‘Congratulations on your graduation- what’s next?’
‘You have spent years at university, so when are you going to get a job in your field?’
‘What are you going to do with your life?’
‘What do you want to do?’
Almost every chat I have had for the last couple of months has been peppered with these questions ever since I finished my bachelor’s degree last year, and now I am nearly finished my Masters. It’s quite overwhelming, because it feels like everyone has expectations on what I should be doing with my life, and the career I should be pursuing.
Honestly, it feels like a lot of pressure, and I have been overthinking everything, about whether I should have gone to university, what I should have studied, and if I am even capable to getting the kind of jobs I want, and what I should do next. I am currently working a couple of jobs that have no real growth opportunities, and all of that, combined with the many job rejections that have been arriving has been pretty tough.
I have been pretty stressed about it, and more often than I am proud of, I have informed my boyfriend, very dramatically, that I will never amount to anything, and I am going to live as a hermit in the woods. He deserves credit for not laughing in my face every time. It has been so frustrating, because it feels like I am not getting anywhere, and I was so stressed because the next steps seemed uncertain.
I know I am being extra about this, and I also know I am not a special case, because I am sure almost everyone finds it jarring to leave education and its structure to the ‘real world’ without knowing what comes next. For type A freaks like me, it can feel really strange to be left without a plan.
It’s been a few months since I graduated, and I have just landed a job, and honestly, I am so relieved and excited to start something new and be able to start something new. For a long time, it felt like I would never get to this point because there is so much pressure to ‘succeed’ without any concrete definition of what that ‘success’ is.
It is totally okay to have no idea what you want to do, and if you do, that’s amazing! Most of my friends had no idea what they wanted to do, and they have ended up in jobs and careers that they never expected. Don’t feel pressured if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, no one does.
Applying for different jobs, and searching everywhere helps to clarify what you’re interested in, and helps you to get more comfortable with the job application process. I have lost count of how many cover letters I have written this year, but it has helped me to figure out what I actually want to do.
It’s easy to feel pressured to take on a job related to your degree or your immediate interests. My degrees were in international law and international relations, and everyone asked me what that would get me. To be honest, I wasn’t really thinking about it, I chose my degrees because I was interested in international relations and law, and I was so lucky that I had to opportunity to study what I loved. If my degrees further my career in some way, that’s fantastic! But I don’t want to limit myself to a job role that its linked to my degrees.
When you’re facing a mountain of job rejections, it’s so easy to feel vulnerable or inadequate for not being able to land a good job straight out of university. I think it’s really important to focus on what you have already accomplished, a degree and a job is still amazing! Searching for a job is overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what kind of job you want like I am. I found that it was easier to set little baby goals, starting with how many jobs I wanted to apply for per week really helped. Breaking big things down into small, manageable chunks make achieving big things much easier, and it also helped me to apply to many different jobs to help me achieve my weekly goals.
One of the most surprising things I have learnt is the benefit of applying for jobs that I normally wouldn’t have been interested in. I applied for so many different kinds of jobs. I knew I wanted to be doing something ethical and policy-based, but there are so many different industries that this could fit into. The job I got was not something I would not have initially considered, but after going to the interview and learning more about the company, it became more appealing to me. Sometimes you have to go to the interview to understand the job role properly and see more than the initial advertisement.
The worst part of job searching is the rejection, especially when you get rejected for jobs you didn’t even want in the first place! The number of jobs I applied for, and didn’t even hear back from was really upsetting, and even though I know its all part of the process, it’s almost impossible to not take it personally. It’s really not personal, its usually because other people have more experience than you. Although it does sting when you get rejected from a job you didn’t even want, I didn’t even want to work in university fundraising, but I’m still salty that they rejected me.
But what about the ‘what are you doing with your life’ question?
Christmas is coming, and so is this question, and I know that the people in my life who keep asking me this are doing it out of love, wanting to help and general curiosity, but its a real blow to the ego overtime. There are only so many existential crises I can go through before the Pavlova on Christmas day. But I think that being honest about the fact that you don’t know is totally okay, and if it gets people to back off a bit that’s just a bonus.
I promise you will get there, you will get that job, that degree, or that promotion, whatever you’re looking for, it will happen, you just have to be patient. If it happened to me, it will happen for you too. Searching for a job or a new opportunity can be really tough, and I hope that if you’re struggling with it, that you’re doing okay, and I hope its comforting that no one else has any idea either.