The Post-Uni Void

All my life, I’ve had some semblance of direction in terms of education and work. I’ve always known that I first go to primary school and do well to then try to get into a good secondary school. Then, you work hard for your GCSEs to make sure you get into a good sixth form. After that, you have A-Levels for two years that need to be good enough to get into your chosen university to do a degree. Then it all starts to get a bit hazy. You complete your three (or however many) years, perhaps doing a dissertation because ’employers like that’, and work hard with the notion of getting a good job at the end of it.

For people who do degrees such as engineering and medicine, degrees that are career-based if you will, pretty much have no problem (and I say this with experience personally having a humanities degree, and family who have gone through with career-based degrees such as medicine, nursing etc). Their main focus is to pass their degree – and, of course, there are other levels in terms of the better you do the better your placement etc, but at the end of the day all they need to do to get a job is pass.

Now I know, I know, I’m making it all sound like a piece of cake. My point here is not the degree itself, because obviously doing a degree in nursing is no walk in the park. Everyone can argue about the difficulty of their chosen degrees, so I’m not going to delve into that here. My point is merely that post-uni void, the one that for those of us without career-based degrees have to face. Whilst others are discussing their careers, essentially awarded to them as soon as their positive results came in, I’m left surrounded by applications and notifications from various job websites, alerting me to anything popping up in my area. Whilst some of my friends are settling into careers they’ve been preparing for throughout university, others are trying to figure out what career they’d even like to do. In my last year at university, not only did I have to worry about modules and essays and exams, but also about internships and securing work experience, going to talks to try to meet people and make contacts. I had to go to a job interview during my second term, so sacrificed several days of university work in an effort to prepare.

And then come the rejections. I imagine those in career-led degrees know rejection just as well, but I’m pretty sure that they don’t (at least, I hope they don’t) spend their post-uni months trying to stay positive as rejection after rejection comes in. Most of them are in secure jobs, a lot of them pretty well paid, whilst others (myself included) are trying to figure out how exactly to manage in a world with no more student loan, but a shit ton of taxes and bills they never had to worry about before.

I talk a lot, maybe too much, about rejection – mainly because at the moment it’s what I’m experiencing. The other reason is because, when I read encouragement posts or blogs about life achievements or similar, they’re all by people who have already succeeded. Or even just in everyday life, when someone tells me ‘oh you’ll get there’ and ‘this one just isn’t meant to be’ or, my favourite, ‘you’re great, of course someone will pick you soon’. Whilst it all comes from a good place, more often than not it’s from someone who is in a very stable place in their life. Blog posts and videos from people that are there to inspire are all from people who have already won their prize. It’s difficult to listen to their words without feeling bitter, or at least that’s how I feel. It’s hard to hear about how fantastic someone’s life is turning out and hear their advice, when you’re in a place where it feels like no one can relate.

For the past few months, I’ve been living in a post-uni void where I’ve let those reassurances from other people linger in my mind every night when I go to sleep. I’ve thought to myself ‘it’s just the wrong time’ or ‘something better is coming’, but when I see yet another rejection – be it for a publishing job that I wanted more than anything, or from an agent who didn’t like my manuscript – it makes me start to doubt. It’s like university gives you rose-tinted glasses, and you look at that degree on your CV and think it’s like a key that unlocks the next level, but that key doesn’t always work. People without that key seem to be just as successful and not, so really what is the point of this key?

Of course, then you start to think that of course that key is going to get you places, you just have to put in the work to keep it gleaming and find the right door. I’ve only been able to gain access to such a thing because of my privilege, as someone who comes from a family who was able to send me to good schools and someone who hasn’t had to worry about anything other than working hard. When I read this back, I can’t help but think of myself as being seen as the whiny white girl, who at the first hurdle sits down and cries. But damn, for me this hurdle is bloody huge. It seems every time I try to make a leap and think I’ve gained some ground, I just can’t get past it – even putting in all the effort and hours of work doesn’t seem to work.

There are too many metaphors and similes going on here, which is when you know that I’m being increasingly dramatic.

