After three amazing years of studying, socialising and embracing all aspects of university life, I walked out of my graduation ceremony feeling fairly convinced that the world was officially my oyster. I believed that it would be only a matter of weeks before I landed my dream job, but the hard and fast reality check followed shortly after!
I started my job hunt just after my last exam, but despite my relatively well built-up CV and my eagerness to secure a graduate job I struggled to make it to the interview stages for most of the applications that I submitted. In fact, I was lucky to receive a response to confirm whether my application had even been shortlisted. Like many other graduates, I found that I was stuck in the loop between being either overqualified or under experienced. I very quickly became disheartened and frustrated at the prospects, or lack of prospects, I was facing, as the thought of being out of both work and education for the first time ever was extremely daunting.
I had initially planned to find a job as a paralegal at a London law firm, but I soon came to terms with the fact that it could take some time before I could secure a role, so I stopped my hunt for paid work and started looking for voluntary roles instead. Although my CV was already swimming in voluntary experiences, I considered that it was better to be doing something constructive with my time, than to be doing nothing at all. Fortunately, I was able to secure an unpaid eight week voluntary internship at a legal aid law firm which I completed whilst working part-time in retail. During that time, I continued applying for both law and non-law graduate schemes and I was lucky enough to be offered my first full-time job. Thankfully, after one year in financial services and another year completing my Legal Practice Course I was able to secure my training contract.
Those first few months following university were very much a whirlwind. In hindsight, I realise how unprepared I was for life as a graduate and I wish that I had done more to equip myself. I lacked a genuine understanding of the job market, the role of recruiters and more specifically, I had an unrealistic expectation of what law firms were expecting from potential candidates.
So, what did I learn from it all? Not everyone will walk out of university and straight into the perfect role! It can take some time to figure out exactly what you want to do and even longer to actually start doing it. The key is to have a plan, be consistent and be patient. Don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure and run the risk of ending up in a job that is not right for you. Be open-minded and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, as there may be more than one route into a particular profession. Try not to panic when faced with the dreaded question “Congratulations, you have graduated! So what do you plan to do now?”
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to start your career and what works for someone else may not work for you. Most of all, take the time to celebrate your accomplishment and embrace the moment. This may be your first and last graduation experience, so enjoy it while it lasts!
Don’t forget that continued career support is one part of your alumni membership. You can receive specialised support in person or via Skype, to help you take the next steps in your career. And utilise alumni networking events to learn about your industry.