This month marks a whopping 8 years since graduating from university and I can’t quite believe how quickly the time has flown! Not only has it flashed past me in the blink of an eye, but it’s crazy to think how much has changed in that space of time too. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my personal achievements and how far I’ve come since I studied my degree, and all the highs and lows in between.
I’ve spoken before about my experience in finding work after university (you can read all about that here) and the challenges that come with it, and I think those difficulties are still true with graduates today. I experienced a lot of ups and downs in finding the right role, including being let go from two jobs as companies were downsizing or folding completely.
Ever since graduating from university I often think a lot about whether my degree was worth it – as I’m sure a lot of graduates do. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed my degree and often pass by my old university buildings wishing I could go and do it all again, but sometimes I do think if I would have been better focusing my studies in another area.
I studied Fashion Promotion with Styling – a degree that I would whole heartedly recommend for anyone looking to get in to the creative styling world, something I thought I wanted to do when filing those dreaded UCAS applications after two years in an Art & Design college, but over the course of three years, I started to realise I enjoyed other aspects of Fashion a lot more. I became really interested in blogging and marketing, but my course wasn’t really geared for that kind of thing.
Sure, the modules all had an aspect of branding, or advertising (it was Fashion Promotion after all) but the main focus was on photography and styling. I loved these areas, don’t get me wrong, and I worked hard and achieved some great grades, but the more modules I ploughed through, the more I realised it wasn’t the area I wanted to work in.
For a good few months after graduating, I really struggled to figure out where I would ‘fit in’ career-wise. Bear in mind that this was 8 years ago, before blogging really blew up and before Instagram and Twitter were big, so there weren’t many roles out there and I hadn’t done a specific marketing course. Plus my course was only 3 years, so I didn’t have the year out working in the industry like others did – I had very little experience and not a great deal of knowledge in the area I wanted to work in!
I think a lot of people go to university and think that once you have your degree, the doors are open to so many possibilities and you can walk in to any job you want, and for some lucky ones that is absolutely true. What I didn’t know though was how much hard work finding that first role after graduating from university was! I spent a good 12 months continuing my work in retail whilst I sent countless emails to fashion brands, marketing agencies and pretty much anyone who needed a marketing assistant, with next to no luck.
No one prepares you for the rejection you feel when you have an amazing interview, build a great rapport with the interview panel, get asked ‘when you can start?’, only to get a call the next day to say you ‘don’t have enough experience’ or ‘someone with more experience came in after you’. This happened to me so many times!
I was lucky to finally land a role as a Marketing Co-ordinator for a fairly new menswear brand about a year and a half after graduating from university, something I speak more about in the blog post I mentioned, which gave me so much experience. The thing that got me this job was my styling portfolio, which is ironic since that wasn’t what I was applying to do! My degree definitely played a big part in getting this role, and I’m guessing that my styling work was what set me apart from other candidates, but once in the role itself, those skills were very rarely called upon. Instead I was in charge of social media, website management and helping with the picking and packing of orders.
This job came to and end about 18 months later as the company sadly folded, and I found myself back in square one, but this time I had experience under my belt, and finding a role was much less difficult. I was lucky enough to interview for two roles and get offered both at the same time. I went on to become a Marketing Assistant for a family-run jewellery company, but alas, in the climate we’re in, being a small business there were money difficulties and they had to make some cut backs on staff. Two knock backs in the space of a year made me feel so useless, and at such a young age I felt so down. Every time I finally got on the career ladder I got knocked straight back off.
Luckily, the next role i found was the one that shaped me in to what I am now. I managed the marketing for a local shopping centre, and after a year I was promoted by the management company into a nationwide role, and that’s where I still work today. I’ve been lucky enough to learn a huge amount of skills over the past five years and have been given responsibility in so many areas, and all it took was for someone to see the potential and drive that I had. I don’t do very much that related back to my degree anymore at all, and I do feel like I would have had a much smoother ride had I studied something like Fashion Communications, or Advertising & Marketing as they would have taught me so much more of what I needed to know, but if I had, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I am now.
Needless to say, the past 8 years have been anything but plain sailing, and when I graduated and excitedly threw my mortarboard into the air with hundreds of other students in celebration at the end of the ceremony, feeling so accomplished and ready to jump in to a career, I had no idea of the bumpy ride I was about to embark on.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you’re graduating from university this month, and you haven’t yet got everything figured out for the next stage, don’t worry. You might have bagged your dream job already, which is honestly amazing, or you might be fretting about not getting the role you wanted, you may have been rejected from countless interviews, you might have fallen out of love with the subject you studied or you simply might just not know what to do next. You don’t have to have it all figured out now, because everything will eventually fall in to place. It might take a few months, or a few years like it did for me, but you’ll find your calling soon enough.