The Post-Uni Existential Crisis

This is a shout-out to those amongst us who have finally, after years of tears and toil, actually FINISHED our degrees *sound of champagne corks popping/ cheers from the audience*. Yep, it’s happened. The essays, the exams, the late-night cramming and early-morning panic-writing (for real can the English department not just extend their deadlines to 5pm?) are over. We can finally relax.

At least, that’s what I was thinking a mere 48 hours after my last exam, sitting in a local beer garden basking in the rare north easterly sunshine and contemplating the weeks of freedom stretching out before me. What an absolute joy to have nothing to do. All the time in the world to catch up on wine consumption, sleep and First Dates. Who knows, I might even have the inclination to tidy my room or go for a jog – nice, wholesome activities, as oppose to drinking 14 cups of coffee a day and sitting on my housemate’s bed crying during every single revision break (u know you’re my rock gal x).

So there I was, minding my own business and considering the next few weeks of pure, summer-infused bliss in Durham. Making road-trip plans, writing finalist bucket lists etc. And then, my phone started to ring. Seeing it was my mother, I was obviously more than happy to take the call, excused myself from the gang and answered, quietly confident that it would be an encouraging, ‘hope you’re enjoying yourself/don’t worry about spending too much/in fact have a bottle of prosecco on us/ no really you deserve it’ (probs a bit optimistic but it’s good to be positive).

It wasn’t. In fact, her second question after ‘how are you?’ was: ‘have you started looking for jobs yet?’

She wasn’t even joking. 48 hours out of the exam hall, a solid 24 of which I had spent sleeping, and she genuinely wanted to know whether I was as yet employed.

Whilst I was largely annoyed at first, I must admit that the panic began to hit me several weeks prior to the end of exam season. Every now and again I had to quell the sense that this was something I, as everyone else, would have to face sooner rather than later. I’ve mostly been terming it the ‘post-uni existential crisis’: aka a vast space of time, following graduation and the security of the institution of education which has dominated the past 18 years of our lives, for which you yourself will have to take full responsibility. For the first time ever, we are stood on the edge of – and I don’t feel that this is too grandiose a term – the actual abyss. The rest of our lives literally awaits.

It can be a daunting prospect. Pressures from family and friends to find a job, be that for the sole purpose of earning or as the start of a future career; not having any money or any means to pay of your two grand overdraft (well done me); living back at home, which can be a shock to the system after a few years of independence (where are you going? Who with? When will you be back? Does that light need to be on? Are you eating here tonight? You know the drill). People keep on asking whether I have any summer plans and I’m just like, well. I don’t know. I mean, I might have, but I won’t have until I know what I’m doing with my life, so I guess I don’t rn lol.

It’s pretty scary, this sense of the unknown. In a month, or six months, or a year, you might be living in an entirely different city, even country. You might have your dream job or you might be on your fifteenth rejection letter.

It’s such a bizarre time in your life, but the main thing is not to panic. No matter what pressures you’re under from anyone else, you need to take this in your stride – your future is your choice. Don’t compare where you’re at to that girl off your course or your housemate who scored a grad scheme, because in the end you’re going to end up where you need to be, even if it takes months of unemployment/debt/tears.

There are a few important things to remember when facing the post-uni-existential-crisis-abyss. Firstly, if you can’t get that job in retail management you saw on the Guardian site, have a backup plan: do evening shifts at the local restaurant, pub, whatever. Just get some money and get some experience. If your CV is a bit sparse, use your time wisely – email people about placements, shadowing, volunteer somewhere. Say yes to any new opportunities. If Beyoncé has taught the mass population anything, it’s how to grind (and bootyshake but probs not the best career advice. Unless you genuinely pull up an absolute blank mid-interview, might as well go out with a bang). So get yourself on the scene, LinkedIn, job finder sites, agencies. Make yourself known.

However long it takes and however many hurdles you have to face, they say that things will always work out for the best. The crisis is very real, but you have 100% GOT THIS. Good luck, and most of all, enjoy the ride. 

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