As many of you receive your certificate, dressed up in your best attire, adorned with a gown and a hat (make sure you throw it up) and celebrating with loved ones. The next thing that happens is that you get hit with a reality cheque and it’s time to cash out. Many of you have wondered and pondered what to do with your life, balancing it with making money and having fun, spending time with loved ones and generally just being young. This post was inspired by graduation week in my uni, University of Essex, UK, shout out to all those graduating, congratulations!
Realities of Post Uni Life
Life after graduation initially is very refreshing, you're celebrating the fact you've reached a milestone and can now breathe some fresh air out of the educational system. After graduation, I was enjoying myself, it was the best time of my life, my counterparts went back to Nigeria for law school but I stayed back to redo a coursework. I was living my best life, had a summer job, went to London for Wireless Festival (3 day outdoor music festival in London), went to see Wizkid and The Weeknd (my favourite artists). I went to Notting Hill Carnival, (biggest street party in Europe, 2nd biggest carnival in the world after Rio). It was when I came back to Nigeria that real life started to dawn on me like 6 am.
Post uni life will be different for everyone. Since I'm kind of in the system due to Nigerian Youth Service Corps (NYSC), which is like a one year paid orientation to the workforce, I've asked some people who have graduated to talk about their experiences and challenges in life after graduation. I used the initials of the people I know and kept those I don't know personally anonymous. So, with no further ado, here are some of things that may happen after graduation.
After asking several people many of them said they realised they’re now adults who have responsibilities such as job hunting, paying bills and taxes, etc. and they've had to come out of their shell liked hatched eggs. Your life isn’t just yours, you’ve people to live for, your plans must be people considerate. Especially when you’re a first-generation graduate i.e. no one in your family has ever graduated from uni before you. (See Being Responsible is Quite Hard, But LET’S TRY!)
Some said there are barely any deadlines and usually no timetable or structure compared to being in school so you have to organise things yourself. Some said they got more busier and it often side tracks them from other things especially after they found jobs. Others said their jobs have been more benign and it isn’t as stressful or busy.
In uni you were with people your age, who looked like you and had similar mindsets but in the ‘real world’, as my best friend, A.A. said, there is diversity of experience and you’re no longer necessarily striving for the same thing which in uni was a degree. J.I. said "you learn more about yourself as you begin to meet and work with people from different walks of life", it teaches you patience and intercultural sensitivity. Patience is so important because everything takes time so no need to rush. It can take two days, weeks, and some of the application processes take 6-9 months as was pointed out by F.R. and finding a job that is ‘entry level’ but still requires years of experience is such a struggle of adulting lol.
There's an underlying issue for many and that is ‘uncertainty of the future’, some embrace this uncertainty and some are afraid of it (see 5 Tips for Overcoming Fear).
2. You Won’t Have Things Figured Out
When you’re at uni level especially when it’s coming to the end, you get the "what's next?" or "what do you wanna do with your life?" questions regularly. There was a time my answer changed frequently depending on who was asking me; but I usually tried to avoid those questions. Even at the point of the white man butchering my name and receiving my diploma and subsequently getting on a plane to Nigeria, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. W.Q. said, ‘I didn’t know what field I wanted to go in until I started working”. There are artists who know the outcome of their painting from the start and some make it up as they go. There will be times when you have negative thoughts swimming around your head like tadpoles in a pond and your self-doubt will rear its ugly head but know that you can fight it and your situation is merely temporary (see How to Combat Negative Thoughts and Quieten Your Inner Critic). You can try your hands at different possible ventures, read books, attend seminars and workshops and eventually you’ll find something you like. You should look at your strengths and passion to guide you and if you're wondering about your purpose see 7 Methods to Help Find Your Life Purpose.
3. Job Hunting
This differs depending on the unemployment rate in your country. If you’re someone in Nigeria then unemployment is a big deal and it may be much more difficult to find a decent paying job. When you graduate many people become “automatically unemployed”. You may soon discover if you don’t get a job soon that job hunting is a full-time job but instead you pay for the work not the other way round. I’ve divided the job hunt into 3 parts:
The job market isn’t what it used to be 5-10 years ago. Everyone has a degree these days and when you graduate so does a huge number of young people. A bachelor’s degree holds less weight than it did during the time of our parents. In some countries not even going to uni is fine and your grades don't define you but if you’re in Nigeria, oga and madam please take your certificate o. F.R. said, “there’s the challenge of standing out after realising you’re a small fish in a tank of other fishes with the same qualifications, degree, internships and experience. For jobs it’s no longer just choosing the ‘best candidate’ it’s choosing the best out of the sea of basically the same candidate. Personality sets you apart. The degree isn’t the cake itself, it’s not even the icing, it’s the decoration on the cake.”
ii. Application & CV
K.U. said you need to fix your CV, you need to make sure it’s well written and sells you well on paper. it isn’t enough to go to the employability and career office at uni anymore. You should have your CV vetted, let it go through some qualified eyes if possible. Be vigilant of vacancies in and out of your field because you’re likely not gonna get a job based on your course; you won’t be the first lawyer who ended up in a bank. You should not limit yourself to your city or country, apply for both local and international opportunities. Don’t use the exact same CV to apply for multiple jobs even though they might be operating in the same field. Rookie mistake! If you’ve done a placement, your job search might be shorter because you have experience so, you’re more in demand.
