So what are you doing after you graduate?
The dreaded question. Even though I was only home for a couple of weeks over the Christmas holiday, I must have been asked the same question multiple times by every single member of my family – and my boyfriend’s family too.
I have to try very hard not to roll my eyes and snap back some rude response about how it’s none of their business – I know they mean well, but I’d really rather not have to explain for the fiftieth time that I have no real idea what I’m going to do after I graduate, and actually, I don’t see anything wrong with that.
Every student in their final year of university will be feeling the pressure round about now – graduation is only a few months away and then… what? Good question. Some people choose to spend the last few months of their university life applying for endless jobs, grad schemes or internships in the hope that they will be able to secure something to slip immediately into after their time at university ends. I do understand this rush – you’re in an environment where it suddenly feels like the competition between you all is about more than who gets top marks in your seminar group – but I’m trying my hardest to ignore it all entirely.
This decision isn’t about hiding from reality by burying my head in the sand ostrich-style, it’s about knowing what is best for me and attempting to forget everyone else’s own path to concentrate purely on mine. I know that for me, the most important thing is just to finish my degree first and do as well as I can in that before jumping straight in at the deep end with the next chapter of my life. Of course I’m going to need a job relatively soon after I graduate – money doesn’t grow on trees, after all – but I’m trying not to let money be my biggest concern. My family always taught me that money wasn’t everything, and while some of my fellow students are busy working out the best career and salary prospects for their degree, that path is not for me.
I need time. So I’m taking a step back from the mad rush and remembering that, actually, time is something I have a lot of. I’m only 21 – my whole life is ahead of me, and it’s okay to still not know quite what I want to do with it. I don’t think I’ll ever be a career-for-life person, so while some people I know are buckling down ready to start a PGCE and begin a teaching career, that’s not for me. Or at least, it’s not for me right now.
I know I want to write. By myself, not to deadlines, not because someone is telling me to. So I want to concentrate on that for a bit. And if that means that the best way to do that at first is to get a basic 9-5 job in retail or in an office somewhere so that I have enough money to pay the rent and the evenings to write without having to take my work home just to carry it on there (see: teaching), then so be it. That’s okay. I’ve worked as a cleaner, a tutor, a steward in an art gallery, a kids club leader, and in retail. None of those jobs are below me just because in a few months’ time I’ll have a degree. We’ll see where the writing goes – potentially nowhere, but if I don’t try I’ll never know, and that would be a bigger regret for me than not earning £30,000 by the time I’m 30.
It’s okay to come to university with a set idea of what you want to do when you leave; it’s okay to come to university with absolutely no idea what you’re doing with your life beyond a vague interest for the subject you’re studying; it’s okay to leave university with a set idea, or even a secure prospect, of what you’re doing next – and it’s okay to not do that either.
University has taught me a lot of things, but perhaps one of the biggest lessons is to take time and trust myself. Who knows where I’ll be in five years time? All I know is that in less than six months now, I’ll be graduating – and wherever I end up after that, things will work out somehow.