Grads of the UK is an Instagram project and series of articles run by graduates, for graduates. We are documenting what being a millennial in 2017 is really like, with honest stories about life after university.
Every week we hand over our Instagram account to a new grad and share their unique story here on GradTouch. This week, George, a PPE graduate now working in Finance, is taking over.
You can read our interview with George below, and see more daily insights into his life since uni by following @gradsoftheuk on Instagram.
George had his graduate scheme in Finance lined up before he completed his degree.
He left university with a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) in 2014 and started his career in London. He tells me, going from “the low, flexible-hours lifestyle of uni” to a job that entailed far longer hours, but still kept the exams that came with education, is something he always knew would be difficult.
When George began his Finance graduate scheme, he had to pass 15 exams, in subjects from Law to Accountancy and Business Planning - in order to get his ASA qualification to become a chartered accountant. It was tough, he recalls, and says that if you made it home by 7pm to begin studying, after a full day of work, you were lucky. George worked tirelessly to make it as a graduate, putting everything into his work - which usually meant working and revising over the weekends too.
"It was very hard to get used to," he says. "It was incredibly challenging, but ultimately rewarding."
George knows the level of work expected of him has made him stronger, but it has also made him realise how important it is to have a good support network around you.
“You’ve got to learn to take care of yourself, and by that I mean find strength in your friends,” he explains, “it doesn’t matter where you are in life if you’re surrounded by the right people.”
He meets up with his uni friends who are also in London twice a week. “Knowing that I’m never more than a week away from being with them is a real comfort blanket,” he reflects. George also lives with someone who works at the same firm as him, who knows exactly what he is going through and is sometimes his motivation to get things done. "We have dragged each other kicking and screaming – literally – through the hard bits of our job,” George says.
The initial decision to pursue this line of work was that it opens up a lot of doors going forward and the qualification he’ll come out of it with will be, in his words, “very highly regarded by future employers”.
Now, however, George says, “it’s time to move on”.
Finance has been great for George, because he is always “learning, growing, developing” but, he adds, “I just think after three years – whatever your job – that learning curve begins to plateau.”
I ask what he thinks about the stigma that millennials are disloyal employees – that his plans to job-hop regularly every few years play into that somewhat. “Should it be criticised? Absolutely not,” is his response.
“One day you’ll be married with a wife and kids and probably some form of German Shepherd. 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?”
In that spirit, George plans to travel for at least a year. He will start in India or South America and continue on with “no plan, no goal, no objective.”
“I would do what my heart tells me and move on when the road calls me to.”
He continues by explaining that, as he currently has the freedom of having no long-term commitments in the UK - it's now or never. “I’m qualified and experienced, but with no mortgage… I think it’s a really good time for me to do this.”
George has spent his past holidays volunteering in refugee camps in Greece, because he “hate[s] the way Europe is treating migrants. We are willing to cause the problem, but not willing to take them in and it’s utterly shameful.”
Photo credit: Eirik Johan Solheim
“I found a charity that was hands-on, you could get stuck in and if you had a bit of gumption you could make a difference – a small one, but a difference, nonetheless.”
“I made friends in that camp I still talk to, and I want to go back. I have a Syrian mother now – my British mother is not too impressed, but understands – she refers to herself as my Syrian mother. Being there and volunteering was difficult, but worthwhile.”
Ultimately, he sees himself using his PPE degree to get into Politics. “I think I want to lead… I’d like to make a bit of change in the world."
This desire to lead and make a positive mark on the world seems to have only been strengthened by the experiences he had in Greece. He recalls, "in the camp I actually treated a guy with a foot infection and cleared up his infection. It’s not a lot, but it’s something, you know?”
For now, there’s no definite plan George will follow – and that’s intentional. Graduate life so far has taught him to appreciate what’s right in front of him, in the present. Importantly, though, he also wants to secure his future – hence his decision to stick at Finance for the past few years. It’s about balancing the two – enjoying what he has now and making sure he’ll be financially secure later on.
“Happiness drives me. I have a real fear of waking up one day, having followed someone else's idea of success, and realising I'm unhappy."
"I also have a fear of not being able to provide for myself and family in the future. I think there is a line to be drawn between aiming for success and following your heart. Money, though it doesn’t give you happiness, gives you options. I’m making these choices in life as they strike that balance."
“I now want to explore and follow my heart going forward.”
I ask whether it bothers him, not knowing where that might take him or how he’ll go about finding his career path.
“Absolutely not,” he responds, “as Tim Minchin says: be very careful about long term dreams, if you spend your whole life chasing the sun on the horizon, you’ll miss the nice, shiny things around you right now.”
George is running the @gradsoftheuk Instagram until Friday 24th March.