nervous about graduation

December 10, 2018, by Carla

Three Reasons I Was Nervous to Graduate (And Why I Didn’t Need to Be)

By Lorna Airey, BA Hons French Studies (2014) and Employability Officer at the University of Nottingham

I remember approaching graduation with a mixture of excitement and dread. Excitement because I was celebrating four years of hard work with some of my closest friends. Dread because I could no longer ignore the question that people kept asking me: “What’s next?”

I’d been concentrating so hard on getting a good degree, and making the most of the opportunities available to me at university that I hadn’t really given myself time to think about what I was going to do after I graduated. It felt like everyone else already had their jobs lined up and I’d completely missed the boat.

It’s now four years – and four jobs later – and it’s working out okay after all. On reflection, here are three reasons I was nervous to graduate. And why I didn’t need to be! If you’re in a similar position to me, hopefully, I can spare you some of the worry:

1. I didn’t want to directly use my degree

Although I really enjoyed studying French, I was pretty sure quite early on that I didn’t want to do any of the ‘classic’ jobs related to my degree.

I quickly realised that a huge number of jobs don’t require a specific degree. There were suddenly a lot of options. Not only that, but I could use many of the skills I’d gained during my degree in many roles. Writing and proofreading essays helped me develop good written communication skills, and the time management skills I’d used to juggle my degree and extra-curricular activities would also come in handy in the workplace.

2. I didn’t know where to start

I spent a lot of time looking at lots of different jobs, in different sectors and in different countries. This felt quite overwhelming. In the end, I narrowed down my search to focus on jobs in the charity sector, based in London.

With the sector and location sorted, I still needed to decide what job I wanted to do. I could quite easily identify roles I didn’t want to do, but I found it much harder to find roles I did want to do. After asking my close friends and family what kind of job they could see me doing, several of them suggested I might enjoy human resources (HR). I did some research, spoke to a couple of people who worked in HR and decided I’d give it a go!

In hindsight, I could have avoided a lot of stress if I’d known about all the resources available to me from the Careers and Employability Service. From online questionnaires like ‘Prospects Career Planner’ and ‘Profiling for Success’ that are designed to help you figure out which industry would suit you, to lists of job types that help you explore different sectors, there are so many resources available to help you figure out what you want to do. You can also come and talk to our expert Careers team who will support you in your job search.

3. I didn’t have any experience

When it came to writing my CV I really struggled because I thought I didn’t have any experience that employers would be interested in. I thought they would only want to know about placement years, summer jobs, internships and work experience within companies – don’t get me wrong, it would have been handy if I had done some of those things!

I didn’t realise that my gap year, volunteering and societies I’d been part of, not to mention my degree and year abroad, had all given me valuable skills that I could bring to an employer.

Once I realised my experiences at university had – intentionally or not – provided me with lots of transferable skills, I found it much easier to demonstrate the ones that employers were looking for.

Give it a go!

I wasn’t sure whether HR was going to be my ‘forever career’, but I wasn’t going to know until I tried it. In today’s culture, it can seem like there is so much pressure to ‘land your dream job’ that you feel like anything less is failure. This is simply not the case. Sometimes it takes trying a career path out to see if you like it. If it doesn’t work you can always try something else.

By trying out different options, you’ll learn what you like in a role, and what you don’t like – which can be even more useful! I now work for the Careers and Employability Service here at Nottingham, but I wouldn’t be in my current role if I hadn’t discovered more about what I did and didn’t like through pursuing my first jobs in HR.

Although it’s great to have long-term career ambitions, sometimes focusing on one job at a time can be the most effective way of figuring out what you want to do. Whatever you end up doing, you’ll always be learning and gaining useful skills for the future.

Trying to figure your next steps? Take a look at the ‘choosing your career‘ section on our website or book an appointment to talk to one of our expert team.

Posted in Alumni StoriesChoosing Your Career