I am lucky enough not to be graduating this year. Although the job market doesn’t seem as gloom and doom as it has done in previous years, it still isn’t easy. Wonderfully, I have another year of university bliss, mooching around London, getting wasted on weeknights, watching perhaps too much 4OD, and having the occasional well earned 14 hour sleep after a three day I-have-a-3000-word-essay-due-in-on-Monday-and-haven’t-even-done-the-research-for-it-yet marathon sprint.
My close friends, however, are not so lucky. Because I took a gap yah (no, I am not one of those – I worked in a shop THE WHOLE YEAR and still managed to go to university penniless), I am now watching those around me slowly enter the ‘real world’, whilst I sit back, enjoy the view, and tuck into another pot noodle. One such friend, let’s call her D, has it all going for her – a First Class Degree in English from a Russell Group top ten university, an amazing work ethic, oodles of interesting exciting and relevant work experience in her chosen field, and to top it all off, a fantastic instantly loveable personality. Sorted, right?
D is really struggling. Yes you might be thinking ‘God the bitch, I wish it was me’ (no doubt what I’ll also be thinking in a years time), but her recent struggle with it all goes to show that even with those best prepared for the ‘real world’ still find the whole experience terrifying. In reply to my congratulations on her graduating, she responded with: ‘Yes, I am a graduate, but I am also an unemployed person.’ Blunt, but wholly truthful. This friend has no idea what to do after being entirely dedicated towards excellence in education for the past sixteen years. Travel? More frustratingly unpaid work experience to work out what you actually want from a career? Stay at home and work in the local Co-op? Or resort to the ever-trustworthy call centre? The choices are endless, and it’s startling. Life as D knows it has changed, and extremely suddenly. One minute you’re so far buried under mountains of dissertation work and Sainsbury’s basic chocolate bar wrappers to see anything mildly resembling the real world, and the next minute you are thrust right into it, trying to live with your parents again full time, whilst begging anyone and everyone to work FOR FREE for their company. All too real.
I met up with my mates recently. Most of them arrived at the pub with knowledge of their grades (dramatic drum roll, please). One friend of mine, known as H from now on, slouched over his pint and announced that he hadn’t got his predicted grade, and was now left in a position in which he felt was totally unacceptable; the difficult Desmond 2:2. H is one of those guys who, regardless to what’s going on, will usually put on a strong front and pretend everything is okay. That wasn’t the case today. As I pulled away from the pub car park, I remember feeling genuinely worried about him for the first time ever. Was he going to get a job, or was it going to be a case of eighteen months on the dole and bored out of his mind?
So how is it turning out for the two of them so far? Well, three days after graduating, D started work experience with a high profile global company on Monday. Stuffing envelopes. Unpaid. Yep. She got a first and is discovering that for some industries that only qualifies you to do things a two year old could probably get his brain round. And H? He got extremely lucky and landed himself a job in the industry he wanted, just by simply mentioning his situation in to someone down his local.
What am I getting at here? Am I trying to say that an excellent degree is worth nothing and that you should aim to get the lowest grade possible, because Stan who works at the petrol station’s Dad’s friend’s brother will probably just sort you out anyway? No. I am merely saying that it is fine to find graduating not just a nerve wracking experience (I’m told nightmares about tripping whilst receiving your certificate are common), but also a real struggle, whatever your future prospects look like. It’s a major life change, and for most, only the second they’ve really been through (after moving 500 miles away to a city you’ve only visited twice). It’s an exciting time, but also a terrifying one too. Please try to manage one smile during the graduation photos (you’ll thank me later), but also realise that although we are all so proud of you, our hearts go out to you too. Your family and friends will understand if you don’t feel on top of the world like you think you should, most probably because they’ve been through it. I am also proposing that they should add a hug to the mandatory handshake at the graduation ceremony. Either that or free money. Problem solved.
Illustrations courtesy of Chris Sav, our resident ‘Everyman Illustrations’ genius. Cheers Chris! If you want to see more, check our homepage every Friday.