So… What now? A Graduate’s Guide to the Transition from Education to Employment
A graduate’s transition from education to employment is a process that is often challenging, yet rarely spoken about. Most of us are encouraged and praised for the hard work and determination required to succeed in the academic milestones that we face, whether that be GCSEs, A Levels or a degree. What is often overlooked, however, is the difficulties that many graduates experience in how best to transform their academic success into a successful career. Having recently moved back into my family home after graduating from The University of Birmingham, this is a struggle that I have faced personally, and one that I believe deserves more recognition. To anyone else that has experienced similar feelings of confusion and disheartenment: you are not alone.
A vivid memory of mine, and one that I think aptly sums up my post-grad experience, is when my twelve-year-old brother came home from school and told me that he had been taught that an English degree was the least employable degree you can do. Having studied English myself, and spent all day researching and applying for jobs, this was not the most encouraging thing to hear. It left me feeling regretful about my past three years at university and made me wish that I had thought more practically about what I should study at degree level, rather than just choosing my favourite subject. In retrospect, this is, of course, a pointless and unhelpful way to think. If I had chosen a vocational degree based purely on career prospects, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed my university experience as much and as a result, ended up not even wanting a job in that field.
The main problem that I have faced when looking for a job is that every job description required relevant experience, which I didn’t really have. It seemed a cruel paradox that to gain experience, I required experience. Not really knowing what I wanted to do also meant that I tended to apply for jobs based on their relevance to my degree, my location, and what jobs were available, without really considering whether the role was right for me. As a consequence, I experienced quite a bit of rejection, which in light of my consistent academic success, was fairly disheartening. However, something that became obvious to me was that the application process is not only designed to allow the employer to decide whether they want to hire you, it’s also about whether you want to work for them. It became clear to me that the roles that I was being rejected from were not the right roles for me anyway.
Instead, I stopped searching for jobs aimlessly based on what I thought other people in my position might apply for. I focused less on my degree, and more on what roles I thought best suited my personality and individual strengths. As a result, my applications were far more successful. The interviews for these jobs were more relaxed, I was naturally passionate about these roles because I could see myself succeeding in them and I, therefore, found it much easier to sell myself and my strengths.
Accordingly, my advice to any graduates currently experiencing difficulties with the transition from education to employment is to start thinking about what motivates you personally, and what roles are best suited to you, without relying on your degree or previous experience. Also, although it’s easy to become discouraged when others are immediately achieving impressive grad jobs whilst you are still job hunting from your bedroom, it is important to remember not to compare yourself to your peers. The success of other graduates does not equate your own failures. Everyone experiences rejection at some point, especially in the early stages of their career. Instead, use unsuccessful applications as a way of learning about what roles are really right for you, as well as an opportunity to improve future job applications. Searching for your first job after university will probably be the first time that your successes will not be defined purely through academia, so try and see it as a challenging new beginning, rather than as an uphill battle.
And lastly, good luck!