Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What are you going to do when you finish university?

Read Nichola's journey from starting out at university, her views and how she is looking for her graduate job, there is a great tip right at the end of the post.

I heard it again today, that unsettling question that keeps popping up “so what are you going to do when you finish university?” It’s unsettling because when I think back to almost three years ago when I started university, I had an answer to that question. My answer was “I don’t know yet but I’ll know in three years when I graduate” after all that’s how it works, right?

One of the reasons I came to university was because I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career aged 18. I didn’t want to get a job in my small hometown of Penrith, Cumbria and end up doing it for the rest of my life. I realise now I was painting myself an unrealistic and drastic picture of what reality might have looked like had I chosen not to go to university, but at the time this is what I thought.

The next step was to choose a degree subject and place to study. I’ve always been interested in fashion but it soon became apparent that without an Art or Design A-level there was next to no chance of getting onto a reputable fashion course.
This left me with little clue as to what I wanted to do. Careers advisors and teachers steered me in the direction of Psychology assuring me a lot of different industries consider it a valuable degree. After some individual research it looked like a subject that would interest me so I went for it, I started at Northumbria University in September 2009.

Before starting my degree I was under the impression that once you graduate, employment would be a breeze and fatter-than-average pay cheques would be guaranteed as a result. I was either given the wrong impression or a lot has changed in last three years.

In this day and age, life is lived in the fast-forward. Graduates are more often being advised against taking gap years. Employees used to look fondly upon a graduate who had been on a gap year – they had a high level of education, they had life experience both at home and living in another culture, they had got the travelling ‘bug’ out of their system and might even have some interesting stories to tell on their lunch break as a result – now competition for graduate jobs in fierce, employment prospects are much more uncertain and it seems the pressure is on to get on the career ladder immediately.

My inbox is inundated with e-mails with subject titles reading along the lines of ‘Want to get on a graduate scheme this year? Apply NOW!’ and ‘Make your gap year count, earn while you learn’. I’m starting to feel the pressure but finding the time to apply for graduate jobs isn’t an easy juggling act to balance along with final year deadlines and dissertations.

So where to start? I’d suggest writing out your interests and options as a starting point. Do you want to go travelling? If so, do you want tie it in with some ‘learning’ experience? Or just take a break for reality for a while, if your anything like me I’m sure you’ll feel you’ve earned it! Maybe you’re eager to start earning, if this is the case use your university’s careers services and graduates careers websites as much as possible. A one-to-one meeting with a careers advisor really helped me to see how my investing some more time and effort in my personal interests of writing and fashion could lead to a career.

If you’re like me, maybe your degree subject doesn’t lend itself perfectly to your dream career. This doesn’t mean you have to settle for doing a job you don’t want, it just means you have to work that bit harder to get it. In attempt to get a bit more experience with writing I have started my own blog and write feature articles the fashion section of my University’s online newspaper, and because its something I enjoy doing, I find the time to do it.

So don’t panic if you don’t know exactly what you want do just yet. As long as you try to do something you enjoy, I think that’s the most important thing…

Follow Nichola on Twitter: @NikiForNow

TARGETjobs offers the largest choice of graduate jobs, internships and placements. Independent reviews on top graduate employers and career planning tools and expert guidance. Become a TARGETjobs blogger by getting in touch with me at 

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