My summer holidays consisted of practising dance routines with my siblings & cousins in the garden at my grandmother’s house in Abbottabad, going places and spending the whole time with the family. Those three months of the year were the best memories of my childhood. I have fond memories of summer in the late nineties. Things shift as you grow up and instead it becomes parading down the beach and pretending you’re in your twenties (correction: you’re 16).
Suddenly in the blink of an eye, you’ve graduated. Erm, how did that happen? No more summers spent doing ‘additional reading’ – LOLZ – or pounding the shop floor in your retail job trying to scrape back some of your overdraft. You’ve been spat out into the big adult world and your feet feel like Bambi. Well, I know mine certainly did. August certainly didn’t seem so appealing. I went to a Uni were the majority of graduates went on to complete grad schemes for the big corporates and whilst my mates were completing the longest online application forms that you’ve ever seen, or making a den out of lollypop sticks as part of a group interview, I had not a bloody clue what to do. Now when I look back at that moment I just want to give my 21-year-old self a hug and a pep talk. It may only be eight years later, but I could never have dreamt that things would have turned out the way they have. So if you too are in that boat that feels pretty rocky right about now, here’s my advice…
Anything is better than nothing. The week after exam results were released was the starting day for many of my friends in their new careers. For me, it was my first day working in a call centre, and both scenarios are a-ok. There are no correct steps to follow post-graduation, I’d just follow the idea that anything is better than nothing, so try and find yourself a job – part-time, full-time, temp – whatever. It doesn’t have to be in your chosen career path, but I found that having some kind of guaranteed income took the stress off a little and allowed me to earn some money and buy some time. In the end I only worked there for two and half weeks until an internship that I’d applied for accepting me, but having that cushion in a place that I wasn’t particularly enjoying spurred me on to find something new and although my days where spent speaking to the over 65 market about their maturing financial policies, my evenings were spend trawling the internet for internship positions.
Experience is everything. After the call centre, I worked a three-month internship at a small PR firm and then moved to another three-month internship at a software house, which resulted in me securing a full-time role there once it was over. During this time I learnt the lesson that experience is everything. Without my previous three-month work experience, there is no way that I would have landed the second one that eventually gave me my first ever paid job on my chosen career path. So take whatever experience you can get your hands on; even if it’s working for particular societies or groups at the university, or shadowing someone for a week in the school holidays. No matter how long or short the period, not only will it look cracking on your CV and demonstrate a passion for your particular field, it will also give you a chance to test out if it’s something that you wish to pursue or not.
Do MORE. If you really, really want to demo your passion for something then prove it. The only reason I ever got my foot in the door with my first ever PR internship was that I had a blog, which acted as a catalogue. when prepping for any job interviews I’d suggest going above and beyond; writing up a report that’s related to the field you’re going into, putting together a case study, showing them your blog or YouTube channel if you have one and it’s relevant. It doesn’t stop when you have your foot in the door either. A mate of mine just landed herself her dream role in a fashion sustainability job and I’m betting that the mini-blog that she’d started in her free-time at the evenings and weekends and shared articles about the topic, had something to do with it. The pool of people to pick from in many jobs is a large one indeed, so do whatever you can to stand out and put yourself one inch ahead of the others in the race.
It takes time. I know I sound like a Grandma when I say that time is a wonderful thing, but in the context of careers, it really is. When you’re waking up at 5.30am to work an internship and only have your expenses covered, to get home at 8.30pm when it’s too late to meet your friends for dinner and you’re too tired to anyway, it can seem like you’re in a never-ending hamster wheel. But experience is gained, promotions are offered, new job opportunities arise, further education can be applied for if that’s the route you want to go down, your side-hustle might overtake your day job in income – I know of very few people who are still where they started all those years ago and those that are still there, are there because they’re happy and content. It took me an hour to set up my blog and three years of posting almost daily to get it to a place where it even earned me $1. This too shall pass and all that.