Graduating university can seem like it’s terrifying. It’s like everything has been just so absolutely fine and then all of a sudden you’re being thrust upon society at an alarming speed via slingshot, screaming “I have no fucking clue what I’m doing pls make it stop”. Going into the “real world” is essentially the adult equivalent of going from nursery (a place where it’s socially acceptable to dress like a unicorn, pick your nose and put toys down your pants) to going to primary school (where you have to wear a uniform, and putting toys down your pants is probs gonna result in a phone call to your mum about what’s appropriate and what isn’t). University is a total bubble. It’s like living on a little island where everything exists happily within, but you know one day you must leave and face the big world. And that can be totally daunting.
I feel like there’s two types of undergrads. Ones who have their shit together, and the ones that go with the flow. You have Becky who does Business studies who’s already been accepted onto several grad schemes already for after she finishes her degree, goes to all of the career fairs, wears a fitted business-suit style blazer to all of her lectures, and spent her summers interning in the City whilst staying at her aunt and uncle’s in Chiswick. Then you’ve got those who blissfully cruise towards the end of their degree thinking “I’ll deal with the whole real life situation when it comes to it” – AKA, when I have to move out of my uni house and move back in with my parents and my student loan has ran out.
My story was a little bit different, but if you couldn’t tell by the low-key passive aggression towards “Becky” in the previous paragraph, I’m definitely the “leave it all and hope for the best” kind of girl. I studied journalism, media and cultural studies at Cardiff University, and I knew I wanted to go into fashion journalism. But I also didn’t feel like I was quite equipped or ready to go into that world. I didn’t know the basics – how do I get internships when so many aren’t advertised? How do I work in London unpaid and you know, actually live and survive there? (Because many of you will know the fashion/ journalism routes are ones of torturous graft with at least a good year or so on no income)
I also didn’t feel like I had hit my educational potential – whatever the fuck that means. But it’s a phrase that felt right. I always had in mind that I would do a masters degree, and I wanted to specialise in fashion journalism, so in my third year I didn’t even really consider getting an actual job after graduation. I just figured “I’ll get accepted onto one of two of the MA’s in fashion journalism that I apply for, move to London, and that’s that” I just wanted to learn more. And I wanted to delay doing the real world thing. And I guess I just had faith in the system, deep down, that it would all work out ok in the end.
So I applied, got accepted onto both MA’s, picked the better of the two, and thus delayed my real world initiation by another 18 months. Excellent.
Doing an MA was a little bit like a soft-launch into adulthood. I always worked as a waitress during my studies, so that gave me a little income to help out, but the MA was a very grown up way of study. It was a class of 8. I was one of the youngest in the class. And everyone was more experienced than me. I got far more hands-on journalism experience than my previous degree. But when graduation round 2 came around, I was completely shitting it to be honest. I had no job lined up. Journalism is notoriously hard to get into. And even though I graduated with a distinction, it wasn’t easy getting employed. Everyone still said I’d need to intern for free for at least a year to be taken on as a paid member of staff. So as much as I loved filling the nerdy side of my brain with education, I felt like I’d held myself back a little bit.
Honestly, I remember being really anxious. I felt like a failure because all of my friends had jobs and had already been promoted. I freelanced at a few companies through connections I made via blogging, but my first (and only) proper 9-5 office job came through my tutor from my masters degree, who had an ex-student looking to hire someone to do fashion copywriting for a luxury department stores website. A couple interviews later, I was hired. It can often feel a lot like “it’s not what you know, but who you know” – and for a self-confessed nerd with two degrees like myself, it’s a fucking kick in the teeth tbh. So don’t underestimate the power of making a good impression, staying in touch via email, and being a nice person.
From age 23-25 life was actually such a struggle. I had no money, ever (ok, a spending habit did also effect this) and I was worried I wasn’t getting anywhere. But looking back at it, I needed to go through the shit to be able to appreciate how far I’ve come now. And I look at women around me and in the workplace and think you don’t reach the peak of your career for AGES after graduating. And that shouldn’t be a scary thing. It shouldn’t make you think “fuckfuckfuckfuck I’ve got such a long way to go”, it should make you think “thank GOD I’ve got time to take it slow, experience things, and really find out where I want to go with my career”.
So you need to remember that things probably will be tough, but they will be a test of strength. Things after graduating aren’t exactly easy, but it will make you appreciate how amazing and easy life at uni really was. Trust me, you’re probably sitting here thinking “BUT UNI WAS A HARD ASS BITCH SOPHIE HOW CAN IT POSSIBLY GET ANY HARDER THAN THAT?!” but oh babe, it damn well does. But you get stronger with it. You learn and you grow, and I look back at the time I had just graduated and starting my first jobs.
Don’t be afraid to email people out of the blue. Search on linked in for the people you need to know and don’t be too proud or too anxious to send out emails. That’s one thing I regret – not being ballsy enough to push myself. I was scared of rejection, but the truth is life is full of rejection so the sooner you get used to it the easier it is and the quicker you bounce back and learn to move on. It’s never personal, anyway. You have to have faith in the system. I freak out all of the time about where my life and career is going, but the truth is I never had any clue how I was going to get to where I am today. I didn’t even know “full-time blogger/influencer” would become my career – but I couldn’t be happier that it’s true. Deep down I have always known I will be ok. I’ve always known I would achieve my dreams – even if I had no idea how. Just have faith in yourself.