Forward: I wrote the first half of this three years ago when I’d just finished University. The second part I wrote today, three years on.
Finishing University is a bit like the aftermath of an incredible night out; your bed becomes a safe duvet cave that you never want to leave, you’re not sure what you want* and the whole thing just gives you an excruciating headache.
*Admittedly in the case of a hangover you’re deciding whether you want a sausage or bacon sarnie, and as a graduate you’re deciding what to do with the rest of your life… but it’s basically the same thing.
One thing’s certain; life after Uni ain’t easy.
As a wide-eyed eighteen year old you pack up your bags ready for the playground that is University and are set free to do whatever the hell you want. Drinking too much, afternoon naps and all-nighters are commendable, not irresponsible.
As a student, you’re in a happy and carefree bubble of wonderfulness. It’s about spontaneity; it’s saying YES to places you’ve never been and things you’ve never done. It’s going out on a Monday rather than a Friday and avoiding the locals in the local. University was about drinking wine out of mugs and eating cereal for dinner. I certainly believed that life wasn’t to be scheduled, planned and full of routines…
…But now I own a Filofax.
Before I entered into the ‘real world’, I’d been to bed at 7 am more times than I’d got up at that time. I didn’t want to take an admin job in Birmingham, I didn’t want to talk to Sally in Finance about what she did at the weekend and I didn’t want to be just a number in a sea of employees. I knew I didn’t want that, but I had no idea what I did want.
Ideally, the second I had my mortarboard and scroll, I’d have been heading to a tropical island somewhere sat on a beach drinking rum, avoiding the 9-5 office life. But with a heavy overdraft weighing me down, I spent my first few weeks as a graduate sat on the sofa waching daytime T.V. and typing ‘creative’ into job websites with absolutely no idea of what I was doing. All I knew were two things; I couldnt bear to watch another episode of Come Dine With Me and I needed to get out of my overdraft.
Moving back home and giving up my sweet freedom made me feel as though I’d regressed back to being a teenager. Nagged for taking too long in the shower, for not washing up immediately after cooking and for having a messy bedroom that I now paid rent for. The only difference is – now that I have found a grown-up full time job – I regularly have to set my alarm for an hour I’ll never get used to.
From organising weeks around what nights out I couldn’t miss, I now cherish any spare second I have to do “life maintenance” like paint my nails, get my haircut and find time to ring the taxman (I still need to do all three). Weekends actually mean something, holiday allowance is sacred and bank holidays are the best thing ever.
Okay so that’s still very much true; I still need to paint my nails (but I’ve done the other two). Adulting is hard and it’s not easy transitioning into the working world.
In the last three years, a lot has happened. I moved out of home and I now live in Nottingham with my boyfriend. Since leaving Uni, I’ve worked in three places; I was a Copywriter at a Marketing Agency in Birmingham, moved to Nottingham and worked at a Creative Agency doing all of their Marketing and PR, and now I’m an Assistant Marketing Manager at a large beauty retailer. It’s been a crazy whirlwind and I’ve learned so much, met such amazing friends and have gained a lot of experience that I definitely didn’t have fresh out of Uni.
Here’s a few of the important lessons I’ve learned since graduating.
NOBODY KNOWS WHAT THE HELL THEY’RE DOING
People may lead you to believe that they have a ‘plan’ and have everything under control, making you think you’re the only one who literally has NO IDEA what you want to do in life. But the truth is, no one knows. Even when you’re in your mid-twenties, you’re still figuring out what the hell it is that you want, and I’m guessing it’s like that forever more. Go with your gut and don’t put so much pressure on yourself to have it all figured out as soon as you graduate. It’ll all work out in the end.
IF YOU HAVE TO FORCE IT, IT AINT WORKING
There are two types of friends in life: some that fizzle away even if you thought you’d be BFFs for life, and some friends you don’t see for months, but it feels like no time has passed – they’re the ones to hold on to. There’s something that keeps you together, something you can’t put your finger on but something so strong that it can last through different cities, different countries and different continents.
Moving away for Uni and living abroad has taught me that you can’t force a friendship with someone. No matter how hard you try, if it’s meant to be, it will be and letting go of those you used to be close to but no longer have anything in common with is okay. Another thing is that you can’t predict who those people will be. Those you think you’ll never lose touch with end up disappearing off the face of the earth and casual acquaintances can turn into the closest of friends.