It’s hard. Life is bloody hard. Trying to keep that positivity in the face of failure and (what feels like) constant rejection is hard. Hearing from successful people the cliche sayings that it’s not meant to be is hard. Looking at people rising up all around you when it feels like you’re standing still is especially hard. I feel like I jump from happiness one day to despair the next, and this is one rollercoaster that I can’t really navigate. It’s like my head space is one tangled web and I just can’t figure out what is going on anymore.

Because, really, at the end of the day I do have a job. Yes, it’s in retail and, yes, it’s my part-time job that I’ve taken full-time, but it’s also a job that I love and am passionate about. It’s a job where I love what I do and love the people I work with, and isn’t that what anybody can ever really ask for? I’m in a flat, living with my best friend, and spending far too much money on food – which I can only just about do before going completely broke. My parents support me, and that’s shown in the fact that they’ll probably read this first and immediately call or text to tell me that they think it’s written well, even though 9 times out of 10 I don’t really think it is.

So when I go to sleep at night (and then wake up blurry eyed in the morning), I’m going to stop repeating those stupid sayings that make me think something will just turn up round the corner. Or, to put it better, I’m going to stop placing all my hope on words that really don’t mean or promise anything. It’s far easier, and I’m sure far healthier, to focus on the present day instead of wishing for something that may or may not be just around the corner. Instead, I’m going to try to think about what I do have and what I’ve already achieved, which I guess is what all those successful people are trying to say anyway in their inspiring speeches. And, hell, I’m successful in my own right, even if it feels that in my current stage of life with its goals I’m not. I’m sure a fifteen year old trying to get into a good sixth form and university would count me as successful, high paying job or no.

Or maybe they’d just think I’m a bit dramatic, and tell me I should probably just go get some tea, have a little sit down, and think of some nicer things. So on that note, I’m going to go put the kettle on and watch some dog videos. Feel free to join me, whether you feel successful or not (that’s the great thing about dog videos, or cat ones if you’re that kind of person; they don’t give a damn who you are, they just like the views).

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Dealing with Rejection

I’m just going to hold up my hands and say it: “I am crap at dealing with rejection”. I mean, let’s be honest, when you’ve just been rejected (from a job you applied for, a relationship you may have/have not been invested in, turned down by friends), the last thing you want to hear are those well-meaning souls who tell you it’s just not meant to be, or something must be around the corner, or something better will come along. Sure, those are more than welcome but personally, I don’t want to hear them immediately after being rejected. I want to shout, scream, cry, and do all three at the same time. All I want from other people is maybe a hug and for them to whisper “they/he/she/it is a bastard”. Because in those first few moments, I want to just be completely irrational and I need people to just tolerate my “the world is ending” moment so I can just get it out my system. Then bring me sugary snacks, cups of tea, and help me pick up the pieces.

This week has been my finals week, and I am now officially finished with university. Unfortunately this week I also heard back from all the grad schemes and summer work experience opportunities I applied for – all with a negative. In retrospect, I can nod and say “Ok, yes, they were the biggest companies with everyone and their mothers applying, so the competition was incredible fierce, but at the time? No way. At the time all I wanted to do was cry and give up. I wanted to cuddle up in my bed with some chocolate and watch a feel good film whilst I sobbed at the fact that I wasn’t wanted. Because, at least for me right now, it’s not just because I was rejected. It’s the addition of the fact that it’s a job that I really wanted, and I’m a soon-to-be university graduate hoping to get into my chosen field. So getting rejected? Felt like a kick in the teeth. And to have them on the week of my final exam? Like an extra kick when I’m on the ground for good measure.

That’s when everyone brings out the corny sayings: they don’t know what they’re missing, if they knew you they wouldn’t reject you, they just don’t understand, you’ll just get something better next time, chin up chuck etc etc. Again, it’s all meant well and after a day or so I feel like I can take those lines and feel happy after receiving them, but just after I’ve been rejected and staring at the empty abyss with no certainty about my future? Telling me I’ll get something better ‘next time’ just doesn’t do it for me, as although the person saying that is just trying to cheer you up, both of you know that there is no actual truth in that statement – that we know of. Sure, something could come along that’s better, but something could just as easily not come along – I’m presuming, of course, that you can’t see the future.

Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is to the plight of being rejected. I want to be the person who, when they get rejected, can just keep their chin up and move on. For now, though, I need that time just after – be it thirty minutes, an hour, or even half a day where I can just mope and feel sorry for myself. After a good angry venting session, it feels pretty cathartic. Once you expel those emotions it feels so much easier to move onto the next thing. And whilst it was a bitch to be rejected during revision, the revision itself had a strong enough pull for me to get my act together that I was able to move on relatively quick. Don’t get me wrong, I cried down the phone to my mum about how I was a failure, but soon enough after got back to reading about the contrasting presentations of the House of Fame between Ovid, Jonson, and Chaucer.

I think one thing does hold true though; whilst sometimes you need to have a cry or shout in anger, it does good to go into that next day fresh and determined. Instead of letting a rejection kick you down and keep you down, let it just knock you off guard for a moment before getting back into the ring and fighting on. At least, that’s what I’ll try to tell myself next time.

Guide to University/Life: Put yourself out there

I wasn’t sure whether to make this a general post or Guide To University, but as the inspiration came from experiences at University, I decided to go with the latter.

It’s bloody difficult getting your life together, as I’m sure everyone can relate to. From getting into good schools, to doing well in exams, deciding if university is for you, picking your career path, making steps towards said path – I mean, come on, that’s not even including your social life, your housing, bills, taxes, food, relationships, and everything else on top. Instead of trying to tackle all of these today though, for now I’m going to focus primarily on the career aspect.

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I’ve been told all through my life – by parents, friends, adults that actually have their lives together – that if you want something, you have to work for it. That you can’t just sit on your arse with your hands open, waiting for something to fall into them. That it’s not all down to luck and chance, that you actually have to work for it. It’s about perseverance, determination, and a bit of guts on top of that.

In the career paths I’ve looked into (journalism, writing, and publishing), networking is a large part of them. That means that whenever I’m in a setting where a contact could help me greatly in the future, I have to suck it up, go up to them, and get their details. I was crap to start off with, when I was on the Young Journalist Academy and seeing all these amazing people walk through the door and thinking ‘damn, wish I got their email’. Honestly, you have to just put yourself out there and shove some of those nerves, and maybe a little dignity, aside. You can’t be insecure, you just have to toughen up and walk on and, if they don’t give you that email, they don’t give it to you. You won’t get it without trying, and that’s the mantra I try to keep on repeat in my mind.

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Next step? Actually email them. I’ve only just started to make sure that I actually do that as soon as I can, rather than wait until a lot later when I think ‘oh, maybe so-and-so could help me out with this problem’. I suppose I’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunities that I’ve had, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t worked for them. I only received work experience at The Sun by talking to someone at an event and asking for their card so I could email, which is when they asked if I’d be interested in experience. I’m currently on an internship for publishing now, which I managed to get after sending out email after email to as many publishing houses as I could asking for any experience in the industry they could offer.

What I haven’t manged to do well yet, and I imagine won’t be able to deal with perfectly for a while, is rejection. I am bloody terrible with rejection, feeling as if it’s a personal attack and agonising over wording in emails, whereas they were probably written within minutes. Finding the strength to not let yourself be upset when you’re not picked is so hard, but I’ve found the real challenge is picking up the pieces and getting on with it.

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Take a couple months ago for example, where I had an offer for an internship for two weeks that I already had set plans. I replied, angry at myself, only to find out I could shift my plans. Another email hurriedly sent, only to find out that they’d found someone else. (This all happened in about 15/20 minutes) Then comes the anger, the tears, the irritation, the cursing, and copious amounts of chocolate and tea.

So it’s safe to say that when you do put yourself out there, you’re also very likely to be rejected a few (a lot) of times. But when you finally get that ‘yes’? All worth it. 100%. (Well, maybe not the many calories you’ve put on, but you can deal with that later)