For graduates, summer can be bittersweet. You finally completed the last leg of your academic career, and you probably graduated with smile on your face, surrounded by the people who've been propping you up (literally or otherwise) for the last 3-4 years. It's after this – after all of the group photos and prosecco and presents and happy tears – that real life, and real decisions, kick in.
If you're reading this, chances are that you've graduated this year and you're still not certain what you're going to do with your life. If you're one of the lucky ones who got onto a graduate scheme or snagged a graduate job, you don't need to read further; you have it sorted. This one's for those of us who are still dithering, confused, and tired of scrolling through job boards where the only graduate-level positions have titles like 'Recruitment Consultant' or 'Accounts Executive', neither of which you're sure of.
I graduated a couple of weeks ago. I did uni in a slightly backwards way, as I got my degree through the Open University while working part-time. While I am currently employed and happy, working part-time while using my free time to freelance doing the creative stuff that makes my heart sing, I'm suddenly experiencing peer pressure for the first time since I was about 14.
But instead of feeling pressurised into drinking vodka out of a Lucozade Sport bottle, I now feel like I'm expected to snag one of those elusive 'grad jobs' that my friends who opted for the standard uni route seemingly sailed into last summer.
Comparing yourself to other people is, as I'm beginning to learn, one of the worst things you can do, especially just after you've graduated and everything seems to be moving so quickly. When you've spent several years 'broadening your mind' as a student – be it through partying, meeting people from different backgrounds, challenging yourself academically or just slowly learning to be more self-sufficient – it seems a bit mad for it all to come to a close and for you to start wanting to tick boxes.
Even if everyone around you has it all figured out (this probably isn't the case; remember that social media is just a highlights reel of someone else's messy life), with seemingly excellent jobs or houses or whatever they define themselves by, that doesn't mean you need to live your life at the same pace.
Finally, if you need cheering up a little bit more, you could do worse than read the speech that author Magg Haig made to Kingston University graduates earlier this year. Coming from Matt Haig, you know that his advice is bloody brilliant, and it's guaranteed that you'll find something within it that you can relate to your own post-graduation stress. If you don't have time to read it, here are some choice gems:
- "Most of the things that are worrying you now will not be worrying you a few years from now."
- "Try very hard to do work you enjoy doing. That should be the main aim. If you enjoy something you will be better at doing it, and why waste your working life on something you don’t enjoy doing? In other words, don’t take that media sales job in East Croydon. You’ll thank me later. Find what you love."
- Read more poetry.
- "Don’t let other people’s doubts about you become your own doubts about you."
- "It's more important to be yourself than to be accepted ... All through my twenties and into my thirties I was always worried about what people thought of me ... It truly is not a good idea wasting so much energy on worrying if you fit in, or trying to translate the frowns of strangers."
- "There will be times when you fail. There will be bad days. There will be struggle. Especially if you pursue a dream. But you need those bad days to make the good days seem good. And sometimes we need to be knocked off track."
- "Live in the present tense ... Most of all: don't forget to have fun."
Images TED Talks, Pexels, Manrepeller.