What’s next after graduation?


There’s something so conclusive, so finite about the term ‘finalist’. As a ‘pandemic fresher’, it feels like I’ve only really had 2 years of the full Durham experience. Yet, here I am, with just 13 weeks left of my degree (as my department has kindly reminded us during our Epiphany term reinduction) and possibly an equivalent number of items left to be completed on my Durham bucket list.

Perhaps the question to evoke further melancholia in any finalist is “what are your plans after graduation?” You just feel compelled to confirm something – anything – as long as it’s not “I have no idea.” You know all too well the look of reassurance, perhaps with a hint of pity, that would follow. You hear about the prevalence of the post-grad identity crisis, yet one’s LinkedIn feed suggests otherwise. You scroll past a flurry of accepted job offers and papers published in journals, and wonder if anyone’s even on the same boat as you. It seems as though we are being pressured into internalising feelings of uncertainty and adopting a ‘fake it till you make it’ mentality despite still trying to navigate the real world.

You scroll past a flurry of accepted job offers and papers published in journals, and wonder if anyone’s even on the same boat as you

To make matters worse, the job market has become more competitive with degree inflation and an economic crisis. Graduating from University with a bachelor’s degree no longer gives you an edge, rather you are now meeting the minimum qualifications for a role. Furthermore, the current social climate has given rise to the popularity of ‘Panic Masters’, sometimes seen as an alternative to dealing with the stresses of job applications and transitioning into adult life.

Last summer, I was suddenly struck with a wave of panic to figure out what I was doing after University. Or maybe it was not so sudden, but rather the accumulation of mounting concerns from friends, family and co-workers alike. For starters, I searched for events and opportunities on the University careers portal, a service hidden in the depths of the University website. I also talked to my academic advisor who signposted me to helpful resources. Yet, the more it felt like I was beginning to elucidate my plans, the more I worried about developing tunnel vision amidst the endless career prospects available.

I found that trusting yourself helps with managing the pressure. Imposter Syndrome is a very real issue which many University students struggle with, it promotes overpreparation or procrastination which in turn creates a negative feedback loop. Every time I find myself feeling like a fraud, I try to remind myself that I have made it this far into my undergraduate degree. That in itself is an achievement that is often understated. Have faith in the choices that you are making for yourself! You may have a detailed plan of exactly how you’re breaking into a specialist field; or you’re just going with the flow  – everyone’s path is going to look different and that’s the advice I’ve been given the most.

Have faith in the choices that you are making for yourself

For me, I’ve made an informed choice to delay the inevitable by another year with a Master’s Degree. As a psychology student, my employability remains mediocre without further education. What I am grateful for is that there are a range of niches to delve into, many of which produce financially stable careers. I was also tempted to find an internship or summer job to beef up my CV, but after hustling for so long I wanted to take a step back and prioritise growth and self-fulfilment. I’ve spoken to too many students who stuff their schedules with commitments, all to craft the most well-rounded CV. While I don’t doubt that people take genuine interest in the work they do, when was the last time you’ve done something just because it made you happy?

The Durham bubble has kept me enveloped in a peculiar world where we read Durfess as news, engage in discourse about which Tesco is better (Dragonville Tesco is the correct answer) and spend nights perfecting college bar crawl routes. Although it saddens me to burst the bubble, I am genuinely curious as to what the future brings. To any finalist reading this – this journey is not final and things will work out in the end. Now enjoy the last few months of your degree while it lasts!

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