Life After University - Moving Home and Unemployment

9 Nov 2018

Some people say that your university years are the best years of your life, and I have to agree, especially with my Masters. I didn't get involved with the 'university lifestyle' of partying, takeaways and pulling all nighters, but I made great friends, learned a lot and worked hard to get my final grade. But what about what happens after university? You're expected to get a graduate job straight away and live happily ever after, but for some people, it doesn't work that way and I'm one of them. I've had the thought of writing this post for quite some time now because it seems to me like no one really talks about life after university if it didn't turn out exactly like they planned. So that's what I'm going to do today, and be warned - I expect that this will be very honest and unfiltered.

Let me start with how I expected postgraduate life to look. For the majority of my Masters, I was engaged to my partner. I was certain that after I graduated, I would be able to find a job pretty quickly in the social media field and we would be able to start saving properly to buy a house. We'd even been casually looking every now and then, just to get a bit of an idea of what we'd like. When the relationship crumbled, it took the dream of owning a house away with it. Of course, I could aim to buy a house on my own, but with the financial position that I was in, that wouldn't have happened for years. That meant that I either had to continue renting the house that I was living in on my own or move back in with my mum, neither of which I really wanted to do, but again, the financial position came into play, so back to my mum's I went.

Now, I realise that this isn't the end of the world. There are plenty of people my age that still live with their parents or carers, but for me, this is a great big life change. I've lived away from my mum for a little over 6 years. I moved into my university halls at 18 and only really went back home on Sundays for a roast dinner. I enjoyed having my own space that I could call home and make it look how I wanted it to look. I loved the independence of being away from my mum's - making the decisions, doing my own clothes washing and deciding what I wanted to eat for dinner. It made me feel like a grown up and helped me realise that I can take care of myself. And when you've been taking care of yourself for that amount of time, to go back to a situation where you aren't as independent anymore is a bit weird. Sure, I'm an adult, so I can come and go as I please, but I'm living under someone else's rules now and trying to adjust to the way that they do things around the house.

I feel like this is something that a lot of students struggle with once they're finished with university. A lot of them have to move back home after 3+ years of living without a parent, and it really is a difficult adjustment that no one talks about. I can only speak for my university when I say this, but it seemed as though there was no information available about how to deal with such a change or any steps on how to prepare yourself. Sure, there were counsellors available whilst I was studying, but this isn't the sort of thing you tend to think about whilst you're trying to get the best mark on your dissertation possible. For me, it was only when I was living the transition that I thought, "I'm really struggling and I wish that I had someone who could have advised me before."
Here is the point where I'm supposed to tell you that it's been all fine and dandy, and that I'm managing ok, but the truth is that I'm not. I've really desperately struggled. There were days when I was packing up my house, having a great time throwing things out and bopping along to Beyonce, but there were other days where I sat on the floor in amongst all the boxes, just crying my eyes out because I didn't want to leave. It's still early days though and I haven't been living back with my mum officially for too long, so I know things will pick up, but right now, it feels like the end of the world. There are a few things that I've been trying to do to keep my spirits up though:
  • Looking forward to future plans - at the time of writing this, I've got a busy but fun weekend ahead. I'm going to take part in a photoshoot at Jump 360, go to Newcastle for a blogger social, visit the Remembrance Day event at Redcar and celebrate my goddaughter's first birthday. Thinking about positive things that are happening in the near future has been really good to take my mind off my surroundings.
  • Spending time away from the house - this ties into the future plans point in that I'm looking forward to spending time away from the house, but I've also been spending time with Alex (who has the patience of a saint and has no idea how much I appreciate him) and the babies of the family. There's just something about sitting on the floor doing jigsaws with a 3 year old in a Rapunzel dress that just fixes everything.
  • Keeping myself busy - this sounds pretty obvious, but when you feel so low that you don't even want to get out of bed, keeping yourself busy can be kind of difficult. For me, this has varied between taking on blog work and lining up future collaborations, cleaning, unpacking bits and bobs and organising my space to feel more 'mine', and attempting to Christmas shop. Things like the blog bits and Christmas shopping, I can do from my phone or laptop if I don't feel up to moving about so much, but on the brighter days, I'm raring to go and get stuff done!

