Life after University

By Freya West

Application season is well underway, with students’ calendars marked with deadlines for online tests, video interviews, and written application deadlines. Whilst our degrees should be the main focus, it could be said that during application season, your lecture attendance and seminar participation take a hit, all so you can secure a graduate job. However, it begs the question, why has it become so normalised to have a job secured immediately after or even before graduation? Should we not focus on our university work and getting the best grades possible? Whilst this would be a dream, despite university work not being entirely thrilling either, this unfortunately seems impossible as it has become normalised to have a job planned for after university.

Companies in a number of sectors have also normalised this; with some law and accounting firms recruiting two years in advance, and some even offering future positions to freshers. After confidently applying to a law firm, I received an automated email saying that their 2026 positions were full, and if successful I would join the 2027 cohort. To me, 2027 seems awfully far away, and to have to commit myself to something so far in the future seemed wrong. However, maybe whilst waiting to start my job, I could have travelled the world, enjoyed living in my childhood home for longer, saved up money, or even bought my own house. All these things would probably make me more stable and prepared for my entrance into the working world.

Perhaps instead of placing so much pressure on ourselves to secure an internship or a job immediately after graduation, we should take more time to focus on our degrees

At a top university like Durham, it is hard to escape the loud groups of intelligent people in the Billy B café discussing their interview and assessment centre successes, whilst others silently eavesdrop and open their inbox to another rejection email and a message from their tutor asking where their overdue formative essay is. Perhaps instead of placing so much pressure on ourselves to secure an internship or a job immediately after graduation, we should take more time to focus on our degrees, enjoy these university years, or prepare ourselves more for the transition to working life.

Despite it being validating to receive internships, graduate job offers, and connect with professionals who work in the profession of your choice, perhaps we should reduce the pressure that is driving students to the brink of burnout. As the world slowly returns to normal after the Covid-19 pandemic, many companies are scheduling interviews and assessment days to be held in person during the busy part of epiphany term. Despite it being exciting to feel like a hot-shot professional on the LNER Azuma to London typing away on your laptop in your suit, these days require a lot of planning, time spent preparing, and money spent on train tickets that may not be reimbursed for many weeks.

We should lessen the pressure and enjoy our time at the university we worked so hard to gain a place at

All of this is to be done whilst balancing summatives, making your money last until the end of term (after being too generous to the strangers you became best friends with on the college bar crawl the night before), and remaining both mentally and physically healthy. This is also made more difficult by the high levels of rejection that many students face, whilst others post their ‘I’m delighted to announce’ posts on LinkedIn. This pressure forces students to feel like they should be completing applications, even if they are not completely sure what they would like to do, which may lead to them leaving their careers in the future and feeling even more lost than before. Maybe having a bit of extra time and less pressure when they were back in university to secure a job would have allowed them to pick the career they actually wanted.

It takes time for us to decide what we want to do, to improve the strength of our applications, and to balance all of this alongside university. Perhaps instead of constantly worrying about what is to come after university, we should lessen the pressure and enjoy our time at the university we worked so hard to gain a place at. This is not to say that securing job offers immediately after graduation should be frowned upon, but that a hostile and competitive environment has been created through the normalisation of receiving offers straight after graduation. Therefore, apply for jobs and internships, but do not place it over your mental health and university work. Maybe enjoying what life has to offer before you commit yourself to a 9-5 job is not so bad.

Image: McElspeth via Pixabay

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