4 & 1/2 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Graduating

Who are these drones that graduate and walk straight into their dream job and the resulting better life that awaits? Not me, though I dearly wish I was such a drone. I used to curse these perfect people quite frequently when applying for jobs but, deep down, I knew I was unfairly demonising them. It’s easy to be jealous of the success stories that you are bombarded with on your Facebook feed. The truth is they deserve everything they have earned – nothing good comes without effort.

On reflection I can say that these supermen and superwomen had no extraordinary qualities that I didn’t possess. In most cases they had just started the process of looking for work 6 months earlier than I had. I can now acknowledge (even without gritting my teeth) that they were simply more organised than I was in my final year. We all have our reasons for the position we find ourselves in, but did I do everything I could have to secure my dream job before graduation? Have you?

If you’re currently studying then continue reading and I will offer you the benefit of 6 months of hindsight following graduation. Take it or leave it, but unless you’re a prodigy in your chosen field – and I know we’ve all hoped that was the case at some point – then you’ll need to start doing something about your working life after university. Now. If you don’t then at least I’ve warned you about the following:

1. Some recruitment agencies are ok, some are horrendous

After you graduate you will probably be in need of immediate work. If you haven’t been lucky/worked hard to get a job prior to graduation then you may find yourself gravitating towards using a recruitment agency or two.

I thought I had an exceptionally bad experience, but looking back I think my expectations were just too high. I imagined a relationship of cooperation and support with my agency – in retrospect this was wildly naïve. The agency does not care about your career goals. The agency does not want to nurture and treasure you as an asset. You are an income generating statistic.

The agency generates income from the moment you walk through the door of your assigned temp role until the moment you leave. If you happen to be made permanent the agency will also usually be paid a sizeable lump sum for your efforts. You will see none of this money, only the contracted (usually low) hourly rate you agreed to.

It was also galling to learn that once you are working reliably for an agency on a ‘temp to perm’ contract, they will make no effort to find you alternative work that is more suited to your skills, qualifications, or interests. Why should they? Doing so will jeopardise their lump sum if you get a more interesting job offer. They hope that you are too apathetic to change things for yourself because:

2. Looking for work is a full-time occupation (with very few rewards)

Looking for work is like looking for your keys in the morning; i) a pain, and ii) you will only stop looking when you find what you want. Because of this the process will feel draining, exhausting, and thankless. Think about it, you are only going to have one triumph at the end of your job search, and many, many disappointments and frustrations along the way. Do not forget what is waiting for you at the end of your search because:

3. You will take the first dozen rejections personally

Unless you are a robot the first few rejections you receive will sting. It is a very difficult sensation to become accustomed to. You will acclimatise though, and this isn’t a bad thing. Do not, under any circumstances, confuse this kind of rejection with failure. Failure is not trying in the first place. Tweak your CV for the next dream job spec (it will arrive) and start over.

4. HR departments can operate on a different timescale to the rest of the world

The assumption being that they have nothing better to do than process your application. Let’s say that, for example, you’ve submitted a great application for a job you’d be delighted to do (and are grossly overqualified for). Assuming you get the job, you’re looking at approximately a 3 month turnaround from application submission to handing in your notice at your stop-gap job.

You may think that a 3 month wait is harmless. You would be correct if your stop-gap job was pleasant or tolerable, but what if you’re struggling financially? Or feel trapped in an awful temp job?

If you happen to be working in an exhausting job that you loathe to make ends meet then 12/13 weeks can seem like an eternity. If you’re supporting a family member it can be a genuinely frightening prospect. Waiting for good news can be difficult. Waiting for bad news is worse, and if you are working out of necessity then you could easily find yourself trapped in the classic cycle of being too exhausted to apply for the jobs that you’ve earned the right to go for.

4.5 Give yourself a better chance – use your Careers and Employability service

A dose of perspective; I know that there are far greater tragedies around than being very unhappy in your job. There comes a point though when you no longer want to feel gratitude for the stop-gap job you that have. So please, do something now and learn from the mistakes I made.

Right now you have dozens of staff members in the Careers and Employability team whose only concern is helping you to establish and achieve your career goals. It’s a free service. It is there to be used throughout your course. Please become one of those annoying supermen or superwomen who walk into their new career ready to enjoy the life they’ve already earned.

Visit Careers & Employability If…

  • you are already employed, or know what you want to do – if you’re already working it’s highly unlikely that you will spend the next 45 years on that career path. There may be something even better waiting for you that you didn’t think was an option.
  • you don’t have a clue what you want to do – the careers advisors will help you consider new possibilities, and even arrange a work shadow placement so you can get a feel for different sectors.

Email: careers@chester.ac.uk

Tel: 01244 513066 (Chester), 01295 534235 (Warrington)

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