I’m sure I’m not the only one who is finishing university or has finished university and been anxious about what’s next. Graduation? Jobs? Finances?
It can be a frightening period for many, full of unknowns.
I thought I’d share my thoughts and experiences throughout university and how I feel about the situation now.
My university journey has certainly been an interesting one. I started my undergraduate degree in Management back in 2012 so it feels like the moment I can finally say I’m done with uni is long overdue.
Back then, I wasn’t ready for university. I didn’t enjoy it at all and would spend much more time at my part time job at McDonald’s making money rather than attending my classes. After a lot of deliberation, I dropped out after completing 1st year and decided that I would look for a full time job instead.
This proved to be difficult. Every job I liked the sound of needed experience or a degree in the field. I attended a few interviews but nothing ever came of them, one even telling me I was overqualified (how can you win). I applied for hundreds of jobs, nothing. At this point, I thought I’d made a mistake but I didn’t want to go back to university so I decided to go full time at McDonald’s.
Over the year, I went from wanting to work in an office to becoming a police officer and finally I decided I wanted to stay at McDonald’s and instead get as much out of the opportunity as possible.
I quickly went from being a Crew Trainer (those employees that teach new staff) to a Shift Manager, allowing me to gain valuable management experience which was great for the type of roles I wanted to eventually apply for. Within half a year, I was again promoted and this time my job title was 2nd Assistant Manager. This was a salaried role and one with much more responsibility. I was earning a decent wage for someone my age at the time and I quickly became reliant on the money. I loved being able to buy whatever I wanted and not have to worry about anything else. When I got the opportunity to be promoted again to 1st Assistant Manager I jumped at the chance. More money, more responsibility and more experience.
It wasn’t long after being promoted this final time that I began to get fed up with my workplace. Don’t get me wrong, McDonald’s is a brilliant place to work part time or even full time to gain experience but it could never have been my forever career. I outgrew the place. I worked there for a total of 6 years, throughout school, university and my working life. It was time to move on.
It took a long time with plenty of doubts and job hunting with no luck to finally decide that I would reapply to university. This was a huge decision for me. Any jobs I’d researched would mean much less responsibility and a substantial pay decrease which is something I wasn’t sure I could cope with.
So why university?
My thoughts were if I go back to university and gain my degree, yes I wouldn’t be making as much money during this time, but eventually, I could be qualified for higher paying jobs with more responsibility than I was currently finding. I knew it would be hard work and I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy my time there but it’s something I would just have to bare with for the remaining three years of my degree.
In September 2016, after 3 years out, I began my first semester back at university, this time studying Management with Marketing, hoping I’d find it slightly more interesting and engaging than my previous degree choice.
I started the semester so motivated and determined which is something I had never experienced with uni before so I started the time incredibly positive. Eventually, with my part time job in the mix, I found myself again slipping and my motivation became non existent. I was behind on lectures and even considered dropping out again. If it weren’t for my friends, family and boyfriend spurring me on, I probably would’ve.
After a tough year, I found myself passing and gaining a placement for the year with CALA Homes as a Marketing Assistant. It was an incredibly daunting experience. I’m pretty shy and I’d never worked in an office environment before so I had no idea what to expect. After a few weeks, I found myself feeling much more at ease but knowing I was on placement, I always felt like I was being watched so that did affect my nerves throughout the time.
It was nice earning money again and having a routine which meant I had to get up early instead of sleeping until noon, even if I did feel exhausted all of the time.
Leaving CALA was quite emotional. I’d met some lovely people and became close with the girls but that’s all part of the process.
From working there, I realised that I did want to work in marketing but more specifically digital marketing. I thoroughly enjoyed working on the website and having a blog, I already know I am capable of the social media side, SEO etc, so it seems like a viable option for me.
The final year. The big year. Terrifying right? 4th year so far has been a rollercoaster of a year. Anxiousness over dissertation, constant deadlines and worry over actually passing the year, teamed with what you are going to do after graduation is enough to make you lose your mind.
I’m one semester down now and the day I received my results to say I’d passed was an enormous relief after spending so much time crying feeling like I was working hard for me to fail. I’m quite good at telling myself I won’t succeed so this was a nice reminder that I can, in fact, get through this year.
So now we’re up to date. I’m in my final semester of my Management with Marketing degree and deadlines are fast approaching. I have roughly 2-3 months left and I never thought I’d get this far but there is still so much to do which is daunting.
Will my dissertation be good enough? Will I graduate with my goal of a 2:1? Who knows, but my fingers and toes are all crossed.
I know it means putting in hours of hard work but finding the motivation can be difficult. I’m sure you’d agree.
Then there is the worry about what I am going to do after university. Do I travel? Do I find a graduate job? Do I apply for a postgraduate course?
The most likely option is that I’ll hunt for a job. I’ve been looking every now and then so far and I’ve found little in the way of marketing which is slightly concerning. I know that’s what I want to do so I’m reluctant to apply for other types of graduate roles but I also don’t want to be jobless. It’s a catch 22 situation. Do I just apply for roles anyway and risk working in a role I’m not happy in? I’m almost 25 and I’m at the age where I just want to be in a role and be settled but it just might not happen like that.
Then there is the issue with money. I’m living in a beautiful house with my boyfriend who I’m lucky lets me stay bill free while I’m finishing my degree. But, if I can’t find a job how can I eventually help maintain our cost of living? I had a lot of savings from my time working full time which has come in handy through my time back at university but it’s starting to wear thin now. Without money how can I afford to live, look after our home, go on holiday and have a social life? We want a dog also but without me having a job to help cover the expense of having a dog, it’s not a viable option which is heartbreaking when we are so desperate to add a member to our family.
But I’ve also considered applying for a postgraduate degree in Digital Marketing. As I mentioned, this is the exact route I’m keen to go down in terms of career and right now, job prospects are slim in this field. So do I go back for one more year at university and gain a further qualification? I honestly have no idea. This option means having no money for another year which is not something I could probably cope with as well as not being fair on Blair and our finances but in the long run, it could be beneficial to me finding an even better, more suitable job role. It’s a confusing and a decision I’m going to have to think long and hard about for the next few months.
Even though it’s been a long, drawn out way to complete my degree, I am glad I have done it this way. I gained so much experience in my roles in management which looks great on my CV.
I need to remind myself of that and that when the time comes in May when I’ve submitted my final coursework, that I’ve given my final year my all and whatever the outcome, I’ll find my way eventually. Even if it’s not what I expect. Of course, I’ll always feel uncertain about what is yet to come and that’s completely normal and is totally okay. So many people I know have been in the same boat and are now flourishing. I know that can be me too.
This is something a little different and much more personal for my blog but I feel like it’s something the majority of us that go to university feel at some point during the journey. I’d love to know your experiences and how you coped with the fear of graduation and beyond.
Why not also check out my experience Gin Tasting at The Tippling House.