The end of university was a blur of dissertation amendments – midnight library sessions and an attempt to make the most out of my last few student discount purchases. I was so busy during my final year that I found it difficult to make time to think about life after graduation.
I realised at a careers talk in March that I could no longer use the phrase “when I grow up I want to be…” because technically, I was grown up and should probably have a rough idea of what I wanted to be. A lecturer of mine once said: “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. So how can you prep for the beginning of the end as best you can? It’s simple. Follow my four-step plan. Results may vary. Do not exceed the recommended dose.
1 – Start researching companies before you graduate
Long before. I’m talking four or five months. Maybe right after Christmas. If you want to contact them before you graduate you should predict a qualification for yourself and let them know this is what you plan on achieving. This will also motivate you to work harder and get this grade. This advice might be a little late coming now if you’ve already graduated, or you’re going to soon, but that’s all the more reason to get moving.
2 – Get work experience
From my experience, this is what employers want to see. If you’re in any way interested in the creative industries, make a portfolio, polish it up, and hunt for work. The more you have under your belt, the better. Regardless of what industry you’re hoping to go into, you need to have the work experience to back up your degree and put into practice what you have learnt. It’s a given that every student that graduates from university has a degree, you need to have the CV to prove that you can work and operate in the real world. All the brains in the world are useless to a company if you lack common sense and workplace etiquette. I completed a lot of work experiences during my university career and I can honestly say each one taught me a valuable lesson in corporate protocol, writing skills and building contacts.
4 – Do an internship
Which leads nicely into my next point. Your university has likely been firing emails left right and centre about internship opportunities for the last three years, and you’ve been too buried in work and re-runs of Gossip Girl to really pay them a lot of attention. You’ll worry about them when you finish your work and graduate.
By then, they’ll be gone. Apply now. They are invaluable opportunities. The wages won’t set the world on fire, but your real pay is being able to put their brand on your CV. I actually hopped from university to work experience to internship to real job one week before graduation. If you have the opportunity to leave your comfort zone for a year during university, do it. I completed one year working as a press assistant at Harrods in London and it completely changed my perspective on life, not just professionally but personally too.
Final tip is the easiest one, the one that will involve the least effort on your part. Do step 5 and pat yourself on the back.
5 – Go to Your Graduation Ceremony and take the mandatory photo.
The photo will make your mum and dad happy and it’s also an excuse to remove the awkward school picture of you on your mantelpiece wearing an oversized school blazer. Plus, the ceremony is for you. You’ve worked hard for the last three or four years, so put on your gown and enjoy it. In years to come, you might regret that you didn’t get the photo of you holding the fake scroll back when you were wrinkle free and hopeful. Most importantly, graduate, go forth and go to your first postgraduate interview with confidence
Congratulations for joining the degree club now go find a job. Do it with style, because you certainly can’t afford any new clothes until you receive your first grad job pay slip.