I Had To Accept That My Dream Job Wasn’t For Me
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. Each story will highlight the difficulties, disappointments, surprises and moments of happiness that come with being a recent graduate.
This is Barnaby’s story. Barnaby thought being successful in the corporate world would make him happy, but ditched the office after just a couple of months.
Barnaby: Graduate life has not gone as I expected, or as I always planned it to. During my graduation ceremony I received an answer phone message offering me a job. It was a step on the way to what I thought I wanted, I was going to be a trainee recruitment consultant at a large firm. Ten months later I am working in one of the smallest leisure centres in South East Devon and I’m much, much happier.
My graduate life really started in the November before I graduated, sat in the living room of my friend’s house watching an appalling film on TV. I stopped for a second and realised that in a few months everything would change and I would probably never see these people on a regular basis again.
Instead of making the most of the time I had left at uni, and enjoying it with my uni friends, I alienated myself from the group. I knuckled down with my work and sold myself on the glory of an office job. In hindsight, this is one of my biggest life regrets, but hey, I graduated with a First.
I was excited, it was everything I had told myself graduate life was about.
During the summer after graduation I moved into my girlfriend’s house with her parents and two sisters in South Wales. I was convinced this was where I would start my graduate journey. I got a job in a bar while I searched for a 9-to-5 office job (like a proper adult, right?). But that summer was tough. I was forced to work really unsociable hours, for not a lot of money, and it put a strain on my relationships and wallet. I quickly found myself with a maxed-out overdraft, relying on a credit card and borrowing money from my parents.
Eventually, September rolled around and I started my job in recruitment and moved into a shared house. I worked 7am to 5pm, Monday to Friday – with an hour of travel either way. Most importantly, I got to wear a suit and tie every day. I was excited, it was everything I had told myself graduate life was about.
But it quickly became clear that the job wasn’t for me at all. It was essentially a 12-hour day, I was exhausted by the end of it and that started to affect the rest of my life. I couldn’t find the time to do things I had previously enjoyed. I worked in an office with two guys who were both about ten years older than me, so spending 50+ hours a week with people I had little in common with was difficult. One of them in particular wasn’t very supportive of me being part of the company and frequently reminded me he was my “superior”. There were also other issues going on within the company that didn’t align with my values and beliefs. If you had to trample over a colleague to get a deal they were all for it. And if you didn’t like it, tough.
I ended up handing in my notice in November. Later that day I packed up my stuff and moved back home to live with my family in Devon, leaving pretty much everything else behind.
It’s refreshing to feel valued, trusted and not just like a puppet or a number.
The next four months were a very dark period of time for me.
I put on a lot of weight, I wasn’t earning any money and I was really depressed. I felt like a loser. My relationships with family, friends and my girlfriend suffered as a result. I felt like I had let myself and everyone around me down for not being able to make the office job, or the dream I had sold myself, work.
Everyone around me was extremely supportive and I’ll always be thankful for that. They helped me realise that the grad job dream isn’t for everyone and that it’s OK if things don’t always work out as you planned them to. I’ve learnt that taking a risk, while you have no responsibilities, can both teach you a lot and pay off.
I’m now working as a fitness instructor in a leisure centre, but I also offer nutrition coaching services in my spare time. What I really love about my current job is that the management at the leisure centre have allowed me to use my skills to develop diet plans and a series of four week seminars called Foundations of Food and Nutrition. It’s refreshing to feel valued, trusted and not just like a puppet or a number. If you find a company who respect you and allow you to grow as an individual, work hard for them and you’ll reap the rewards.
The biggest three lessons I’ve learnt from graduate life so far are that wearing a shirt and tie does not automatically make you a success, and just because it looks like it makes other people happy – that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. Also, 9am lectures sucked at uni, but they’re a reality of pretty much every office grad job. And most importantly, never forget the people who are there for you – never, ever forget to call home.