The Graduate Diaries

TGD #2: When Reality Hits

Unemployment is an opportunity for growth, and to find the strength inside of you that you didn't know you had, as told in this story.

“Congratulations! Three (or maybe more) years of hard work, study, and a little partying have brought you to this moment. You’re sat in front of friends and family, getting ready to walk on stage and shake hands with a university official you’ve never seen before in your life, desperately hoping you’re not going to trip over in the process. Three years, and you can finally cross that stage, throw your hat in the air, and proudly say that you are a graduate.

But then what?

My name’s Megan, or Another English Student, and I graduated in July. I’m also unemployed.

If you’re anything like me, you thought your next step would be in place before your university experience ended. That’s how it’s worked so far, so why should now be any different? Why should the move from university to work be any different to the natural flow of moving from one educational institute to another?

Sadly, it’s not as simple as that. I’ve been applying for jobs for nearly a year now, slowly at the start of my third year, just keeping it in the back of my head that a spare half hour could be used to look for a graduate scheme. A month after my graduation ceremony though, and I’ve applied for over a hundred jobs. I’m sure there’s some people out there who think I’m exaggerating but trust me, I keep notes, it’s over a hundred.

“It’s a very personal sense of failure. Nobody else is holding me to such high standards, and yet it doesn’t matter how many times someone reassures me that I’ll “find something” because. in my mind, I’ve failed to find something in time. “

And I’m not going to lie, I hate it. It has been some of the most depressing and demotivating times of my life. I have cried about it repeatedly, from anger as much as anything else. I’m not saying I have it hard by any stretch of the imagination. I’m damn lucky I have been able to not find some filler job for the months since graduating, I can acknowledge that. This was never the plan though.

I use ‘plan’ in a loose sense, because I never really had concrete ideas on how I wanted my future to look, I’ve never thought it necessary. The ‘plan’ did, however, consist of me leaving university with a job secured. My brother did it. My sister sorted her job two months before graduating. So for me to still be sat here unemployed feels like some kind of failure.

It’s a very personal sense of failure. Nobody else is holding me to such high standards, and yet it doesn’t matter how many times someone reassures me that I’ll “find something” because. in my mind, I’ve failed to find something in time.

There’s a real disconnect between university and the rest of life. When you’re there you know it won’t last forever, but you’re idealistic about your future. Having been surrounded by so many opportunities to succeed, fail, or try something new, you’re given a false impression of the world. University is the last place with a safety net; you can fail and fail happily because the next day there’s a new thing to try and people to catch you. Upon graduation, they take that net away, and suddenly you’re walking the tightrope by yourself; your loved ones might still be there to catch you, but the vertigo hits when you have to look towards the ground and see that this is on you now, so pick a rope and start walking.

There are days at a time when I do feel optimistic, when I know it’s not me but the job market, and I’m motivated to apply, doing something creative or sounding extra confident in my cover letter. Inevitably, when I get a job, I will realise I was being silly by berating myself so much about it. But until that day it’s really, really hard to sit at a desk for hours at a time to complete applications that get rejected or ignored. It hurts to think I put so much work into my education only for people to not care enough to tell they don’t want me – to give zero response to my application. Having completed all the education I was told I needed – and to complete it to such a high standard – I’m undeniably bitter that it doesn’t seem to have done me any favours.

You might be wondering why I’ve come here. To moan? A little bit. To vent my frustration in a creative fashion? Yeah, hence why I write my own blog. But mostly, I’m here to reassure other graduates that whatever path you’re on after university, that’s totally okay. Things don’t always go as expected; I’m learning to live with that, and you will too. Whether you thought university was the easiest way into your dream job, or were hoping the qualification would help you find success, the truth is that finding a job you’re happy in is always going to be tough.

But you know what? We got through 3 years of university. We walked across that stage and shook that hand. With just a little resilience and creativity, we can do anything we set our minds to.

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