I had a distinct feeling of panic when I started my final year back in September. A feeling of dread slowly crept up on me throughout summer, coming to a crescendo whilst sitting in my first careers talk of the year. This was it. After three years in the comfort of university, I would soon be expected to go out and get a real job. Terrifying.
I don’t think my housemates helped the situation much. One of them had already been to an assessment centre for Aldi even before we’d all moved in. They just talked about applications for this grad scheme or the next, about video interviews and psychometric testing and other words that had me doing a quick Google search. It was incredibly overwhelming. For me, I hadn’t really planned on doing much looking until April/May when half of my exams and coursework would be out of the way but their approach had me doubting myself. I started signing up for grad job bulletins anywhere I could find them.
I went to the Big Career’s Fair at Manchester Central, and took leaflets and asked the questions I thought I was meant to ask. Then I got chatting to a grad student from Unilever, and I asked him what it was really like to work for such a huge company. His answer surprised me. He told me that they were amazing with wellbeing and really valued the mental and physical health of their employees. For the first time in the hours I’d been there, I was genuinely excited. I asked a few more people from other companies how they felt about their workplace environment, and most of them were ambivalent or actually said it wasn’t great but the money made it worthwhile. I realised then that my priorities lay with finding a company that I agreed with ethically, who valued their employees as people. Money didn’t bother me so much.
Even after this revelation, I still doubted myself. My friends were going for jobs that we always over £25,000 per year, whilst the jobs I was looking at were more around £18,000 – £20,000. I felt like I was missing something. I even booked a careers appointment to get a professional opinion on my plans. That career’s appointment ended up being very useful for me. The woman who I met with was very helpful in reassuring me that it’s okay to have a different strategy than my friends.
Some people may already have their impressive jobs with Google or IBM, whilst others already have plans for spending a year in Australia doing volunteer conservation work. Some people may be planning to return to a company they did a placement with and others might be looking for something completely outside of their degree programme.
Whatever it is that you’re looking for at the minute, or if you haven’t started looking, just make sure you’re doing what is right for you. I’ve realised that no two people’s career paths will look the same. Also, what you start out in after university probably isn’t what you’ll end up doing forever so it’s okay to go with what feels right for you at the time.