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Here’s What I Learned Speaking To Graduates About What Life Is Like After University

Last week, I spoke to five graduates about their lives post-university to find out what it’s really like to be a graduate in 2016.

Each of them wrote a personal account of their experiences, which you can find at the end of this article. Some of the graduates I spoke to have found things relatively easy, or are happy with where they are right now, whereas others are still figuring it all out and have struggled a lot more than they expected. But across the series, despite the range of experiences, there were key points that came up again and again.

Here are nine important things every student and recent graduate should know. 

1. It’s all about the things you do alongside your degree.

Several of the people I spoke to found that, more often than not, potential employers wanted to talk about their work experience rather than their degree. You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s definitely important to take as many opportunities as you can while you’re at uni to boost your CV. And if you didn’t do as much extra-curricular stuff as you’d planned at uni, there’s still time to do internships and further training after. One of the graduates talked about how they didn’t leave uni with the experience they needed, so they spent a year after graduation living at home and doing various work experience placements. It took them a bit longer to get to where they want to be, but they now have everything they need to launch the career they want.

2. You have to make some compromises to get to where you want to be in the end. 

Everyone I spoke to had taken on part-time work that didn’t really interest them, or done poorly paid work experience in order to get the job they really want. It’s not ideal, but it’s a reality you may have to face. As is my next point…

3. Moving back in with your parents isn’t the end of the world. 

Every single one of the five graduates I spoke to had moved back home for some length of time after leaving uni. Needing to do so is often seen as “a step backwards”, but if anything, moving back in with your parents and saving money can allow you to make further steps forwards than if you hadn’t. A lot more people are doing this than you probably realise, and it’s often the smartest thing to do.

4. London is great, but you shouldn’t move there just because everyone else is. 

There are loads of career opportunities in London, but it isn’t the only city in the UK with companies looking to hire graduates. Other cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Cardiff (and plenty of others) have a lot going on and you’ll spend a lot less on rent.

5. Don’t be afraid to re-assess your career goals. 

One of the graduates I spoke to talked about working really hard to get his dream job, only to find he hated it and it wasn’t what he expected it to be. Eventually quitting and finding a completely different job, he is now much happier. You probably won’t know if a job is for you until you’ve been there every day and properly experienced it, and the take away from this story was, while you’re still young, take risks where you can and try different things out.

6. It’s OK to not really know what you want to do. 

Most of the grads I spoke to didn’t leave uni with a clear plan and those who did have since been forced to change it. One of the graduates talked about saving up to go travelling after uni and advised students not to rush straight into the working world after uni, while others have realised what they really want to do is go back to studying. If graduate life teaches you one thing, it’s that most people are just figuring things out as they go along.

7. Don’t be put off by everything you see on social media. 

A couple of the graduates I spoke to talked about feeling really disheartened when looking at all the things their Facebook friends were doing – whether it was reading statuses about amazing achievements or scrolling through endless albums of travelling photos. Everyone’s situation is different, and you don’t know how much the people in those photos have had to work and make sacrifices to get to go on that trip. Just do you.

8. Sometimes it just comes down to luck.

We spoke to a range of university graduates – some are really happy and enjoy their jobs, whereas others haven’t figured out what they want or how to get to where they want to be yet. Some had undoubtedly had a much harder time finding a job than others, despite having similar qualifications or experience. It’s not really fair, and it’s a bit of a cliché, but if you feel like you’re really struggling post-uni, maybe you just haven’t had your lucky break yet.

9. The bad experiences teach you a lot. 

Ideally we’d all walk out of uni and straight into our dream jobs and go on a bunch of incredible holidays every year, but, for most of us, that’s not how things work out. But one thing that cropped up repeatedly as I spoke to graduates who had had difficult experiences since uni, was that they valued them. The graduate who didn’t get enough work experience while still at uni doesn’t have any regrets – and nor does the graduate who has spent much longer looking for a job than she had hoped. Instead of regrets, people talked about what they had learnt from disastrous interviews and what being forced to change their career goals, and their approach to graduate life, had taught them.

The learning doesn’t end just because you’ve left university. Take every lesson on board and do your own thing.

Roisin’s graduate story. 



Grace’s graduate story. 



Jack’s graduate story. 



Barnaby’s graduate story. 



Louisa’s graduate story.