I am by no means the first person to leave university. In fact I would go so far as to say that I’m merely partaking in a popular summer tradition that has been around for hundreds of years. This therefore implies that my experience is not original or revolutionary, but a pastiche of history. Yet as I am the main character of my own life, this is a liminal moment of terror and opportunity. Primarily terror.
Through my adolescent life, the threat of adulthood has always been far off, like a mountain from a plane window. Now that plane is coming in to land and the mountain is not only immediately near but far more intimidating than I had thought from the comfort of economy class. Looking at the positives, I will be well qualified with regard to my degree as well as university experiences causing me to embark upon activities with which I never thought I’d engage. I feel as though I’m ready to leave university, and there’s nothing more to be gained from pretending to read books while spending my entire life in sports kit. I’m pleased overall with my time at university and feel a better person and job candidate having spent time studying here. And yet. My first term spent searching for a job I temporarily convinced myself I’d enjoy has been fruitless. In fact there was so little fruit, I have now contracted job-scurvy. I’ve had to spend Christmas recreating my expectations for myself and trying to determine new goals.
I suspect quite a few potential graduates are experiencing something similar. You have certain career ideals: for me, I’d like to embark upon a career with promotion opportunities and a good salary; as well as that, I’d like a job which is varied and involves intriguing work with little risk of monotony. I started out thinking of a financial career, since the wages are lucrative and it’s the done thing. Having considered my applications from the uncomfortable position of having been rejected by the vast majority, however, I am having to be more honest and conclude that that type of career probably doesn’t suit my personality.
So now I’m clueless again. Back in the position I was in when I arrived at university with hobbies and interests but little understanding of how to translate those into a career which will fulfil my ambition. How many stories do you hear about people who have graduated but are stuck doing jobs they don’t enjoy? I’ve heard plenty. Yet am I so desperate, I would take the security of a job over concerns of enjoyment or suitability? I know a lot of people who’ve done this.
There’s the “masters route”, through which uncertain graduates can procrastinate (because if there’s one thing university has taught us…) deciding their futures for another year. I don’t think, however, that after studying for another year, I’d be any more certain about what I wanted to do. The masters option is not a viable long term solution, its term lasting exactly one year, so I’d prefer to force myself into finding an option for my graduation plans rather than delay that choice.
There are thousands of people in the same position as me: I know this, they know this. But we’re repeatedly told that we’re in competition with one another so there’s no sense of solidarity, no community or camaraderie. It’s very easy to feel alone in an enormous crowd, just as it’s very easy to feel delighted and despairing about leaving university. With the turbulence of contradictory emotions, there’s always one thing you should bear in mind when graduating: you could always give up and become a hermit.