From Graduation to the Grind: the Post-university Experience

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Graduating from university is such a surreal experience. Funnily enough, when starting a university course- you don’t actually imagine what it will feel like for that course to end. All your energy is focused on studying and surviving your degree. The graduating process- and even the run-up towards it- is an ideal time for reflection and thanksgiving. Everyone’s experience has been different, with most people at some time or the other experiencing the feeling they may not actually make the end of their course. Yet, that moment as you secure your parchment or stand with family under the lens- smile beaming is a testament to your perseverance and hard work. You can proudly look at your transcript and say, ‘I did that.’

The significance of the completion of this specific stage in your life, especially for many BAME students is immense- with many being the first generation in their family to enter and complete higher education. As you sit in the hall for your ceremony waiting along with pride and excitement, there is a sense that anything is possible; a room packed with students will be tomorrow’s politicians, lawyers and entrepreneurs.

For those that recently graduated, along with a huge congratulations, here are some tips to steady you in this new phase of your life:

  1. Remain Positive– for those that are starting their job search positivity can easily be lost in the midst of your worries about the future. What do I want to do? Where will I be doing it? There is no denying that job hunting can be laborious- especially for graduates who are up against fierce competition when applying for roles and schemes. Additionally, as black people we are up against institutional racism which constantly remains a silent (and often covert) enemy in many industries. For example, in 2016 TUC research found that unemployment amongst BAME students is higher than that of their white counterparts; and this is regardless of their level of qualification i.e bachelors or PhD etc. However, there is also good news since the same statistics also showed- employment rates amongst BAME people are the highest they’ve other been since records started in 2001. This simply shows that yes, despite an intersection of struggles (partly due to being a graduate and partly due to being black), success is indeed possible.
  2. Everyone’s path is different– although very exciting and a great doorway to various opportunities, graduate jobs are not for everyone. This means if you find yourself in a non-graduate role, or an entry-level role different from your envisioned ‘dream job’, don’t be disheartened. This applies even to those who aren’t recent graduates but yet find themselves in this position. You may even discover you are lacking skills for the industry of your choice and therefore choose to invest in yourself by gaining a qualification, doing some formal training or a course. Remember, success is not instantaneous; rather it is a process that requires planning and premeditated steps.
  3. Your experience tells a story– getting the grades is only half of the purpose of university; the other half centres around your experience. Thousands of people can go to the same university but grades aside, what will distinguish you from the rest is your experience. Maybe you were the treasurer of the dance society? Or helped with charity fundraising and ran for a student union position? Such experience not only indicates you possess a variety of skills, it always reflects your character; you’re likely to be a go-getter, a team player and someone who is driven. And it is this experience- and the traits they indicate that is going to carry you the extra mile when applying for jobs. So, if you are applying; whether that be for a full-time graduate job or simply a summer job before starting your postgraduate reflect on your experience and ask yourself what exactly you got out of it- good and bad; both types of experiences count!

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