The Terror of the Post-Graduate Void

In my last blog post on 'me', I told the tale of how I got to where I am; happy in my career. But lemme tell ya, it was not an easy story.

When I was in uni, I worked part time in pubs and bars and eventually retail to pay my way. It was not easy, working 5 days from 10am-5pm in uni then doing 6pm-1am and beyond in various places 4 times a week and working most weekends.

Eventually as I entered third year, my time in uni petered out to allow time for my dissertation and final hand-ins, so I found a retail job instead where the hours weren’t as bad. I didn’t enjoy it half as much, it wasn’t as fun, but it meant I was getting a full amount of sleep and the pay was slightly more.

So, when I handed my dissertation-equivalent in and my degree ended, I had no fucking clue what I was going to do with my life. Clearing the things off of my desk which had basically been my home in university felt like the turning of a page in the book of my life, one which I had no clue what it was going to be. And I was terrified. Not optimistic for the future, like one would imagine, but absolutely shitting myself.

I knew one thing for certain, that I had no clue what I wanted to do. And in being so clueless, I lacked drive, passion and most importantly, direction for that mysterious ‘dream job’. I was ambling through various freelance jobs, unpaid work experience and retail.

Working my retail job wore me down.

Despite the resolve in me wearing away, I kept on applying and applying for jobs online. Any fashion job. Any creative job. Then, any job. Any spare moment was spent worrying about my future or seemingly lack of and applying for jobs.

And it turns out I was not alone in what I now call, the post-graduate void.

I spoke to older friends who told me tales of how they tried to get job after job and how it, in the end, worked out okay. Friends who were on their way up in chosen careers,

friends who found their chosen career was completely different to their degree. But that was okay, because they’d figured it out in the end.

Moving from the field which you took up just to pay the bills to the field of your dreams is almost impossible, and it’s easy to get stuck.

Recent grads who end up in jobs that didn’t require a college degree are five times more likely to still be in such a position five years later, compared with those who put their diploma to use right away… ten years later, ¾ of graduates who took jobs early on that didn’t demand a degree will still be in the same spot. And these graduates earn around $10,000 a year less than their counterparts who started early in jobs that required a college degree[1]

This article is a good read on how easy it is to get ‘trapped’, however I don’t really like the phrasing. ‘those who put their diploma to use’ lemme tell you, we’re all out here TRYING to put it to use, but unfortunately, the market is very saturated at the moment and big companies expect us to work for free to earn a job. And that situation is an incredibly tricky one.

As this article outlines, ‘Industries including the media, the charity sector and fashion are known for being hard to get into without any relevant work experience, however, these employers offer few paid internships compared to engineering, IT or investment banking, for example.’[2]

We are told by our peers, the professionals we aspire to be like and the media that working for free in internships is a great way to ‘get ahead’ and a fantastic way to get some ‘exposure’ but in reality, it’s just a way to level yourself with the rest of the market.

And it’s impossible for people like me to do. People like me, with little or no help from their parents, who have to work to pay the bills and can’t afford to take 6 months out of work to go get Starbucks for some tech start-up in Shoreditch, whilst their parents foot the bills for a studio in a hip part of town and nights out on the lash. I feel that’s why there is such a class division in the workplace, still to this day.

However, it looks like things might change soon for the better.

In January 2017 a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility concluded that interns should be paid after the first month; then research conducted by the Social Mobility Commission in October 2017 showed that ¾ of nearly 5,000 adults were in favour of this[3] Hopefully, some good will come out of this and maybe my wee cousins won’t have to go through the same thing me and my peers are going through now.

So, yeah, that wasn’t an option for me. I was stuck, wasting away with seemingly less experience than someone in the exact same position as me, except with rich parents.

Maybe it was the field I was trying to get into? I guess, in some ways, that is incredibly true. The creative arts are known for being the hardest industry to break into, but I didn’t want to give up on my dreams.

And, what’s even worse, male graduates were more likely to have a high or upper-middle skill job than female graduates[4]. As if everything wasn’t hard enough, the patriarchy is still out to get us!

In the end, it turns out I was spectacularly average. It takes a person 6 months[5] approx. to find a job post-degree, and that was pretty spot on for me. But it was a terrifying 6 months of worry and of the daunting idea I’d never do what I loved. But I kept on working and working and working and applying and applying and applying and eventually, I got my job now. Those days feel like a world away from where I am now, but I am so proud of myself for despite being beaten down and worn out by constant rejections or lack of replies to applications (which, btw is such a shitty thing for a company to do), I kept on going, and eventually, the work paid off.

Check out these pages I found which could help if you’re where I was 6 months ago:

And just remember, stick with it and don’t give up. Boy, I was pretty close sometimes, but I didn’t and I’m okay now.







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© 2019 Ciara Loane

Created by Ciara Loane.

London-based writer and stylist.

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