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 Bethanie is taking over. Bethanie finished her Fine Art degree in 2016 and now runs her own business, alongside a part-time job at a pharmacy.
You can read our interview with Bethanie below, and see more daily insights into her graduate life by following @gradsoftheuk on Instagram.
When Bethanie graduated with a First in Fine Art in 2016, she did what most grads do: begin the job search.
Soon it became clear that, although her CV was solid in terms of experience, her experience wasn’t tailored enough to the graduate roles she was applying for. She tells me she became “pretty exhausted with filling in all the online forms and spending days on applications to hear nothing back”.
The roles Bethanie was applying for were creative, but, she says: “there was nothing I was that passionate about and I guess it showed.”
So, she took the plunge and “decided to just have some self-confidence” – starting what is now an emerging jewellery brand: AgBg. It’s something she had always thought about; she always knew she “needed to be creative,” and not having full-time employment that excited her post-graduation was the push she needed to go for it.
The online business is run by Bethanie from a workshop in Hertfordshire, where she puts together her collection, as well as creating pieces on commission. After uni, Bethanie also returned to her part-time job near home as a pharmacy consultant. In the long-run, she hopes to be able to dedicate all of her time to her own company.
“Like every graduate, I am a bit terrified, but I’m optimistic, so we will see what happens.”
Bethanie tells me she was determined to “go out and get on with it” and make something for herself as a graduate.
She says she likes her work “because it is always different, I challenge myself every day and I can see my progress”, and she gets to use the skills and passion she developed at uni. Everything is handcrafted and, she says, her “sculpture background has definitely had an influence on the style of the jewellery”.
She admits she still thinks about going back to the drawing board with the grad job search, and she does look for full-time jobs sometimes: “I think I do this as a comfort, or when I am panicking and feel like just a normal 9-5 would be less emotional.”
Trying to get her 4-month-old jewellery brand off the ground, whilst holding down a part-time job she’s had since she was at school, can get demoralising.
“Having been trained in a job from the age of 16 and to still be doing it after graduating, even though I have trained further and become more qualified, sometimes makes me feel like I have not progressed as much as I should have,” she reflects.
“I think it is easy to compare and worry that your story is too different or not what is expected of you.”
Bethanie says she wouldn’t like to go down the traditional grad job route if it meant she couldn’t be as creative as she is in her current work, but sticking to her guns on that isn’t always easy.
She talks about how she recently went for coffee with a friend who’s on a £30,000 salary not long after leaving uni. It's instances like that, she explains, that make her wonder if she’s making a mistake pursuing something so uncertain.
“I couldn’t say how much I might earn one month to the next – it does make you question the stability of your choices… I put a lot of pressure on myself to be ‘successful’, but that word seems more subjective the older I get.”
Bethanie wants to use her creativity and growing business to make a positive impact on the world.
AgBg isn’t just about fashionable jewellery; Bethanie believes success will come in the form of knowing she’s “doing something of social significance”. Having focused on creating sculpture that makes a political statement during her degree, she’s keen to channel that into her work more.
At the moment, she’s working on collaborating with charities and causes. Earlier this year, Bethanie joined up with The Homeless Period project for a silent auction at Vogue Fabrics hosted by UCL students. She created several pieces to be auctioned at the event, the proceeds of which went to a charity that helps homeless women to access proper sanitary products.
She explains why being involved in more projects like this is really important to her: “I think we are very passive in the way we live life, a lot of really awful stuff goes on and we all talk about it over a pint, solving all the world’s problems… but never really do anything about it.”
“I am definitely guilty of not always acting on my morals,” she continues, “but I think it is really important to consciously try to help others.”
Finally, I ask what advice she would give to any grad considering starting their own business.
“I would advise them to go for it. Be strategic, make sure you balance everything, and make sure you keep looking dead forward,” she says.
As a one-woman business, it’s incredibly important for Bethanie to move away from doubting herself or worrying about what others are doing. Things are bound to be tough when you’re just starting out, but the hope is that it’ll all be worth it to follow your own path.
“When you make an unconventional choice people will raise their eyebrows and your pride will take a dent,” she says, “but it is a small price to pay when you’ll spend the next 40-50 years in work doing something you really love.”
Bethanie is running the @gradsoftheuk Instagram until Saturday 29th April.