What to Do After You've Graduated

Leaving university during the middle of a pandemic and economic recession isn't exactly how most of us planned our post-uni life to start (what a scam). It can really be demotivating when you recall the number of jobs you've applied to and the rejections you've received. I was always confused when I met people who had degrees but worked in retail/hospitality, I get it now though. It's very easy to settle for something you wasn't striving for when you can't seem to get there. I personally don't think this should be anyone's excuse. If you have long-term goals, always keep this in front of your mind no matter what the circumstances are.

Are you stuck at a crossroads trying to figure what you're going to do now university is over? Don't panic because I promise you there are millions of graduates feeling the same way. You'll figure it out as long as you don't wait around for the answer. You need to find it. Having a sense of direction provides you with so much clarity and confidence. Rather than doing things for the sake of it, you should know exactly the reason behind it. You don't need to have your whole life figured out but if you have a rough idea of the sort of path you want to walk on you'll be in a better position. You also prevent yourself from wasting time doing things you don't actually want to do.

"Life without goals is like a race without a finishing line. You are running nowhere."

The most important question to ask yourself right now is what do I want my future to look like? Once you know, you can start planning the necessary steps you need to get there.

I won't even lie, I was really slow in applying to jobs when I finished university. Working a 9-5 was not something I was excited about doing because I wanted to pursue my own ventures and get my health sorted out. I'm happy with the time I got to work on myself and figure some things out. Now I feel more motivated to find a job and in due time, I'll find one and you will too (if you haven't got one already).

So how exactly do you figure out what your next steps should be as a graduate?

What To Do after University

1) Find A Job or An Internship

Entering the job market is tough right now considering the circumstances, so you need to step it up and put yourself out. First, make sure your LinkedIn is up to scratch (I left mine a bit too long, whoops...) and increase your connections. LinkedIn is one of the best places to do your job search too. I've finally realised relying solely on job adverts on employment search engines like Indeed is not good enough. You need to utilise your connections (your friends, family, ex-colleagues, etc.), look at specific companies for their vacancies, upload your CV and complete online profiles on employment websites too. Some recruitment agencies are unreliable so it shouldn't be the only way you hope to find a job. Perhaps consider reaching out to your own university who could offer you some help or a job opportunity.

I haven't applied to any internships because I thought I was better off applying to permanent roles only. I've finally realised that finding an internship would be a great opportunity too. Not only would you build your experience but you could also potentially be offered a job at the end of it. Don't limit your options!

(UPDATE - I wrote a follow-up post after finally finding a role and shared valuable tips on finding a graduate job. You can read more here).

Make a job criteria

In these initial stages of entering the "real world" of work, we might need to be a bit more open about the type of jobs we apply to. If you are keen on working in a certain role and have relevant work experience too, you might be better off applying to certain jobs. Perhaps it's worth considering broadening your job search to get your foot in the door but not too broad that you end up doing something you hate. My mentor suggested creating a job criteria which I think is really useful when you are applying to jobs. Choose 5 things that align with the sort of job you want to do and the type of company you want to work at. For example:

- Reasonable pay (nothing less than a certain amount)
- Challenging (no day is the same, you work under high pressure)
- Technology (the industry you want to work in)
- Analytical
- Team Work

If you are really unsure about a job vacancy you've come across, I suggest bookmarking it and then making a note to come back to it. When you do, look at the job description and compare it to your job criteria. Bare in mind entry-level jobs don't pay the best salaries (depending on your field) because you don't have enough experience. What you're willing to compromise is a decision you need to make otherwise, the job probably isn't for you.

If you're uncertain about the career you want to pursue, think of your main skills and see what industry this would fit into. If you love numbers and have an analytical mind, working as an analyst or in a finance role would be most suitable for you. If you love writing and creating content consider going working in a PR or marketing role. There are LOADS of career quizzes you can do (Google's your best friend!) if you're really stuck. This leads me to my second tip...

2) Find a mentor

Every successful person has either had a mentor or has a mentor in some way. Whether you officially establish a mentorship or develop a connection with someone who gives incredible advice, you will meet many teachers on your journey (keep in touch with them!). One of my goals in the last few years was to find a mentor and I was finally presented with an opportunity to find one! I'm a participant in the mentorship programme at the University of Leicester and was lucky enough to find an amazing mentor to partner with. He has extensive business and finance experience. 

Mentors can guide us onto our desired path. They don't have all the answers but they can provide us with assistance and invaluable expertise/advice. My mentor has given me a different perspective on situations which has been extremely helpful. If you are a graduate, I highly recommend contacting your university to ask about mentorship or look online. Someone on LinkedIn reached out to me about their mentorship platform, you can check it out here.

3) Gap Year

A gap year without a plan is a waste of time. I repeat, a gap year without a plan is a waste of time. Be smart with your decisions (look at who's talking). Don't waste it and just "chill" for a whole entire year. Make it worthwhile - if you want to travel figure out where you want to travel and how much you're going to need. If you want to volunteer abroad, find a volunteering programme. Look at how quickly 3 years of university flew by. I can assure you, one year will fly by too so make use of your time!

4) Study for a Masters

Perhaps further education is something you want to consider. Developing your knowledge further is a great way to become more knowledgeable about the field you want to work in. If you can't find a job, studying for another year is probably better than wasting a year doing nothing. 

5) Learn a new skill -

- Excel 
- Graphic Design
- Copywriting
-  Social Media Marketing
- Coding
- Trading
- UX Design
- Video Editing
- Email Marketing
- Photo Editing

Value the free time you have by educating yourself and upskilling. There are many things you can learn, the list is ENDLESS. Udemy and Skillshare are great platforms for free online courses. If your industry requires a certain skill you don't have, start learning it. Learn one skill and become an expert. Eventually, you might be confident enough to freelance or sell your own digital products to teach others. Never forget: 

“The best investment you can make is in yourself. The more you learn, the more you earn” -Warren Buffett

6) Start Your Own Business

We live in a generation where entrepreneurship is becoming more attractive than ever. People are tapping into their potential because they know what they're capable of. Pursuing an idea you created and building a 7 figure business would be a dream right? Starting a business is not easy but it's not impossible. The 9-5 life isn't for everyone so if you have a great business idea, a desire to be an entrepreneur and have the funds to get started, go for it!

You could even start your own side hustle whilst you look for a job and when you work a 9-5. There many different ways to make money, start your research and get creative. No one wants to work for the rest of their lives...This is why people are setting up their own businesses, investing, trading and looking at other ways to make money. Anything is possible. 

Being a graduate can be daunting but you are being exposed to a world of limitless possibilities. I've received a shit load of rejection emails but I won't let it phase me. No matter how long it takes to get that graduate job or build your business trust your journey. I promise you everything will work out, maybe not exactly how you planned it but it will work out for your own good. We are so privileged to live in this generation it's unbelievable. Time waits for no one, start looking for opportunities and act on them. You can decide how you want your future to be. Whether you're waiting for a new job, taking an online course or whatever it is. Do something now your future self will thank you for.