I would also probably do some self-care, but if I wrote that I had been looking after myself, that would be a huge lie. My nail varnish is all chipped and disgusting, my skin is getting spotty, I haven't worn a lick of makeup in what feels like months, I haven't touched a book in ages and I've ran out of bubble bath. But I know that those are all little things that will help me to feel better, so when I'm done typing this out, I think I'm going to do my nails!

Now, let's talk about the big, scary 'U' word - unemployment. As early as primary school, it's drilled into you to start thinking about what you want to be when you're older. You pick subjects based on that job in secondary school and college, write university applications with relevant experience you've had relating to that field and expect to go on to get that job when your education is over. First of all, I don't think I've ever heard anyone explain what you're supposed to do if you've set out on this whole education path, only to find out that the job you wanted isn't really all you thought it would be (I'm lucky that this hasn't happened to me, but I just thought I'd make the point). And secondly, during university, it was never outlined to me how to get over the unemployment hurdle. You are told all about graduate jobs and there is this great deal of pressure to get one as soon as you've finished, but what happens when you don't?

This has been my second biggest stress-inducer after the whole moving out saga, because I have tried and tried to get a graduate job and I haven't heard back from any applications. Not a single one. I wouldn't even mind if I got an email to say that I hadn't got the job, because at least that would give me the opportunity to get some feedback on my application to find out what I could improve on, but instead, I'm left feeling unmotivated to apply. It also makes me feel like I am under-qualified, even though I have my distinction in MA Multimedia Journalism and a whole host of experience from jobs, freelancing, volunteering and internships, but I keep feeling like I need something more. It's also very frustrating to see other people from your course doing so well in their career. Of course, I feel happy for them, but at the same time, I can't help but feel slightly jealous. I'm only human and that's a human thing to feel.
Something else that doesn't seem to get a mention (again, this is in my experience) is working part-time after university. There is all this intense talk about graduate jobs, but part-time work doesn't get a look in, which makes me think that there's a bit of a stigma around it. I've really tried to convince myself that working part-time wouldn't be so bad, because it really wouldn't, but I still constantly face the whole "have you got a grad job yet?" "have you seen this place are looking for social media types?" "you should apply here" talk, and I know they're only trying to help, but the pressure is often a lot to take. I have applied to a couple of part-time positions, but in contrast to my thoughts of being under-qualified for a grad job, I have been told that I am over-qualified for the part-times, and so the vicious cycle continues.

It's really hard not to let all of these knock-backs get me down, but they really are making me feel miserable. I don't quite know where I fit in and the fact that I'm not earning a consistent amount each month is a bit soul-destroying. I'm used to being busy - I worked multiple jobs throughout my time at university and took pride in earning my own money, and not being able to do that right now is so rubbish. 

I've been looking into freelancing and thinking about how I could make that work, but I need to have a bit more of a ponder over it. If anyone is a freelancer and can give me any blog posts to read about it, I'd appreciate that very much! For now though, I'm just plodding on and applying to what I can. I really would love to work in the social media field, but right now, I don't think I can afford to be picky (which is a pretty difficult personality trait of mine to shake off).

Well, this post turned out to be a lot longer than I expected and if you made it all the way through, well done you! I really hope it hasn't come across as a whinge. I just needed somewhere to vent my frustrations, and like I said, I don't tend to see other people talking about the negatives of life after university. If you're in the same boat as me, I would love to know so we can have a chat about it! It's all taken such a knock to my mental health, so it would be great to have a little group conversation about it.

Like I said, I know that things will get better eventually, but these have been a rough couple of months. It's important to remember though, that time does go on and there will be a day where all this bad stuff won't matter anymore. It probably doesn't feel like it now, but better days are coming!

Whould you like to comment?

  1. Aw chick! Change can be difficult, and sadly the hard changes happen to too many of us but you’ll get there. Keep plodding on and I’m sure you’ll get sorted with a job, a career and a house