I’m sure recent graduates at university have asked themselves this question.
It can be daunting when you don’t have anything planned especially after pretty much being guided your whole life in education. Go to this lecture at this time. Study this material to pass this exam. Write it this way to get full marks. If you pass an exam, everything’s OK. If not, that’s OK too – you can retake it…
Next thing you know, you’re out in the real world, a little confused and bewildered. And sort of the emotion that is summed up in this photo:
I’m not the only one to viscously nod, I’m sure.
Although in my experience, I had all these daunting thoughts as I rolled off my placement year and onto my final year. You could say that I was stressing out way too early, or maybe that I was prepared – your choice here. 😝
Today I wanted to specifically focus on those who have finished exams and university with nothing planned but I’m sure that this is applicable to any student.
Why do I care?
Good question! As a child, it was becoming an actress to play in films like High School Musical until I realised that I can’t actually sing… I think I care so much around this subject, because growing up (throughout secondary school, sixth form and even university) I had no idea what I wanted to do. It can be scary when everyone around me is constantly talking to me about “the future”. For me, it was a constant cause of stress and anxiety at the back of my mind especially as I got closer and closer to leaving the safety net of education.
Now that I’ve fumbled around, threw myself at every opportunity possible and actually secured myself a fantastic job (with a hell of hard work), I feel like I’m in a better position to help others. Because no one wants to be staring at the wall feeling completely useless. Because you’re not useless, life isn’t an aimless, bottomless pit of nothingness and creating a career path of your dreams is just down the road. You just got to keep going!
What are the kind of support out there for recent graduates with little to no work experience? Not everyone gets internships or jobs throughout their time at university. I’d love to know what others who have been in a similar situation have done!— Pauline P. Narvas (@paulienuh) 12 May 2019
Thank you to those that contributed to this thread and as a result this blog post. ✨
What can you do today? Here’s an action plan.
However she had done a lot of volunteering, many uni’s in the UK do charity scheme where they pay your wage and you do 1 day a week working for a local charity. This sort of stuff was what got her in the door for interviews.— Elliot Blackburn (@elliotblackburn) May 15, 2019
Whether it is at a charity shop or event, volunteering can be a great experience not only to add to your CV but also up-skill yourself in skills such as communication, team work, organisational skills that are needed for any job. It’s also a fantastic way to give back to local communities which is a huge bonus!
2) Shadowing / work experience
You could send an email to an organisation you like the look of asking about doing a day of shadowing or a week of work experience. This can be a fantastic way to get a breadth of different jobs out there. For example, in tech alone there are thousands of different roles ranging from business analysts, scrum masters to developers! I think one thing schools are hugely lacking is the information around jobs – it isn’t just academia, doctors and lawyers. There’s so much more to discover and shadowing may be the way forward in this.
In my second year at university, I had the opportunity to do two weeks work experience at a local digital firm (hey, I even wrote about it!) all because of a project at university. I had built a website for this particular project, and one of the judges was a tech manager in the firm who then gave me his business card. At first, I was worried about getting in contact but after some push, I emailed to see if I could do some work experience at his company. I believe being exposed to the industry earlier on in my university life truly helped me pivot from the careers destined for me with a Biomedical Sciences degree.
Send that email, yo. It can be life-changing!
3) Seek mentorship
Having mentors can really help with building your career path. Formal or not, it can be fantastic to connect with someone you may know in the industry you’re looking to join to get an idea of what they do, what the industry is like and get some 1-2-1 advice.
4) Speaking to alumni
My university had a list of alums in different fields who volunteered their info just for students who were looking into a career path and wanted to talk. Can be super helpful. I was headed a very different direction 5 years ago,— Vicky (@nepleutpas) May 15, 2019
Check out your university for schemes like this! At my former university in Sheffield, they have this scheme that allows this – current students can reach out to alumni in the field they’re interested in and ask questions, advice etc. This is great because you already have common grounds – you went to the same university – which can be helpful if you’re not a particularly a serial-networker.
5) Network, network, network!
Networking and going to meetup events really helps. If you’re close to/just graduating and you’re not sure what’s next, contact people in fields you’re interested in and ask if they’ll get coffee and tell you about their jobs. Unis sometimes have alumni contacts too— Vicky (@nepleutpas) May 15, 2019
Ohhh then I’d advise them to research the sectors that seem interesting to them and go to the network events surrounding them. See if they like it before looking at applications— 📌 (@_rachelxmori) May 14, 2019
Even if you’re not a serial-networker now, you will be by the end of seeing your action plan through! I know networking can be daunting, but honestly, after doing it a couple of times – it’s a breeze. It definitely gets easier!
Before my placement year, I absolutely hated going to career fairs and networking events, I just couldn’t think of anything worse. Luckily, my manager in my placement year actually very much inspired me to become better at it. After meeting with several external stakeholders as part of my role back then, I started to see not only the business benefit on these connections but also how they personally affect me too.
Today, I still have connections from back in my placement year who reach out to me about exciting opportunities and collaborations. The saying, “it’s who you know” rings true! I won’t be where I am today without the support and recommendations from the network I’ve cultivated over the last few years. Go out there and build your network!
If you want to learn more about how to effectively network, I suggest going to your university careers service events. My former university had some fantastic sessions on how to do it well! But with that said, there is nothing like good ol’ fashioned trial-and-error, i.e. going in there, making mistakes (hi, my name is… uh, whats my name again ahhhhh….) and learning from them. Nerves are totally normal ✌🏻
6) Don’t discredit other jobs
I’d echo that one. I worked in restaurants, bars and cafes, and it really helps you learn how to deal with people. Another good one is temp office work. There are temp agencies who specialise too (e.g. in creative sectors) which helps you get industry exposure too.— Amali de Alwis (@amali_d) May 13, 2019
There is a low percentage of graduates that leave university with a perfect job history. And by “perfect” I mean, jobs that are in the industry they knew they would be working in for the rest of their lives. So don’t be embarrassed by all your part-time jobs, side hustles or one-off jobs. You may think that they are not relevant, but you have no idea how impactful experience – whatever it is – can be. Any experience can enhance your skills and build you up as a person more than you realise!
My first job was serving coffee in a local café, then it was working in retail (2 retail stores at once, one time because hey, this me we are talking about 😂) When I was looking for a placement year, even though initially ashamed by my part-time jobs I embraced them in my interviews – talking specifically about how the skills and teachings I got from them thus enables me to be good at this job. Boom. Nail on the head.
Don’t give up!
Finding a job after university is tough. But at the end of the day, it is all about grit, perseverance and knowing that whatever situation that you’re in there is always a way to improve it!
Don’t give up – the step towards a brighter future could just be around the corner. Remember success isn’t instant, it is a lot of ups and downs to get to where you want to be. Keep on swimming ✨