Stuff all graduates should be told

Eleanor Clarke, July 4, 2016


Wow Graduation. It’s been a long time since I thought about mine. The whole thing has become foggy in that way memories do over time. I no longer remember the dress I wore, nor the shoes or even the keynote speaker. In fact, the only abiding memory I have of that period is the gaping pit of doom that had opened in my stomach. See, you’re not alone in that feeling. All new graduates feel this way. It’s just you don’t talk about it and why should you? In that sweet time between the end of exams and the beginning of autumn there are many, many Jagerbombs to drink (Do students even still drink Jagerbombs?) Why ruin that by worrying? No seriously this is my first piece of advice. Don’t waste what is probably the last ever full summer you will spend with your friends, worrying.

I know that seems easy for me to say. I’m not facing the pressures that you guys are under but I have (sort of) become a proper adult in the last five years. I’m now at that stage in life where the most exciting things that happen to me include, finding a good bookshop and the season finale of Game of thrones. What’s weirder, is that I’ve actually managed to learn a few things over the years. So I’m going to attempt to alleviate a bit of your burden by imparting some of my mistakenly collected wisdom.

Being a ‘Monica’ is not all it’s cracked up to be.

If TV has taught us anything and let’s face it, it has. Even the most together of our friends’ wont really have a clue what’s going on. They are just as scared as you. So, constantly measuring your ‘success’ against theirs really isn’t helpful. We all develop in different ways at different times and what you want at 20 is not necessarily what you will want at 30. A lot of life is spent in constant flux and we all find different ways of coping with that. So if you’re not really sure what you want yet that’s fine and if you’re actually a bit of a ‘Phoebe’ then just run with it.


Money isn’t everything.

Now, I don’t mean this in an idealistic hippy way. I don’t believe in the nobility of poverty. There’s nothing liberating about not being able to eat. Unfortunately though it’s pretty much to be excepted that we will all be poor at some point. So the best time to get this over and done with is in your early twenties. Most of us don’t have a lot of responsibilities at this age but we do have an amazing propensity to be resourceful and imaginative. You’ll be surprised how far that gets you. Also added bonus, no one judges young people for buying all their clothes in charity shops. However, it gets a lot harder to charity swag everyday when you have meetings to go to.

All experience is good in some way.
Got any secret niche hobbies? Good! Figure out what transferable skills they’ve given you. I say this completely earnestly, people can learn a lot from dressing up as a Viking and commanding imaginary armies on the weekend. Also take every opportunity that is presented to you. Start building a rich tapestry of experience now because it will serve you well in the future. Even if it doesn’t seem obviously career related you never know what you’ll learn or who you’ll meet in the process. If you end up doing something awful, good. Figure out how to never do it again.

No one really cares what degree you have.
Unless you’re a Doctor, Lawyer, Social Worker or Architect (apologies if we have missed anything key), then it definitely does matter. However, for most of us the subject we actually studied is secondary to what being a graduate tells society about us. Just having a degree tells people that you committed to something and saw it through. It also says, I’m able to meet deadlines, think critically and effectively communicate ideas. These are highly sought after skills. Since my graduation, I can pretty much count on my fingers how many times someone has asked what I studied. Which is good for me because I studied devised theatre. So don’t worry if you don’t want to specialise into your degree subject, it isn’t legally binding.

big mistake

Sometimes you can create the job you want.

This is linked to both my points about taking every opportunity and experience. The world of work is changing rapidly, it’s now more fluid than ever. The ‘start up’ vibe has leaked into a lot of work places so extremely ridged management structures are starting to become a thing of the past. In many work places employees are given the chance to explore ideas and meaningfully contribute. This is being aided by developments in mass communication. Say you dream of being a singer but instead you work in bar with a dusty old piano. Start to float the idea of having an open mic. Maybe you could could host? Maybe you could have a slot? You don’t have to set up a formal meeting and present a business case. You probably have your manager in a Whatsapp group. We’re more connected to our colleagues than ever before. This has its up sides and it down sides but it does mean you can give people a taste of your talents in an informal way. Send them that ‘embarrassing’ video of you singing. OMG LOL * Crying with laughter emjoi * - roughly translates to “Listen to how well I’m hitting those high notes”. I’m not saying an open mic night will get you signed but it’s good experience and it will make your job more enjoyable.

Don’t get stuck in one job.

I’m loathe to use the word millennial because this isn’t Brooklyn and I’m not Lena Dunham. Really no one takes that word seriously. But whatever were called, this generation, work has changed for us. It’s less about careers and more about jobs. At least in the beginning. Even employers are embracing the ‘keep it casual’ approach. You don’t have to marry your first job. Grow together but when you feel like you’ve exhausted the potential, move on. You never know, you may end up getting back together with your old company. Revolving door recruitment is becoming more and more common. Do great things, learn great things, make amazing connections but don’t think of it as a forever thing. Keep an end goal in sight and weigh up whether the job you’re in is actually helping you get there.


So there you have it, five years of my amassed knowledge about the world. As far as I can tell the most important things you can possess upon graduation are interests, ideas and a healthy dose of self confidence. Experience is invaluable but by its very nature it has to develop over time. I don’t need to wish you luck because you already have everything you need to be great. Just trust me when I say, these next 5 years will be one hell of ride.