Lessons I Learned After Graduation

These last few weeks have been all about graduation. Working in Bath, on my way home from work I’ve seen so many people in their caps and gowns, and it’s got me reflecting on my own graduation, and the period afterwards. It was a period that I struggled with immensely, the reasons which will become apparent as you read on, and part of me wishes that I could sit 21 year old me down and give her a little perspective. Since graduating, I’ve learned three lessons with regards to post university life, and I wanted to share them with you today.

Prioritise What’s Most Important

This is without a doubt one of the toughest ones, so lets get it out of the way now. First things first – think about what’s most important. Is it your career or your personal life? Now, I’m not saying that it’s not possible to have both, but I’m saying that it might not be possible to get them both straight away. 

For example, I studied psychology, and at the time I wanted to be a therapist after graduation. However, I also wanted to move back home. I went to university in Northampton, but my hometown is a small town in Wiltshire. There weren’t many opportunities, aside from Bath and Bristol, but even then they were few and far between. Despite that, I wanted to move back home to be with my friends and my family, so I put that above all else. However, that meant that the opportunities for me were incredibly minimal. Thankfully, where I’d been working for the last year at a high street opticians, I had enough experience to transfer to a store in my hometown, which meant at the very least I had a job. 

What I saw however, was a number of people on my course stayed in or around Northampton, and they moved on to Masters courses and graduate opportunities. Again, the only nearby universities to my hometown would have been in Bath and Bristol, and at the time, they either didn’t offer the course I wanted, or their entry requirements were too high. 

I’d love to say that coming out of university, you can have it all, but realistically, this was not the case for me, and I’m sure it wasn’t for most people. The lesson I’d say to take from this is to think about what’s most important to you. If your career is the most important, realistically, moving back to your hometown may not be the best option, especially if it’s a smaller area. However, if your priority is to move closer to your family, consider that you may be a little more restricted when it comes to job opportunities. Of course, I don’t regret my decision – I wanted to be nearer to my Mum and my friends. It was what I needed for my mental health, and after struggling so much throughout uni, I needed my home comforts. What I didn’t think of though, was how it would affect my career prospects. I expected to come home and still have opportunities fall into my lap, which definitely wasn’t the case.

Don’t Give Up Easily

One thing I found while I was working in my opticians job was that it was so easy to give up. I started volunteering for a mental health charity in order to get some experience, but I’m ashamed to say that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for it. One thing about retail is that it’s incredibly draining. So much to the point that on my days off, I wanted to isolate myself and spend time on me. It was incredibly selfish and looking back I know that had I stuck with it,  I probably could have gotten a foot in the door to some further training. However, I gave up, and quit the voluntary work telling myself that I’d start things up again in a few months time. I never did. 

I think part of the problem was also the fact that I got too comfortable which meant that even after a good year or two, I was reluctant to move on because I don’t like change. I had made friends, and even though I hated the job itself, I had made some amazing friends – why would I want to jeopardise that? 

Maybe deep down, I didn’t want to be a therapist. Or maybe during the five years I spent in a retail job, I simply lost any desire to work with the general public. Anyone who has worked a retail job will tell you that it drains any and every ounce of patience you have for people, and for me that was definitely the case. Some might argue that to for it be beaten out of me that easily, maybe I didn’t want to be a therapist in the first place. To be honest, I’m still not sure myself.

My point? If you wind up in a “stop gap” job, don’t give up. At times it’ll be easier to stay in a job you hate simply because it’s easier or because you have friends there. However, focus on your endgame. If there’s a career you want that badly, you’ll do whatever it takes. 

Don’t Compare

This was what I struggled with the most. Some of you may know that my husband and I went to university together. Obviously we studied different subjects, but throughout the whole three years it was easy to compare myself to how well he was doing. I’m ashamed to say that I felt as though no matter how well I did, he did ten times better, especially when it came to graduation. Watching him graduate with a first after I thought I had made my peace with my 2:1 was a surprisingly painful experience, I hate myself for admitting that.

What I neglected to consider though, was that for my husband, his subject was more than just the subject he was studying. It was a hobby. A hobby that he loved and therefore committed a great deal of his time and effort into. For me, while I loved psychology, particularly the mental health aspect, it wasn’t something I actively took time to read about. It’s something I have to remind myself of even now, and I hate myself for it.

