By Ina Pace
Whilst graduation this July was a very rewarding, albeit brief experience, the thought of what to do afterwards was always a slight weight on my shoulders that only recently came to be a heavier one. I was determined to retain some degree of ‘normality’ once I graduated, so on the whole, gave myself a summer holiday until October (when I would usually start the autumn semester back at Swansea.) I had enough money to survive without a regular income, so aside from the odd shift as a waitress, I tried not to think too much about job applications or work experience and simply aimed to indulge in free time at home, which for me is a rarity, yet something easily taken for granted.
I would like to say I spent most of my ‘holiday’ relaxing, enjoying what I knew could be only a limited amount of free-time, before I made the “grown-up” decision about when to start doing something vaguely prospective. I discovered I got bored easily, and without a structure to my life, lost much motivation in actually doing anything productive. Someone once said to me, if you want something done, give it to someone busy. Organising the mess in your bedroom, or updating that blog you’ve been meaning to do for ages suddenly doesn’t feel too important when you’ve never nothing better to do. On the whole I felt anxious, wondering whether I was doing the right thing (not applying for jobs left, right and centre). During life as a recent graduate, you come to realise there is no one common thread you are following alongside your peers; up til now, that thread has most likely been the thread of education; you’re all following a similar structure and working towards the same goals, that is to get a degree result that satisfies you. Now you do not necessarily have the ability to compare yourself.
I am currently enrolled on Swansea University’s careers service database, so I’m kept in the loop when SPIN and Santander ‘placements’ crop up. Fortunately in September one did, and I applied successfully. I am currently working as a project assistant in the disability office developing staff resources for the SALT website. This placement isn’t actually related directly to what I want to do (probably journalism or TV production) but the skills are generic. I have immersed myself in a comfortable 9-5 which certainly has its perks. What I like most about the structure of the world of work (so far) as opposed to education is the ability to ‘clock off’ after a day’s work. Once I am out of the office, I know that I am able to have a night to myself without thinking about the next essay I have to write, or feeling guilty because I choose to watch Netflix instead… I also have free weekends, and I can’t remember when I actually last had one of those- most likely before I started my GCSEs (no word of exaggeration). I find however that my ‘free-time’ doesn’t always feel free however. I have to act professional, you know, like an actual adult for seven hours a day, and that can be tiring. In many cases, not to mention those who work unsociable hours, all your focus is directed into a particular job, and that doesn’t leave you with much energy afterwards. There is also the ongoing hunt for job and work experience applications and, say if you want to travel as many graduates do, research in working or perhaps in living abroad. If I am not hunting nor researching, I have the conscious feeling that I ought to be, and this keeps me on the ball, consistently keeping an eye out for stepping stones which help me across the somewhat abyss that is unemployment, whether it be a temporary internship, or a couple of interviews.
Technically speaking, you have been building your own path since you decided to pursue Higher Education not made compulsory by the state, only now you probably don’t have the sign-postage. As a graduate of English Literature and History I write more for those with non-vocational degrees; those with vocational degrees are more likely to have a more straight-forward plan, but this does not mean that as they develop as people their decisions are less susceptible
to change. During summer I felt I was experiencing an anti-climax from all the sense of achievement at University. But this is a transitional phase and frankly an inevitable part of life. Once you reach the stars, your next step often ends up on the bottom rung again, whether this is the step from school to university or from one job to another…
I want to focus on the positive. Unpredictability can be both a good and a bad thing I think. It may be easy to go crazy from a lack of routine or structure that you’ve always had. Even the fact that my years will now most likely begin in January rather than September is new in itself. The fact that I now choose to create my own ‘bridges’ and seek challenges is certainly intimidating, but it is also exciting.
Given the current job market I’ve seen some people really struggle in making their way out of a comfortable and often non-prospective job, such as work in retail or super-markets, (those who don’t aspire to those jobs I mean, and feel overly-qualified with their degrees.) Unfortunately, my aspirations won’t always be practical, but I could also get hit by a bus tomorrow. There is no point worrying about this yet, essentially I am still young at 24, and have the rest of my life to work. It’s ok to still be unsure. I just want to retain my sense of ambition and hope that’s enough for now.