Finishing university can often feel like climbing off a rollercoaster you’ve been riding for three years – what are you supposed to do after graduation? It can feel like a bumpy ride back to reality and can bring some students crashing back to earth. I won’t lie, it’s not all sunshine and roses entering the world of work and starting to find your place. But it is also a time of huge growth and exciting steps towards building your dream life. Think of university kind of like a training ground. It’s an extended childhood where you have to tick boxes and make sure to attend your classes. So when you finally leave, it’s freedom like you’ve never had before.

It can be daunting for some people, to suddenly have full control over your life and choices. But this is a time to celebrate. After months of stressing over revision and exams, you can finally breathe. Of course we all dream of that 1st or 2.1, getting the job of our dreams and moving into a fabulous apartment with friends. But the reality can be a bit different for some. Many students are forced to move back in with their parents after graduation either because of the lack of jobs. Or simply because having a degree just isn’t enough any more. Competition is fierce and it all comes down to what sets you apart from the crowd. Want to know the best way to succeed at post-graduation life?

Cultural exchange programmes in Romania, pic in Bucharest park, what to do after graduation?

What to do before graduation?

If you really want to stand the best chances of landing yourself a job after graduation, start preparing early. It’s so easy to treat university like one endless party and to not actually think about why you are there. It’s a training ground, and one of the last times in your life where it is easy to get experience in a number of fields. Use your time wisely and experiment with your passions – try as many new experiences as possible! This can really help you to decide what career you might want to move into. For instance, I went into an English Language and Communication degree with plans of becoming a teacher. But came out a journalist and now I’m working in SEO and travel writing. Expect to go on your own career journey over the next decade – but take the opportunity to learn a lot early on.

Top five things to do before graduation:

  1. Sign up to try modules in as many different subjects as possible. If you have the option available to you – it can be really helpful for your CV to show you’ve studied various topics. e.g. instead of just English, try journalism, creative writing, literature to broaden your skill set.
  2. Read around the topic and try doing your own projects alongside your studies. If you study English or web design, why not start a blog or launch your own website? Try starting a podcast or a small business. Extra curricular activities like this show real initiative and drive. Plus they could turn into more in the future.
  3. Get work experience in a range of different fields. This is vital to your CV/portfolio, set yourself apart from the crowd with valuable hands-on experience. Getting newspaper work experience in my final year is what landed me a journalism job straight out of university, and a weekly column.
  4. Speak to people in the industry you wish to work in. Ask for advice and a chat, this could help give you insider tips on what will help you stand out. Also it may help prepare you for the reality of the job – you may find it’s not the right career for you.
  5. Use your spare time wisely either by working or joining a society. It can be easy to spend too much time lazing around but this time is valuable. It looks great to employers to show you worked alongside your studies or invested your time in a relevant extra-curricular.

The main thing is don’t think of university as a time to relax. Sure, have fun and enjoy student life, but its also such a valuable time to develop your skills. I really wish I had started blogging while at university so I could have had more free time for it before starting full time work. During my time at university, I focused on writing for various online publications and started building my portfolio. I also spent time getting work experience at various newspapers and magazines, which led to a weekly column in a newspaper and later on, a job.

Cultural exchange programmes in Romania, pic in Bucharest park, post-graduation life

What to do after graduation?

So you’ve finally graduated – what now? It can seem like a big crazy world but the sooner you start putting yourself out there, the more manageable it will seem. Now is the time to make some big choices about where you’re going to live, work or if you want to continue to study. These are all things to consider when going into your final year of university, but you may be limited on what you can organise until you have finished your studies. The most important thing is to not put too much pressure on yourself. Not all career journeys look the same so don’t worry if things don’t happen the way you expect.

Moving home – and why it might not be as bad as it seems

Living with your parents after university isn’t ideal but it can give you the opportunity to save some serious cash. Low or now rent is not to be sniffed at when you’re in an entry level job, internship or finding it difficult to find a job. If you’ve been unable to work alongside your studies, you may find you need some time to help your bank balance break even before you can afford to live out again. Don’t see it as a failure, instead think of it as an opportunity to save a lot of money to either move out, buy a home or even go travelling. Start putting aside a portion of your earnings into a high interest savings account, ISA or even a Help To Buy account and don’t touch it.


Grab opportunities that come your way, and seek them out

The only way to get anything in this world is to make it happen. Don’t just sit there waiting for jobs to land in your lap – get out there and make the most of every opportunity. Of course your main focus should be applying for jobs and finding paid roles – we’ve all got to make money. But if the job offers aren’t rolling in at first and you have the time/money, this is a great time to apply for internships, work experience and graduate programmes. Why not apply for extra training or even volunteering to build your CV.

Lay the seeds, get involved in companies you would like to work for. Even if they have no vacancies, make contact, put the time in and ask them for work experience and advice. By doing this you could end up as a first choice if they suddenly need extra workers or to replace someone who leaves abruptly. Try starting a new project such as a blog or website that you can build into something bigger. Or get involved with one that is already established by offering your services for free. Follow your hobby, I followed mine and ended up the editor of an online magazine which led to journalism and travel blogging.

Read: Why you should always always answer when opportunity knocks

Relax, don’t expect to have it all figured out at once

It’s easy to feel like you’re not doing enough, or that you’re a failure for not having a high-flying job straight away. But the truth is, those first years out of university are a struggle. It’s starting at the bottom rung of a new career, feeling intimidated by everything and trying to learn it all at once. Sometimes that means getting it wrong – but that’s how we learn. It’s okay to not have the perfect job, apartment and life lined up straight away. Lose your expectations and instead focus on following your passions and your dream career. These next few years are the time to really get your head down and work hard.

But don’t forget to have fun! This will also be the first time in your life that you are earning a full-time wage. And the last time you have no responsibilities. It’s a good time to start saving, but don’t forget to treat yourself. It’s a time for gigs, festivals, holidays and enjoying life.

What’s your plan after university? What helped prepare you for the world of work?

Absolutely Lucy sign off