Imagine you’re a little bird, and you’ve spent the last 21 years (or so) in a tree classroom being taught how to fly - well, the time has now come for you to jump and do something with everything you’re supposed to have learned.
But you’re scared of heights. And the sky is on fire.
For a lot of people, this is what leaving university feels like - graduation marks the end of what has seemed like a structured life where the next step has always been fairly obvious. It’s completely natural to feel uncertain and worried about leaving university - but remember that you DO have options, and it’s not the end of the world! Read on for some suggestions on what to do after university - you may not feel like you’re flying straight after graduation, but with our help, you’ll be falling with style at least!
If you’ve managed to complete your dissertation/final exams and the idea of doing it all again (but harder) for one more year doesn’t make you want to take a long walk off a short cliff, then further study could be an option for you!
Good Reasons to Pursue Further Study:
You have a genuine interest in your studies, and the last 3 years just weren’t enough to cover it all AND/OR you believe further study will improve your career prospects
You are interested in a career in academia
You want to continue developing your skills and you’re certain you’ll enjoy it
Bad Reasons to Pursue Further Study:
Because you don’t feel ready to stop being a student
Because you don’t want to enter the ‘real world’ and get a job
Because other people say you should
Scrutinise your motivations thoroughly and ensure you’re being honest with yourself about why further study seems like a good option. Be assured that life as a postgraduate is no cakewalk, and there’s no guarantee you’ll feel any more ready to leave university once that’s done.
Apply For Jobs/Work Experience
It’s easy to get swept up in the hype when just about everyone around you seems to have landed their perfect job/grad scheme - but the best thing that you can do is ignore what everyone else is up to, and focus on you.
No idea what you want to do with your life?
I’m sure you’ll find that you’re in the majority. Stay calm, and avoid applying for jobs that you don’t actually have any interest in/aren’t qualified for like a headless chicken just because you feel like that’s the thing to do (Trust me!).
If you’re still at university:
Take full advantage of the careers services that they should be offering; see if you can sit down with your personal tutor or careers advisor and go through your CV to ensure that it’s up to scratch. They may be able to offer some advice/suggestions on paths you could go down, or at the very least, give a comforting anecdote about how they too never really knew what they wanted to do and how you’re not alone! It might not be too late to do some voluntary/charity work which always looks excellent on a CV.
If you’ve left university:
You may not know what you want to do, but that isn’t an excuse to do nothing; you’ve got to do something! Do some research and put together a list of all the career ideas that repulse you the least. Find out what opportunities are available around you and try gain as much experience as possible to put on your CV. You may have to consider moving away from home to find work, and could end up spending some time in a role that is completely unrelated to anything you aspire to for a while (e.g. retail/bar/restaurant work), but that is very common and DOES NOT make you a failure! Just remember to keep looking.
Another option could be starting your own business - with increasing disillusionment and competition in the current graduate job market, there has been a growth in the number of young people going out into the world trying to make it on their own. Think you've got a great idea? See where you can go with it. Check out this article by a former student who started his own business with a couple of mates.
DID YOU KNOW:
Johnny Depp was a telemarketer selling pens before he got famous. George Clooney dropped out of college and worked many odd jobs including positions as a shoe salesman and tobacco farm hand before his rise to stardom. Sandra Bullock worked as a waitress and bartender before her first big break. I’m not suggesting that you’re eventually going to be rich and famous - this is just a friendly reminder that no-one has their sh*& 'together' 100% of the time, and everyone has got to start somewhere.
Doing some travelling right after you’ve finished university is a great way to keep the post-uni blues at bay. Got no money? You don’t necessarily need loads of cash to travel - here are a few examples of how you can escape with what little remains of that student loan. (But remember that you can’t run away forever, and it’s wise to have a contingency plan in place for when you get back!)
Not to be confused with TfL (Transport for London), TEFL are an organisation that specialise in training anyone with a native or near-native level of English how to teach it. The good news is that you can complete TEFL courses from the comfort of your own home, and students, recent graduates (within the last 3 years) and the unemployed get 20% off the price of any course they choose to enrol on. With a TEFL qualification under your belt, you could be jetting off to teach Kindergarteners in Thailand or academy students in Spain and get paid too!
WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms or Willing Workers on Organic Farms) is an organisation that enables people to live and volunteer on a variety of organic properties. Volunteers (WWOOFers) help on the land and home for 4-6 hours a day and hosts provide the food and accommodation. If you want to have hands on experience, learn and share organic and sustainable ways of living then WWOOF might be for you. There are WWOOF hosts all over the world; this is perfect if you can afford a plane ticket and little else.
Check out Crewseekers, a recruitment platform with job listings for both amateur and professional yacht crew members. You could have a crazy adventure on a boat and end up somewhere amazing. If you prefer something a little more tame, have a look on cruise companies websites (e.g. Norwegian Cruise Line) to see what job opportunities are available. The work may not be glamorous, but it’s still a way to see the world!
Smaller Earth and BUNAC are great companies with a host of work abroad options available at prices starting from £250. Get a casual job and save up for the fees and plane ticket (or beg your friends and family) and have an adventure!
Guess what - the ‘real world’ does not actually exist. There’s just the illusion of time and a million different ways of passing it by. It may be hard, but do your best not to worry - you’ll find your place in the grand scheme of things.