You had the big day, you threw your mortarboard up in the air, and your mum has proudly displayed the pics of it on the mantelpiece. Graduation was the big achievement, and you cracked it. But then everything just goes a bit flat. The conversation at family dinners inevitably turns to "found a job yet?" and your answer gets a little bit more defensive every time. You don’t need your dad mouthing off about your arts degree again, not now.
But they’re right. You don’t have a graduate job yet, and you’re starting to feel pretty dejected by the replies (or lack of) you’re getting from employers. Despite internships and extra work you did at uni, you’re really starting to believe the hype in the papers that there just aren’t that many grad jobs. This is when it’s time for action. There are jobs out there, but they might not all be as a producer for Channel 4, or stylist at Wonderland. And so it might just be time to compromise.
When I finished uni I started applying at the places I’d have loved to work, then the places I’d like, then the places I wasn’t too sure of. I compromised, and it was probably the best thing I’ve ever done.
In the creative industries, particularly, it’s not just a stock response email when they say they had an unprecedented amount of applicants for a role. Employers are literally turning away hundreds of hopefuls, so despite having relevant experience and a good degree, you might find your CV is barely even being scanned over. If your parents are rich and kind, you might be able to keep doing unpaid internships to stay busy – but most of us have to pay the rent and put food on the table and that means getting a J-O-B anyway, anyhow.
My personal compromise came in the form of SEO instead of journalism. I couldn’t tell you the amount of time I’d spent on applications, for poorly paid positions with stupidly long hours just because it was in the industry I wanted to work in. Now I live in London, work for a sick agency with amazing perks, write all day for a company, and have loads of free time to do freelance work. Not to mention, SEO is a pretty vital skill at most publications, so I’m learning something that could one day lead to a position in journalism.
Other people choose to compromise by getting an unrelated job, and starting a business on the side doing what they love. Others decide to make their passion a hobby instead, so they can focus on doing it out of love, and not as a job. I think in our early twenties, and given everything we’ve been told about adulthood, it’s easy to feel like a failure because you don’t have a career in the same field you studied. But that’s not the case at all. It takes guts to stand up and provide for yourself, and find a way to make your life better. There is a limit to what a positive attitude and a killer cover letter can get you in this world, and there’s no shame in admitting it’s time to find a middle ground.
Without going all motivational speech-y, there are so many ways to do something you’re passionate about that slightly more "mainstream" and therefore has more jobs. If you studied art, consider a more design-led position, or if your specialism was music, maybe look to PR or events work for bands. Of course there’s no need to give up on dreams, or assume that you don’t have the special qualities to do something great. However, you have your whole life to gain more experience and develop yourself. That job will still be there when the pressure of graduation has worn off and you’re in a better place in terms of experience and financially.
You never know how much you might get out of doing something different. Plus, you can stop having all those awkward dinner table convos, which will certainly be a weight off your shoulders.