Two years ago I finished my undergraduate degree and there are so many things I wish I’d known at the time about life after university.
You finish university on such a wonderful high when you hand in your dissertation or finish that final exam and then essentially fall off a cliff into the unknown. Unless you’ve already secured a graduate job or a place on a masters, you have to figure out where you want to work, what job you want, where you want to live and how you’ll afford it.
That’s a lot of important life decisions. The transition from becoming a full-time student to a full-time adult is a shock to the system to say the least, especially if you’ve graduated in the pandemic as everything is even more uncertain.
If I could go back in time and tell myself what I know now about life after university then I would. Instead I’ll say this to anyone who’s just graduated:
10 things I wish I’d know about life after university:
You will be unemployed (potentially more than once)
When you finish university it’s likely that you will be unemployed for a period of time. I was unemployed for about a month until I finally got a job at my local Starbucks.
It is so difficult to find work after university and it’s not only common, but pretty much guaranteed that you will be unemployed at several points in your life after university.
Despite having a degree (which is what every school career advisor told you that you needed to be employable) it is unlikely that you will get the first job that you apply for. It’s best to apply to jobs in bulk and then you’ll hopefully hear back from a few of those, as hardly any employers reply.
The dream job doesn’t come to you, you have to go and get it (and that will take a long time)
If you want something in life you have to work for it. Your dream job is not going to come to you while you’re sat on your sofa watching Netflix, you have to go out and actively work towards it and this can/will take a long time.
Don’t expect to get your dream job straight out of university and don’t be disheartened by it. You’re starting out and it’s completely normal to be in a different role or industry to the one you want to be in.
It is an adjustment living away from your friends
Moving away from your friends after living within walking distance from each other for several years absolutely sucks. Be prepared for some level of loneliness if you do move away from your friends after uni.
It’s natural to be split across the country (sadly) and you do get more used to seeing your friends every month or so instead of every day, but it is an adjustment so give yourself time to adapt.
You are capable of more than you can possibly imagine at this point
Life after university is the interim stage of being an adult and it’s designed to make you feel unprepared, anxious and lost.
I cannot stress this enough that wonderful things will happen in your life after university and you will continue to achieve amazing things, it just takes time.
Your mind will tell you that you can’t do things or that your dream job seems impossible, but anything is possible with the right kind of energy.
Life after university will be different for all of your friends regardless of if you did the same course or not, so try not to compare yourself to them (read more about that here).
If you want to take a year to travel (maybe not right now as you will struggle to get through borders) then go for it, or study a masters, or move home and figure things out for a while, go for it. Life after university is exactly what you make it.
Just know that you are capable of more than you can possibly imagine right now and take strength from that.
Saving money is boring and annoying, but it’s worth it
We’d all love an extra coffee, cocktail or takeaway but the bottom line is saving that money for a holiday or a house (if you’re planning ahead) is always worth it.
You can think back on all the times you took your own coffee to work rather than bought one on the way, when you’re sat on a beach near the sea on your chosen holiday.
Also you may not even be able to save money as EVERYTHING costs so much money, food, cheese, cleaning products, council tax… I could go on and on.
Travel often (spoiler alert, there’s a global pandemic on the way)
With or without the pandemic, I think it’s healthy to travel often. Every weekend I am normally exploring my local area or a new spot in England.
It doesn’t have to be abroad or even a “big holiday” just commit to travelling and discovering new places around you. It’s good for your mental health as well as relaxing.
Things always work out how they’re meant to
Originally I was unemployed after university, then I got a job at Starbucks. It was the only job I could get and I really needed the money, so I worked there for 6 weeks.
During that time I applied to so many jobs that I lost count and heard back from a handful of them. Finally I got a job at a local publishers as Features Editor, it was wonderful and I was thrilled.
Within the space of two months I’d gone from being unemployed to working in a job I enjoyed that was related to my degree and I also received a place on a masters. So while those two months were uncertain and filled with a good amount of anxiety, everything worked out.
Enjoy your freedom while it lasts as things do come together very quickly when you least expect them to.
You might have finished your education, but you will never stop learning
When I finished my undergraduate degree I kept saying, “I can’t believe I’ve finished education!” I felt as though I’d completed education and learnt everything that I needed to, which wasn’t the case at all.
A few weeks later I applied for a Masters as I realised I needed to learn the skills of being a writer in order to become one. I still had more to learn, even though I’d got the set of qualifications that I’d been told I needed – GCSEs, A-Levels, BA degree.
Equally, your education is never over. You’re constantly learning new industries in new jobs, or hearing about someone else’s job or values and learning through your friends.
Even though your formal education may have finished you will never stop learning and growing and that’s really exciting and comforting if you’re someone who loves to evolve.
Life after university will be difficult so expect it to be
In one episode of the Deliciously Ella podcast Shahroo Izadi discusses the fact that when people want to change their life, they assume that because they want it, it’ll be easy. Yet, it never is.
She said that when we expect something to be difficult, then we aren’t surprised when it is hard as we’ve prepared for it.
You might know exactly what job you want to do and have a rough idea of how to get there, but expect it to be difficult, as it might not be that straightforward.
Life after university is difficult, as you (most likely) have no money, no job and have to move back home.
It can feel as though you’re back at square one, and in some ways you are at square one but of your life after university.
Uncertainty leaves a lot of room for new opportunities
Not knowing what is coming next is terrifying, but that is real life.
Life after university is full of uncertainty, you probably don’t have a concrete plan (if you do, well done! I certainly didn’t and winged it) which means there are plenty of opportunities for you to forge your own path.
There are so many different options available to you, even years after your degree you might still feel uncertain about the future. Remember that it’s normal to feel that way at any point after university, as there is no plan after that, instead there will be countless opportunities for you over the years ahead.
You are never too old and it is never too late to go after what you want and what you love.
What would you go back and tell yourself about life after university?