The other thing I struggled with? Social media. Over the few years after graduating, the joys of Facebook and Instagram meant that I would be the first to know about how successful other girls on my course were. Over time I saw them getting graduate jobs, promotions, and getting onto masters courses. After a while it got to the point where seeing their successes was too much. I found it far too difficult to be happy for them when I was so unhappy in a job that I hated. At the risk of seeming like a jealous bitch, I deleted A LOT of people I went to uni with. It may seem petty and childish, but at the time, seeing their successes meant that I was a failure, and deleting that from my life was the best thing I could do. Looking at it from a slightly more mature point of view, I see this was childish, but at the same time, I think I did what I needed to do at the time. 

You may be able to tell that I’m feeling sorry for myself as I write this post (crappy day at work and all that). I’m sorry that this post ended up being such a downer. As you can probably tell, I have lots of conflicting emotions about this subject, even 6 years on. One thing I will say though, is that in spite of everything, I don’t have any regrets. Like I said, maybe deep down, being a therapist wasn’t for me, and putting my personal life ahead of my career was my mind’s way of telling me that. Had I decided to pursue more courses or work experience, I wouldn’t have the life that I do now. While the job stuff has completely and utterly gone to shit (and that’s a whole different discussion for another day), I have some amazing friends, a wonderful family, and a husband who loves me and takes care of me. And of course, the most adorable little kitty.

16 thoughts on “Lessons I Learned After Graduation

  1. laura says:

    I completely agree with all of this but especially the “Don’t Compare” section. It’s so so easy to get caught up in wondering why other people are succeeding in ways that you’re not, but it’s so unhealthy. I’m only just learning this and it’s been nearly 5 years since I finished uni! Also, don’t feel bad for deleting people – your social media is your personal space and you are more than entitled to tailor it to exactly how you want. The job thing may not have worked out for you the way you wanted (tbh it rarely does!), but it sounds as though things have worked out for you in general! I will always prioritise my personal life over my career, because surely that’s the most important thing? Loved this post xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • amymayj says:

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I completely agree, it’s one of the most important things to bear it mind but it’s so easy to forget. I’m glad it’s not just me that’s still coming to terms with it! The social media thing I tend to go back and forth with – part of me thinks that if I were in their position I would totally brag about it on FB and Insta, but then I also think we delete and block stuff on social media if it makes us feel shitty, so it shouldn’t be any different. I completely agree that your personal life is the most important. Of course for other people it’s the other way around, and that’s fine too, it’s about what you want prioritise above anyone else – again, going back to not comparing yourself! Thank you for reading 🙂 xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beth says:

    I think it is important people realise that just because a uni promises that 99% (or whatever that number is) of their students have a job six months after graduating, it doesn’t mean they have their dream job or a job even closely related to the course they studied. I am about to go into my second year and reading this post has definitely open my eyes to the fact I might not be able to get the job I want if I stay in my home town due to also living in a small area with very little opportunity. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • amymayj says:

      Absolutely, I think it’s so wrong that universities get to boast about that fact too because I think it can be quite misleading for students who are trying to make the decision as to whether uni is for them. But I guess the stats for relevant jobs are much lower so they would hardly want to advertise that! I think in this day and age as well, a degree is nothing if you don’t have experience to go with it, which is such a shame given that opportunities to get your foot in the door are few and far between. Thank you so much for reading, and I wish you all the best with the rest of your studies and career! 🙂

      Like

    • amymayj says:

      Definitely can relate. On a good day it’s so much easier to accept them but when I’m feeling particularly low I really struggle to keep them in mind. Thank you for commenting!

      Like

  3. Liz says:

    I love this post! Comparing yourself to others is the worst thing you can do. I have friends who have gone on to have amazing careers in London and appear to be having the most amazing time, meanwhile I’m sat in my bedroom writing blog posts and struggling with my mental health. However, I know that blogging and writing makes me so incredibly happy. I wouldn’t be happy in their shoes and so there’s no point comparing. Graduating is a really difficult period in your life and universities don’t properly prepare you for it 😫xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • amymayj says:

      Thank you so much 🙂 I have similar friends and while at times I’m envious of how well they’re doing, I know deep down I wouldn’t be happy. I definitely think universities need to prepare you more for life after graduation – and there really should be more support too in helping graduates find opportunities that suits them. Thank you for your comment 🙂 x

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s