What It’s Really Like To Be a Graduate In 2016: Roisin’s Story
As graduation season looms and thousands of students enter “the real world”, every day this week we’ll be hearing from graduates about what life outside of university is really like for them.
In this series, we’re going to be shining the spotlight on what it’s really like to be a graduate in 2016. Does going to uni prove to be worth it in the end? Is graduate life what you’d expect?
Each story highlights the difficulties, disappointments, surprises and moments of happiness that come with being a recent graduate. And each storyteller has taken a very different path since leaving uni: whether they’ve struggled to find a job, travelled the world or had a pretty easy time of it – everyone has a different story to tell.
This is Roisin’s story. Roisin graduated from Nottingham Trent University two years ago and is still looking for her big break…
Roisin: One thing my Mum always used to say to me was, “there’s a world going on outside of yours,” and I never truly realised what she meant until I graduated.
As I was coming to the end of my degree I felt invincible and, most importantly, employable. What hit me after I actually left was rather the opposite: that while I’d been enjoying my time in this new environment, gaining a good degree to “better myself”, the world was still spinning. Others who hadn’t gone to university were out there, in the real world, gaining experience.
It doesn’t take long on the job hunt to learn that’s all that really matters. Experience.
I went to Nottingham Trent University, I graduated with a 2:1 in Media with English and, exams aside, loved every moment.
I bought into the promise that university is a stepping stone to a better life, and I definitely saw myself making my way to my dream job in festival marketing. I had some experience – I worked for festivals in Leeds, my hometown in Suffolk and even in Ireland. But what I also had was passion and enthusiasm; I loved music, art, literature, film, and nothing makes me happier than seeing it all come together in a festival atmosphere.
That was 2014 – two years later I’m working full-time at a popular pub chain.
It’s not what I had planned, but after you graduate the first thing you worry about is money. I worked two jobs, and once you’re busy with a job the time just flies by. I’d find myself working weeks on end without a single day off – I worked my arse off, I even got promoted.
Occasionally I’d get the odd “thank you, but no” email.
Before I knew it I was in a position – financially – to either move out or go travelling. I chose the former because I felt like adult life was running away without me, and I had to catch it up.
So I finally left my parents’ house and moved up North, looking to kick-start my adult career. I came across so many jobs I loved the idea of and poured everything I had into the applications, but to no avail. Occasionally I’d get the odd “thank you, but no” email.
I was eventually invited to an interview in Leeds and I was really excited; they called me directly saying they were impressed with my application and wanted to fast-track me to the second interview stage. But when I finally arrived in Leeds and at the right building, I had to wait an hour for my interview – the interviewer had only forgotten I was coming! – and all of a sudden something didn’t feel right.
I came out of that interview having learnt two valuable lessons:
1. Always trust your instincts
2. Marketing Executive can sometimes mean door-to-door sales
I almost immediately started to feel down. I cried endlessly about how it wasn’t fair and asked “why is it always me?” I started to reflect on the situation I was in and why no one else seemed to be talking about similar experiences – was I the only one? Was I the only graduate who couldn’t get a job, who struggled and who felt useless? Was I the only one getting my hopes up for opportunities that were actually door-to-door sales?
I eventually moved back home, back to my parents’ house, while the rest of the world kept spinning. I felt like I had regressed; after being independent for four years at university, after moving out of my parents’ house only to move back again. My life felt like a hangover after a big party – the fun was over.
I cried endlessly about how it wasn’t fair and asked “why is it always me?”
There are definitely days when I feel like a failure. I’ve moved home twice since leaving university. Meanwhile, it looks like 80% of my Facebook friends are either on a beach in Bangkok or at their dream job. I don’t know how to stop comparing myself to them. But one thing I do know is, if you have to compare yourself to others, try and take positives from it. Look at what others are doing and let it inspire you to get proactive and make plans.
Get a part-time job, even if you hate it, at least you have one – it’s progress. Spend some time really thinking about all the things you could do with your life. Do you want to travel? Return to study? Are there career paths you’ve never even considered? There came a time when I had to just get up and stop feeling bad about my situation. Go for a coffee, meet up with friends and make some new ones. Do stuff around the house and, most importantly, take care of yourself.
It hasn’t all been good, but I’ve achieved and experienced a lot since leaving uni. I’ve met some of the best and most genuine people I’ve ever known (including my boyfriend). I’ve experienced council tax, bills and rent – all those boring adult things. I’ve also learnt to cook dahl and lived somewhere I never thought I would.
I’ve cried a lot, but I’ve laughed a lot too.
I feel like a lot of what you see on social media, and in the media in general, is all “GRAD JOBS, GRAD JOBS, GRAD JOBS”. You have to constantly be prepared to answer the question “what are you going to do now?” But life post-university isn’t easy and all mapped-out for most people. Not everyone has (or wants) a grad job and not everyone has an answer to that question.
I really believe there should be more exposure and honest discussion on what life after uni is really like – not just the good, but the bad and the ugly too.