July marks a year since I graduated from the Nottingham University Business School, which has encouraged me to reflect on my university experience, as well as this past year since my formal graduation on the 23rd of July 2019.
I understand how overwhelming it can feel when the university bubble bursts around you, and having hangovers on a Wednesday is no longer considered to be acceptable, and that yoga pants with your uni hoodie aren’t appropriate attire for a whole week of serious work. That is, of course, unless you work from home.
During the past year I have implemented the following tips into my every day to keep myself from falling into a rut and to ensure I remain focused on my own personal and professional goals. I hope these will be of guidance for any recent graduate especially during the uncertain time such as now with the COVID-19 pandemic still haunting us.
- Avoid comparing your journey
Upon graduating it is easy to fall into the trap of comparing your journey to that of your friends’ and peers’. You may feel like you are racing against everyone for that top job, the highest pay, or the coolest year full of traveling the world and living life to the fullest. Think of graduation as the moment when everyone spreads out and goes down their own paths and no journey will be identical. Try not to be too short-sighted. It takes time to build something you want to pursue or achieve. Use this time to discover what it is that you want from life, what makes you happy, and do what feels right for you.
If you’re not sure what you want from your career or life just yet that is perfectly fine, too. Try out different experiences, internships, and jobs as this will help you gather more understanding about yourself and where your talents and interests may lay. The only person you should compete with is yourself. Aim to be better than you were a month, a week, or a day ago, because this will help guide you towards a brighter future.
- Maintain and Build Your Social World
Graduation is often an euphoric experience after which you may have slight ‘withdrawal symptoms’. Suddenly, the life you’ve built over three, four, or more years is pulled away from beneath your feet and you lose the easy access to your social network. Banter with flatmates, student nights out, and compulsory group work are no longer part of your every day life. Therefore, it is important to make the effort to keep in touch with the friends and connections you made whilst studying. It is natural for some friendships to fizzle out, but make sure to nurture those that you value most. After all, it is said that you are the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with, so make them count. Spend time with people that inspire you and make you want to do and be better.
- It’s Okay to be Selfish
University was quite a roller-coaster ride with high highs and low lows for me personally. I didn’t always have the best routines in place to allow me to be at my best performance. That is why after graduation – better late than never – I decided to sit myself down and have a think about what works for me, how I stay motivated, and what areas of my life and goals I want to prioritise over the next months or year.
Even just writing down your goals and plan can help you make and take actionable steps in the direction you want to be going in. Often times sticking to your goals and seeking out what you want means that you have to be selfish. In fact, I encourage it especially after university. Studies have shown that those who prioritise themselves show up as healthier and more grounded people in life. Selfish people are more likely to be confident and act on their goals, which may be an advantage in leadership roles amongst others. Being selfish has gained a bad rep in the past, but if you cannot take care of yourself, how can you care for others?
- Take Responsibility and Own Time
If you didn’t yet realise it at university, at least upon graduation you will quickly come to the realisation that no one owes you anything in life. No one is obligated to make you happy or take care of your mental well-being. That responsibility falls on your own hands. So take responsibility for yourself, your actions, and your overall well-being.
If you find yourself struggling with your mental health, for example, it is up to you to seek the help and answers you need to flourish in your life. No one will come knocking on your door and offer you help, because this is work you have to do yourself for yourself, and I hope you do take the time, because it is for your long-term benefit, too.
The same goes with managing your time. Don’t waste it. You have to own time or time will own you. It is easy to fall into a rut and days, months, or a year flies by so quickly. Avoid procrastinating and, if you have dreamt of starting a blog, an online business, or take a gap year for traveling, go out and do it. Don’t wait around for the perfect timing or for someone to give you the permission. Start now. Go now (well okay, maybe skip the travelling in the midst of this pandemic). Pro tip: I deleted all of my subscriptions such as Netflix upon graduating, because I knew I’d begin to binge series even though I had a list full of goals I wanted to work towards instead.
- Embrace change and curiosity
Last, but definitely one of the most important tips I will be sharing with you today is become a life-long learner. Your education doesn’t end with university, or after your post-graduate degree. Stay curious and open-minded to the possibilities that surround you. I hadn’t celebrated my graduation yet, when I already completed Google’s online course for Digital Marketing. Since graduation, I have studied three other online courses out of curiousity and wanting to explore new topics that weren’t included in my degree.
With the internet there hardly is an excuse not to continue to educate yourself whether it be through (free) online courses, E-Books, or learning about the teachings of the many (modern) intellectuals and great thinkers. If you’re not learning, you are choosing to become stagnant, which may be at your own risk. The world is evolving and fast-paced, so aim to evolve along with it so that you can better adapt to the changing circumstances around you and be responsive. The more you learn, the more you grow and expand your mind.
Just like most of our university experiences are unique, so will our lives be post-graduation. Don’t worry, if you don’t have it all figured out upon graduating, or even a year after that. Not knowing what will come next is scary, but that is part of real life – I mean, take a look at 2020. The key is to stay curious and embrace what life throws on your path, because who knows what kind of great new opportunities or lessons to learn from will make their way to you. Finally, remember you are never too old to try out something new, or to go after that one thing you have been pushing to the side for years on end.
What advice would you give your younger self or someone just graduating about life after university?