As I squinted into the lens of the fifth camera I had been subjected to that day and adjusted the stiff polyester of my graduation robes, my thoughts flickered between wondering whether my eyeliner had melted off and the typical pessimism that had peppered my thoughts since the term ended. For all the excitement and tear-stained-yet-smiling family members scattered around me, I couldn’t see what I was supposed to be so happy about. I was unemployed, moving home after a year of bliss living with my boyfriend, and I was broke. No amount of £40-a-day rented finery or cheap champagne could mask the fact that in my eyes, I was nothing but an immaculately dressed failure.
Fast forward to the day after graduation and it was straight back to reality: working for free, plagued by daily rejection emails and feelings of immense guilt for daring to spend the lofty sum of 60p on a can of coke. Despite the constant messages of congratulations that proud family members were bestowing upon me, I felt nothing but a small twinge of regret that I hadn’t applied to more grad schemes.
Graduates are essentially considered worthless by most, until they have relevant experience
The horrible reality today seems to be that graduates are essentially considered worthless by most, until they have relevant experience – experience that can cost money in travel expenses that many new graduates simply can’t afford. It doesn’t seem to matter how “transferable” the skills from my history degree are, only a precious few people outside of academia care to listen to me describe my dissertation in loving detail – and even fewer ‘real adults’ consider this work a valid measure of my employability. The other day I caught myself feeling genuinely thankful to receive a rejection email – like in any bad breakup, the key to moving on is accepting that it’s over. At least now I wouldn’t catch myself staring wistfully at my phone hoping that they would email.
Despite the endless nagging and “inspirational” school assemblies, the graduate-level city jobs we were promised to be able to walk right into if we only buckled down simply do not exist. There are too many of us. If we’re an entitled generation, it’s because we grew up being whispered sweet nothings by educators who saw us only as a statistic that would impress Ofsted.
Now unfortunately it seems we just have to embrace the chaos of not knowing for the first time. Personally, I’m trying to embrace the small things. A particularly sunny walk home or a particularly well-made latte can genuinely make my day. I’m still lost, but day by day I’m improving at trying to ride out the storm. And if that storm happens to take the shape of a few months at home on the sofa watching Jeremy Kyle re-runs whilst scrolling through LinkedIn, I’m consoled by the fact that in houses all across the country other recent graduates are probably flicking through the adverts with me.
Banner image: Bo Bartlett