BEING ORGANISED ISN’T BORING
The beauty of being spontaneous is that you let life unfold to you, the downside is it can make you expectant and lazy waiting for something to come your way. I used to think being overly ‘organised’ killed spontaneity. Now while I still don’t see myself as the kind of person that says “If it’s not in the diary and planned three weeks in advance I won’t go” the truth is, it’s can be a really good thing to plan. Not only is being organised essential in the workplace, but the older we get, the busier our lives (and our friends lives become). Friends move to new cities, months fly by without seeing your closest girls, and it’s a lot harder to arrange to meet up because life just gets in the way. That’s why it’s so important to have events planned in the diary to look forward to.
IT’S NOT COCKY TO BE CONFIDENT
Some people are completely self-assured, while others totally lack confidence and even put themselves down. Do we do it because we don’t want other people to think we are ‘cocky’ or because we don’t believe in ourselves? I’m guessing it’s the first – unless hormones get in the way – and the reason we put ourselves down is because of other people. We can be unkind to ourselves because we worry what other people think. We doubt ourselves because we fear others do too. But the truth is – and this may hurt – but no one’s that bothered.
Now before you get the violins out, this is a really great thing. It means you can make a tit out of yourself and people will forget it. It means there’s nothing stopping you from doing exactly what you want and being yourself. I’ve learned that It’s important to be confident, to believe in yourself and your own abilities and to not shy away from things because of self-doubt – or worse because of what other people think. The only person you’ve got to please is yourself!
SLEEP IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
Forget all-nighters. When you start work, sleep is your best friend (and not in the form of day-time naps after one lecture before a night out…). I’m now in bed by 10 pm and in work by 8am and I honestly never thought I’d see the day when that would be the case. But without sleep I can’t function and I need my beauty sleep.
SAVE, SAVE, SAVE
Take some of your monthly paycheck and save it. Even if it’s only a small amount. If the company you work for has a pension scheme where they match it, opt in! The more you save now, the more you’ll thank yourself later. When the time comes when you want to buy your first house, a new car, go on an incredible trip, or even if you need a safety net if it all goes a bit ‘tits up’ – you’ll need some cash, so the earlier you save the easier it’ll be!
FIGURE IT OUT
We’ve all heard the saying ‘fake it ’til you make it’, but there’s actually quite a lot of truth in that. Work can be tough, especially as the ‘new girl’ and sometimes you may not have a clue what you’re doing. But it’s important to have the confidence in yourself that you can figure it out, no matter what it is. Whether it’s learning new processes, new systems or new people – be a sponge and soak it all in – and figure out a way around it. If you’ve been asked to raise a PO for someone or you’ve been told to create a PR plan for a new product launch (and you don’t know where to start) – you can figure it out! Obviously it’s okay to ask questions, but don’t make that your default when you don’t know how to do something – use your initiative first and it’ll give off a much better impression and people will be much more willing to help you.
If you don’t know the answer to a Manager’s question, don’t say “I don’t know”. Instead say something along the lines of: “I can’t recall off the top of my head, I’ll back to you on that one” – and make sure to follow up in an email once you’ve had chance to reflect on their question. It’s all about how people perceive you and making sure you’re allowing people to have confidence in you. If you appear “on it”, then that’s what people will think of you and they will have faith that you can get a job done well (even if you do have to result to google it first).
HARD WORK PAYS OFF
If you really want something, you have to work for it. Whether it’s a promotion at work or a totally different role in a new company which requires experience that you don’t have yet, be the first to say yes to extra responsibilities. Be the one that offers to help people in your team when they’re swamped with work, research the skills you need in the job you want and do everything you can to gain them! Whether you start an evening course to sharpen up your skills, start a blog to show your interest or passion in something, or read up a lot on the subject, hard work ALWAYS pays off!
IT’S OKAY IF A JOB JUST PAYS THE BILLS
Your first job after Uni doesn’t have to be your ‘dream career’. If it is, that’s amazing, go you! But if not, don’t sweat it. The reality is, you’ve most likely got 50 years of work ahead of you. And the likelihood is that you won’t want to spend that in the same place. You’ll probably want to gain rich experiences in different type of jobs, in different companies with different people. Put it into perspective. Take every job you have as experience and a stepping stone towards your end goal. If you’re not loving the route you’ve gone down, at least you tried it, and by trying new things you learn more about what you want (and what you don’t want). Ultimately, it’s OK if you’re in a job that isn’t perfectly matched to what your passionate about. It pays the bills and nothing is stopping you pursuing something that’s more suited to your goals in the future.