With many of you graduating this summer, one ex-student writer tells us his experiences of joining the 'real world' after leaving university.

I recall it was around February 2008 when I finally came to terms with the fact that I would no longer earn my millions by becoming a professional footballer. It was a cold winter’s afternoon and I had just taken the ball past some unsuspecting defender in a school match. The ball was clutching to my feet. Past another defender I go, and another. Suddenly I was one on one with the keeper, a drop of the shoulder and I was 6 yards out staring at an empty net. About to score the greatest goal of my fledgling career I seamlessly shifted the ball onto my weaker foot, took an almighty swing and watched as the ball nestled comfortably into the net. Own goal.

With this memory haunting me for years to come I was forced to change my plan of action. Sorry Manchester United, not today.

Fast forward to the summer of 2013 and I had just arrived fresh off the graduate production line after a three year holiday (aka University). I’d come to that important stage in life where it was time to venture out into the ‘big bad’ world. I’d have to fend for myself, earn a wage and become a young, 21st century grown-up (whilst still living at my parents’ house, having my meals cooked for me and my clothes washed/ironed/hung up of course).

After weeks of deliberating the best way ‘in’, I’d come to a decision; I would have to do the male equivalent of sleeping myself into a job. ‘Yes sir, of course sir, thank-you sir’ I had to become a suck up.

‘Dear Mr X, I would relish the chance to work at your organisation.’

‘Your organisation is one that I very much admire.’

‘I would be delighted to hear back from you.’

It was all an act.

Let me tell you, Mr X; I would not relish the chance to work at your organisation, I have never heard of let alone admire you and I’m merely copy and pasting this email from the copious other places that, quite frankly, I’d rather work at so I’m not bothered either way if you reply to me or not.

It wasn’t uncommon to occasionally find myself arrogantly laughing at the amount of offers that would come my way due to this perfectly manufactured charade. I would plan in my head how best to juggle the different job offers that were sure to arrive, believing I could use multiple offers as bargaining tactics when discussing my wage. It was only a matter of time.  This time next year, I’ll be a millionaire.

Although sincerity is not a word associated with my attempts at job hunting, such is life. We charm and flatter our way to the top and we have to accept that. If you choose the route of miserable bastard then don’t be surprised when you find yourself sitting in a very damp apartment at the age of 65 with nothing around you but your pet budgie and a microwaveable Lancashire hotpot wondering where it all went wrong. Heaven Knows You’re Miserable Now.

So there I was, vigorously composing e-mail after email, follow-up email after follow-up email, phone call after phone call, waiting for one of these ‘fantastic companies’ to be intelligent enough to employ me.

No reply. No reply. ‘Thank-you for your email, however…’ No reply.

You bastards.

But why? I’m 21, I’ve got a degree and I’ve told you that I bloody love your god damn organisation so why the hell are we not currently shaking hands over a nice 40k-a-year, 4 year contract?

Alas, apparently a 2:1 in Digital Media and Communications from Manchester Met isn’t that appealing to employers. Who’d have thought it?

So, with little sign of a 40k-a-year job offer falling in my lap and my chances of playing for United running slim, I had to consider my options.

It seemed to me that there were two routes I could go down; become a homeless drug addict in Hull or line up some work experience.

Disappointingly for this blog post, I chose work experience.

And so it began. I’m sure you can imagine my excitement; spend two years chomping at the bit to finish my degree and get a job earning some real cash only to find that I would have to spend a further 6 months on unpaid work experience.

You lucky, lucky boy Daniel.

Bar 2 or 3 (which were genuinely enjoyable) the majority of my time on work placements was spent counting sheep. I must have counted close to 10,000 sheep during those dark months. Sheep jumping over fences, sheep running in the hills, flying sheep, fat sheep, tall sheep, Shaun the Sheep. Bloody sheep. Did you know that sheep have the ability to remember human faces for up to 2 years?

There was a light at the end of the tunnel, however. After months of slogging myself back and forth from town, rubbing shoulders with sweaty Londoners, sidestepping tramps on Oxford Street and paying well-over the odds for a chicken sandwich at lunch, I landed myself the perfect first job.

I’m guessing you’re thinking the moral of the story for graduates is persevere, build your CV and keep your spirits high and you will eventually get that job. Well it’s not. There is no moral.

Hope you enjoyed the anti-climactic ending, my Dad didn’t (he hated the whole piece in fact, d’oh!)

For more articles by Dan Halley, check out his blog here!





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