Advice — Emily Prior-Such on the things no one tells you before graduating
Hindsight can be a wonderful thing, can’t it? Because when you’re right in the thick of the post-graduation blur, it can be hard to make sense of the path ahead. But give it a year, and you’ll find that there's some cohesion there after all. Just ask recent graduate Emily Prior-Such. Previously a student on Nottingham Trent’s Fashion Communication course, Emily reflects back on her past year to highlight some of the learnings she wish she had known back then – from confronting the reality of rejection while job hunting, to simply remembering to take care of yourself along the way.
Your first job might not be your favourite
Everyone has to start somewhere. I’ve learnt that the first job you take won’t necessarily be the perfect fit. As a creative working as an e-commerce assistant in a non-creative company, I’m dealing more with numbers and IT than sketchbooks and Adobe software, but it has ultimately shown me what I do want from my next role.
If I could tell myself anything a year ago, I would say ‘Be patient!’ You won’t land your dream job straight away and it might take a while until you do, but that’s ok.
Don’t rush into a role
Being a graduate can feel like a race to bag a job and prove that your degree was worthwhile. I landed my graduate role at the beginning of September last year, which was pretty quick. But looking back, I do feel that I panicked and settled for the first offer I received. I was scared of being unemployed and worried about if and when another chance would come up again.
On the flip side, it has taken some of my friends almost a year to land their first roles, after months of working in retail to fund travel expenses for interviews around the country. The lesson here is: Don’t panic if it takes you a while to secure a permanent graduate role; rushing won’t lead to job satisfaction.
“Don’t panic if it takes you a while to secure a role; rushing won’t lead to job satisfaction.”
Rejection is part of the process
Finding a job often means applying to over thirty positions at a time, and hearing nothing back, which can be disheartening when a lot of time and effort has gone into the applications.
Knock-backs like these helped me realise that a great grade and work that you’re really proud of doesn’t guarantee you’ll walk straight into a graduate role. I found that making a list of the jobs I applied for, and keeping notes on whether I heard back from them, stopped me from feeling like I was drowning in applications.
Contact companies that aren’t hiring, too
For my final project, I created a collaboration with Depop to encourage young consumers to adopt more conscious consumption habits. For me, the ultimate goal was to secure a job with Depop, and continue doing what I loved with a company I really valued.
I checked LinkedIn religiously, waiting for my dream role to pop up. But then I took the plunge and sent my portfolio to them. No job came of it, but they did take the time to thank me for my interest and tell me to keep an eye out for future roles.
Making the effort to show interest in a company’s work led to other exciting and valuable experiences. I secured two internships with LWPR and LOVE by reaching out via email or attending their portfolio review open day.
Contacting the companies that weren’t hiring proved to be really beneficial. You might not hear back, but instead, you might get valuable feedback on your portfolio, or potentially be kept on record for future roles.
Emily's project for Depop, created while studying at Nottingham Trent
Get the ball rolling before you graduate
During my final term of uni I felt really stretched; and the thought of putting time into job applications was too much to handle. But I wish I had been more proactive and at least started looking for jobs before I graduated. Even just noting down job adverts, work experience or internships that I felt drawn to would have helped get the ball rolling.
Make the most of uni connections
We were often encouraged to collaborate at uni. Now that I’m not currently working within a creative environment, this feels like something I took for granted. However, the conversation doesn’t have to end with your degree. Since graduating, I’ve collaborated on a project with other creatives, which has given me a creative outlet and helped build my portfolio.
And even though the industry seems big, agencies and companies cross-collaborate too, and you’re very likely to bump into old connections in working life. You never know when it might come in handy to know someone working for a particular agency or brand.
Your journey is unique: don’t compare!
The main struggle I have experienced since graduating is comparing my progress to that of my peers on social media. Not helpful! It is hard to admit but seeing everyone posting about their fast-paced, glamorous roles in London made me feel like a failure working for a corporate business in Nottingham.
It took time to accept that everyone’s post-graduation journey is different and success shouldn’t be measured by how Instagramable your career is. We are only ever going to post about the parts of our job we love; the office dog, the exclusive events, the afterwork drinks – but this doesn’t necessarily equate to happiness.
“Success shouldn’t be measured by how Instagramable your career is.”
Seek advice when you need it
Personally, I found this first year after graduation tougher than completing my degree. I never expected to feel the post-grad blues but once I was out of the university bubble, I started to feel a little lost.
Looking after yourself is key. Know that it is okay to have a day off or give yourself a break. And know that you are not weak for seeking advice to help you navigate through grad life.
There is no right or wrong answer
After three years of help from tutors and peers, looking for jobs often left me wishing that someone would tell me which direction to take, what job was right for me or which city should I move to.
Ultimately, however, nobody can tell you what career decisions to make. The whole experience is going to be a learning curve (not what I wanted to hear either!) but there is no right or wrong. For every role that doesn’t feel quite right, there will eventually be something that does.