I worked similar hours (I had 3 jobs by third year) and I didn’t slack off with the studying, but I had so much more autonomy over my life. If I woke up and decided I wasn’t in the mood to write my dissertation, I would make breakfast, go for a run (I even exercised back then) and then come back, start work a bit later and then end later on into the evening. It was up to me.
And another massive change - something I totally took for granted at the time - I was surrounded by a community of people. If I wanted to go out for a drink and fancied a chat, there were always people around me that I could arrange that with. Uni ends and, just like that, people move away. It’s not as easy to sort out a catch up when you’re in Bristol and everyone else in the entire world is in London.
And finally, perhaps the most significant one, at University you are sold a dream so hard. You are told you leave and your life falls in place. You land the perfect role in which a clear path of progression is led out in front of you and everything else neatly slots in place around it. It’s easy right? It’s why you do the degree? Get the degree, get the career. Right?
No. The Post-University-Life salesman talks bullshit. He could practically be the Dad in Matilda.
For a lot of people, the narrative of success and fulfillment is derailed by a reality that reads more like this: Uni ends and maybe you’re unemployed for a while. You earn less money than you wanted. You feel tired when you wake up and life starts feeling a bit repetitive. You lose that enthusiasm to go out all the time and go to gigs etc etc. You watch TV more than can ever remember. You pay council taxes and buy kettles.
Essentially, you’re mourning the life you had at University, feeling too scared to express any of that because you know that, if you did, people may glumly “welcome you to the real world”, with that slight but explicit tone of judgement that leaves you shaming yourself for opening yourself up to criticisms of seeming lazy.
My experience with jobs are actually on the positive side of things but I watched so many of my friends grapple with a diminishing sense of self worth when they didn’t manage to achieve certain things. Why didn’t I get that role? Why don’t I like my job? Why does everyone around me seem to have things so sorted?
We compare ourselves to success stories; to that one girl who was in your tutorial and works for Radio 1 (fuck me, Scott Mills actually gave her a shout-out), or that guy who works for *insert Bank here* and has just bought a house with his annual bonus.
The truth is it’s not just you. It’s really not. It’s me, it’s him, it’s even that guy you hate because he’s always so smug and earns lots and travels the world with his job. In a study done by The Independent they found that 95% of students deal with post-university depression and a further 87% said that there should be more exposure on it.
So, what am I suggesting?
The same as always really. It’s okay to be honest about it all, and more than that too, you don’t have to have everything sorted. No one ever does.
I know a whole consortium of people doing an array of different jobs, HR, Recruitment, Banking, Jewellery Makers, Producers etc etc and I can genuinely only think of one person who is doing the job they wanted to do when they started off. The rest just fell into opportunities that suited them - and most of them a long time after University ended. You can’t plan that, to an extent, you have to let the Universe take you where it wants you to go. I mean - me, I’m a Marketing Assistant at studio that specialises in Boudoir Photography (I have now haplessly helped women tighten their corset and straighten suspenders) and a Creative Manager at a Start-Up. Alongside this, I want to write and so far it’s taken me over a year to write my first article (this one). Minus the writing, did I plan to do any of that when I chose to study Literature? No. Do I enjoy it? Yes.
What ever you do, just don’t trade your happiness with trying to present an image of yourself that you think others will respect. You’ll actually find that that desire is not only what holds back your personal satisfaction, but also what creates this mess in the first place. It’s a careful balancing game of not compromising your own happiness but not also ripping yourself apart because you haven’t got the perfect life that you thought you would have.
Maybe you’ve read this and not related one bit. Maybe you think I’m a bit of a moany bitch. But, maybe a few people do get it. So, for those people, listen to this. A writer (who I, fingers crossed, can be as bold to call my friend) emailed me recently about my own piece of work, discussing my tendency to hyper-analysis and over-criticise. Responding to those issues, he said this to me: “Let the wolves have it and move on”.
To me, this messages works for a lot of things. Life is complicated, you’re not meant to have everything figured out at once. You can prepare for something and it may happen, but if it doesn’t, then that’s fine. This isn’t to say that post-Uni you’re doomed, you’re not. Complications aren’t mistakes; just lean into them. Know that some days will be amazing, others less so.
So, let’s do this. Let’s dismantle the LinkedIn (I still blame them) cover up. Let’s make headlines that read “Graduates, nay, every human on earth, has no clue what is going on” and then lets read that and contentedly close the pages of the newspaper, putting a cup of tea on top of it, brazenly staining it, and feel pure peace at the knowledge that you’re exactly the same as everyone else on this planet. That is to say, you’re doing your best at figuring it all out and THAT is fucking amazing.