I have earned myself an undergraduate degree after three years of pretty exhausting work. I treated myself to a month’s holiday in Germany, explored new destinations, picked up extra work shifts and am now writing job applications.
In this period after graduation I've also experienced these seven moments that I feel are common to the graduate experience. You know you’re a university graduate when...
1. You realise you may never have to study again
It’s so lovely being able to wake up and not worry about 9am lectures, five assignments, two exams and all the pressure that comes with them. But seven mornings down the line when post-graduation week number two hits, you ask yourself “What am I even working towards?”
No one will hand us a graduate job on a silver plate and everything feels a bit “meh”. To tackle that, set up a longer-term goal – it will add meaning to your mornings.
2. You have the time to focus on yourself
Every “meh” situation has its advantages. You might feel the need to apply vigorously for a promising entry-level job but that doesn’t mean that you can’t join those dance classes, or start that extra workout programme at the gym, or read that amazing book that’s been collecting dust because journal articles demanded priority.
You may feel as though you are wasting your time but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Make those moments count as you might not have them back again.
3. You start combing Facebook for people who might have good career connections
The connections you made during your university years matter. Graduating from university is not the same as completing high school and saying goodbye to every annoying kid you came across. Feel free to cut down on regular interaction but let people exist on your social media. There will always be that one friend that you can tap up for career advice and connections.
However, don’t compare your growth with that of people on your Facebook or Instagram feed. Social media is an edited view of someone's life and most people will post only their successes not their failures. Focus on your own goals and aspirations instead.
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4. You feel you are getting old
I am 21 and I feel I have aged two years in two months – I’m not joking. A perception exists that once education is completed, we are fully functioning adults who must kick-start their professional careers as soon as possible to secure executive managerial positions in five years’ time or less.
A friend of mine graduated at age 24 and a fellow student began his degree at the age of 30. You are not old. Re-read that second to last sentence if you feel you are falling behind.
5. Your relatives start adding a new kind of pressure
The fact that you have traded a large sum of money per year for a certificate and then that certificate for the continuation of your part-time job is not something your relatives will be able to understand.
The expectation to be successful and financially settled by the time the new school year begins is unrealistic. Don’t be afraid to stand up to that pressure. Tell them their demands can’t be met.
6. Strangers ask you about your future plans
The cashier at Tesco asked me what were my plans for after university when she saw my alumni pin stuck to my scarf. “I don’t have any!” is what I wanted to shout.
Instead, I sweetly remarked: “Applying for graduate jobs and entering my degree field as soon as possible.”
To be honest, you don’t have to know where you’d like to take yourself just yet. You have your whole life to do that. Implement points one and two and they will help you understand your priorities better. Then, don’t hesitate to announce to every nosy soul that you are taking a post-graduation gap year. If that wasn’t a thing before, it is now.
7. You design your own lifestyle
Be bold enough to decide what it is that you want in life and if you feel your vision goes against the norms of society, remember these norms aren’t carved in stone either.
Perhaps you are a family-oriented person who places little value on career goals and gains. Perhaps you see yourself as the CEO of your own company in 10 years’ time. Maybe you think that staying in education for a little while longer is the right path for you.
Whatever it is, you should be choosing the path that makes you the happiest.