The Great Post-Grad Bubble Machine
University does a great many things. It introduces you to amazing people, gives you hazy memories, educates you, and helps you grow up. But one of the great failings of the University Experience is that it only does just that; it gives you the University Experience.
Everything is geared towards the here and now. Those deadlines at the end of the semester, exams, assignments, big nights out (henceforth referred to as BNOs), but nothing about your life beyond your University years. What comes after doesn’t really sink in until that final push in your last semester, at the same time as you’re worrying about the 9 essays, 6 exams and 3 presentations you need to do. It feels rushed, and you come out unprepared for the reality of a job market where there has never been so many equally, if not better, qualified fellow grads.
No one tells you that you need to be applying for grad schemes for that job you know nothing about at Christmas. That whilst getting your degree you also need, more than likely, a year’s experience in marketing, advertising, PR, comms, that degrees like mine (humanities) do not offer. No placement year, no nothing. Beyond that one rushed lecture on careers they do for third years, there is nothing, nada, zip, on the future.
Come May you are thrust out into the world, kicking and screaming, wondering whatever happened to paint parties and white t-shirt socials. I even did an MA, putting off the reality for another year, partly out of love for my subject, and partly of fear that I didn’t know what to do next.
The term ‘post’ seems hilariously apt for post-graduate life; much like the post-modern experience, it is a hugely confusing, kafkaesque experience as you attempt to wade through the mountains of jobs, and job titles, which mean so culturally little it could drive you to madness. I have never seen a job title like ‘Account Executive’ mean so many different fucking things. You even end up battling for a role you didn’t even know existed until ten minutes before you applied, many of which are so vague it’s hard to know if you’re going to be cold calling people or battling others to the death for the CEOs entertainment.
Don’t even get me started on recruitment. Before you consider this burgeoning profession, ask yourself, have you ever met a recruiter that is happy with their job? No? Me either. They hate it. From my friends and friends of friends who have taken the plunge all say the same thing, “it’s shite.” They lure you in with OTEs of £60,000 only to have a base salary of £18,000 and no chance at getting anymore, especially as you start.
Brace yourself for mind boggling acronyms because they’re going to be coming thick and fast. USPs, SEOs, CRMs, OTEs, and those are only the most common. So have fun learning this new language of the post-uni experience, it’s about as riveting as you’d expect.
It is truly a failing of the modern higher education system that they offer so little in the way of support for soon-to-be graduates. Students are seen more as cash cows milked for that delicious £9000 a year, than as human beings with lives that extend far beyond our time at university. It’s decidedly short-termist and damaging. There is so little they do to prepare you for life beyond your three or four years at the university. I will readily concede that some degrees have very rigid career paths, or suit the new order, like degrees in Business, Advertising, Computer Science, and more obviously Law and Medicine. Yet the others, the History, Philosophy, English, Physics, Maths and all the others have to content themselves for battling it out for data analyst or PR assistant or God knows what other roles. I perhaps should have done more to prepare myself, but that does not absolve Universities of any culpability.
I have had the extreme privilege of supportive parents, both in an emotional and financial sense, and I’m forever grateful for that. It has meant I have been able to do unpaid work, to commute without worrying where the money is coming from, but I am an exception in that sense. I dread to think how many people without my privilege get thrown into jobs they loathe because they need the money. The current system benefits some people, but those people are n0t the graduates. The sense of urgency to find a job means that people who politically are odds with our current system, end up incorporated into it, and lose sight of who they are as the immediacy of their own financial situation takes precedent. And rightly so. But again, who does that help? All it does is serve to perpetuate this cycle.
I have found this post-graduate part of my life one of the most challenging. I will readily admit it can get dark; after your 52nd rejection your ego is shattered, and that’s if the companies actually bother to respond. I will embarrassingly admit I’ve applied for well over 80 jobs on Linkedin and countless others, and had maybe 6 replies. You never know if it’s you or them or anything else. That indeterminacy is truly horrible.
I got an email last week, in February, saying I hadn’t gotten a job that I had applied for in September. September. You have to constantly put yourself out there to be rejected, navigating the world of cover letters, andtrying to constantly sell yourself. Genuinely, sometimes it feels like you need to prostitute yourself for a role, doing something you feel so horrified by, but what choice is there?
Part of me is angry at myself for not doing more, part of me is angry at system that is so cold, and unapproachable, and then part of me is angry at two different University’s for not providing anything in the way of career guidance meaning I’ve been cast out into this dark reality without any sense of what I should do. It leads you down some dark roads, and you begin to attach your self worth to how many interviews you can wrangle, or how many replies you get. It’s a broken system that’s for fucking sure.
More than anything though, if you’re reading this then know you’re not alone, yes it’s shit, but it will end, and like I keep telling myself, you never know what is just round the corner.
Let me know what you guys think, maybe I’m wrong but I’d love to hear about your experiences. Hit me up @WackJilson93