We spoke to graduates all over the UK about what life after uni has taught them

The transition from student to graduate life is a different experience for everyone. And it certainly isn't always easy. 

I've spent months regularly interviewing graduates from universities across the UK about their lives after university. We've heard from grads struggling with unemployment, trying to make it in the creative sector, starting their own businesses, forging careers at some of the UK's biggest companies and more. 

Here's what some of them have learnt since leaving university, and the advice they would give to 2017 graduates. 

 

 

1. No matter how big your goals are, don't let anyone convince you they're unachievable. 

Poppy is currently training to be an Architect and has completed her first, undergraduate degree. Now, she's doing a placement as an Architect's Assistant and will soon return to uni for a final four years to fully qualify. Throughout school and university, Poppy encountered people who doubted her - and early on in her degree one of her tutors suggested she "should do a hair and beauty course instead". 

But Poppy is happier than ever as a graduate and doing really well - and working in the high-pressure world of Architecture has taught her, most importantly, about how crucial it is to motivate yourself and have self-confidence. 

Her advice to grads, especially those looking to get into something like Architecture, is: “Keep on at it. There’s going to be times when it’s really, really tough – but just remember that you can adapt and you know what you’re doing... have faith in yourself... Just keep going.” 

 

 

2. Having a plan is great, but don't be afraid to change it. 

When Ollie graduated, he initially envisaged himself pursuing a career in acting or directing, but now, after trying several different jobs, absolutely loves his role as a Video Marketing Executive. He creates informative and entertaining videos to be distributed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn - a job that wasn't an option when he'd just left university.

He told me, "Companies definitely wouldn't have had people who are exclusively producing video content for social media the way I am - but now everyone does it" 

So, he thinks it's important to be adaptable and explore what's out there. It's OK if you don't have a set plan or know what your dream job is, because, like Ollie, you might not have heard of your dream job yet. It might not even exist yet. 

​Ollie's advice to new grads would be: “don’t look for the perfect job title – you can’t expect to get it straight out of uni. It can take a lot of time, in the Creative sector especially.”

 

 

3. Don't just wait for opportunities to appear to you. Create them for yourself. 

Since graduating in 2015, Sophie has been building her career as an Ecologist. She's been "fascinated by birds, birding and wildlife" since she was 9-years-old, and was delighted to find out that she could turn that interest into a career. 

Sophie explained that a large part of her success in Ecology is down to putting herself out there - most of the roles she's landed, she told us, have, "been the result of sending out speculative CVs and getting placements that had never been advertised."

She ​said graduate life has taught her “how essential it is to be independent, take initiative and trust myself.”

 

 

4. Now is the time to take risks. 

Bethanie struggled to get a reply to her graduate job applications when she first left uni. But her lack of success in getting a graduate position inspired her to do something she'd always wanted to do: start her own jewellery brand. 

Running a one-woman business has come with a steep learning curve and the instability of not knowing exactly how much she'll earn each month, but following her creative dreams is incredibly rewarding, she told us. 

Her advice to new graduates hoping to start their own business would be, "go for it. Be strategic, make sure you balance everything, and make sure you keep looking dead forward." 

Importantly, she said, don't worry if what you decide to do with your graduate life and career isn't 'the norm': “When you make an unconventional choice people will raise their eyebrows and your pride will take a dent, but it is a small price to pay when you’ll spend the next 40-50 years in work doing something you really love.”

 

 

5. Be prepared to work hard and put the hours in. 

Christina is a Senior Strategy Consultant at multinational accountancy firm, Ernst & Young. One day, she hopes to be a senior manager and, ultimately, a serial entrepreneur. 

Making it in Consultancy in London is certainly challenging, especially as a new grad: "I'm just starting to take the first little steps of my climb up a long career ladder," she explained. 

As a Consultant, Christina told us she has to be “hyper-flexible and adaptive” to clients’ needs and tries "even to embrace ambiguity". 

Christina credits her career success so far to "a fair dose of luck," but also told us: “being trustworthy and proactive gets you just as far!” 

 

 

6. But don't forget to enjoy being young, and free of any major commitments, while you can. 

George is three years into a highly competitive Finance graduate scheme in London. Now, he wants to take a year out and go travelling with "no plan, no goal, no objective." 

Though George is ambitious, he has realised the importance of enjoying what you have right now and that it's OK to need a career break. 

“One day you’ll be married with a wife and kids and probably some form of German Shepherd," he said. "You’ll be in a long-term career and there will be a lot of certainty and staying in one place. Now is the time to job-hop and take risks. You’ve got plenty of time to stay in one place, why not move around now, while you can?

 

 

7. Try lots of different things; never stop learning. 

After completing a Master's and several PR & Marketing grad jobs, Naomi decided to go freelance. She's also lived and worked abroad, taken a TEFL qualification and tried her hand at many things to find out what she enjoys. 

The most important thing graduate life has taught Naomi, especially as someone who wants to pursue a creative life, is that: "the learning curve is never ending". 

For Naomi, she says her career has been a "trial and error" process, and that she's learnt not to limit her options. "You get a 'feel'... for the kind of life and work that really suits you," she said. "Rather than pursuing an idealised version of graduate life you might have once pictured in your head."

 

 

8. Don't worry about what other people are doing, it isn't a race. 

When Bethany first left uni, social media made her feel constant FOMO. She convinced herself her friends were having more fun and were more successful than she was. 

But, she said, she's learning to focus less on how people's lives look through an Instagram filter: "No one wants to appear like they’re failing. We sugar-coat our lives, exposing only what makes us look like we’re succeeding," she said. 

Now, she says she is, "focusing less on the inadequacy that other people’s apparent success on social media makes me feel, and focusing on my own goals and happiness." 

Your graduate life and career will take its own unique path, so as long as you're true to what you want to be doing, you're doing it right. 

 

If you want to share your own story, we'd love to hear it. Find out more here

 

 

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