iii. Job Considerations
You need to consider if you want a job or a career, the former is temporary while the other is more permanent; you can liken the difference to weather and climate. You should also consider how much the job gives you and how much it takes; it isn’t all about the money, if you’re working 16 hours daily, even though the pay is pretty, you don’t have time for yourself and you’re always exhausted then sooner or later it will become a problem and prevention is better than cure. Consider how much you have to pay in commuting time and transport costs. If it takes far more than it gives then it isn’t a mutual relationship, it might as well be parasitic. You should consider whether your values coincide and not collide with your potential employers’ and you should’ve standards but sometimes it is better to lower your expectations and be more open minded. Like Kendrick Lamar said, “be humble” don’t expect a manager’s salary when you’re starting out.
The saying "your network is your net worth" isn’t a lie, it’s never been! Networking is very important especially in places like Nigeria where jobs are largely based on who you know. Go to the right places and talk to people, if you don’t wanna do the physical one then do it online, use LinkedIn for professional purposes, many people have found jobs through it; you never know, it could be you too. If you don’t network you may be caught in the net of unemployment. It’s not just about being the best candidate at interview stage sometimes you gotta be on their mind prior to that.
4. Mental Health
After graduation, while adjusting to life outside the educational system you need to practice self-care and check on your mental health regularly. Your mental health is very important and sometimes the stress of job seeking can get to you, you can exercise, do yoga, cycle, take walks, meditate, spend time doing things you like to keep your MH stable. I want to talk about travelling, depression and uncertainty. If you have the opportunity you should travel. Depression can slowly creep in when you least expect it especially if things are not going as you hoped. Uncertainty may come with the territory but if you let it fester too long it can become and infection and keep you stunted.
My friend from uni, J.A. decided to take a break from schooling after graduation, feeling burnt out by the educational system. He’s working part-time as a sports coach for primary schools and he uses his money to travel around, he’s been to Paris, Naples, Cardiff etc. He spends his time travelling and blogging about it (check out his blog) because he saw people at uni do it effortlessly and wanted to do it anyway. Travelling is great for your MH and it broadens your horizon and as for J.A., it has done wonders for him. You can also use this opportunity to network and look for jobs abroad.
The truth is that after uni, life can be depressing especially when you see your friends get jobs and you feel left behind so you compare yourself to others even though it only makes you feel worse (see Stop Comparing Yourself! It’s a Losing Game!). C.E.O. said, "I was home for 6 months after NYSC, everyone was being retained but my workplace didn’t retain people, I was hung out to dry. I was comparing myself, all my friends had a job except me. I was depressed, I applied for two jobs and didn’t hear back from the first one and I got the second job, the pay was cool but I turned them down and subsequently got a much better job, less stress and more pay." J.E. said the job search was incredibly stressful and demotivating but he got a job after 3 months in his field. K.K. said she faced depression and there’s pressure to find a job and it’s problematic when you find the wrong job.
If you're in Nigeria you might have to wait longer to secure a job but you can be entrepreneurial and create one for yourself and others. In this trying period, if you’re a defeatist then life will be a whole lot harder. So, buckle up and brace yourself for impact! It's only for a moment; the darkest night is still followed by sunrise.
iii. Uncertainty: This can affect your MH in several ways but when you plan it can ease up your fear or anxiety of the future. You may feel indecisive but you'll need to be courageous to make certain decisions; these decisions won't make themselves and letting someone else do it isn't the best (see Indecisive Much? How to Deal with Indecision in 10 Ways!). You may feel insecure (see Beefing Up Your Security: How to Overcome Insecurity) and that’s alright; you’re gonna be alright. This phase of uncertainty and waiting is necessary because it is through problems that you really understand yourself. A sailor isn’t a good sailor until he has sailed successfully on troubled or uncharted waters. This stage can also show you your real friends as John Churton Collins said, “in prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends.” In the same vein, you will need an effective support system as F.R. pointed out “my friends were very supportive during this period, just to talk to about where my head was at, future plans and just to give me perspective. You need to be careful that your friends are builders not hindrances.”
Congratulations! You’re now employed and so you’ll learn new skills you didn’t at uni because the ‘real world’ has more to offer. You'll probably not work in your field of study. This could be a blessing in disguise because it’s an opportunity to learn much more about the new field and thus arming yourself with the knowledge and skills the university never teaches you. Mark Cuban in his book, How to Win at the Sport of Business mentioned how he didn’t further his education because he would be the one paying to be taught whereas in his job at the time he was paid to learn. Whether you're employed or not, the next point apply to you, pay attention!
Planning makes your transition from education to the real world smoother and it will answer some pressing questions such as what next? Further studies? Job? Travel? Unemployment? etc. If you don’t know how to make an effective plan see11 Steps for Creating an Effective Plan. Planning may involve a few things for you such as:
i. Goals: Having goals is amazing and you need a plan to give them substance. K.U. said that you need to “think bigger and have longer term goals. Keep persisting even if you’re in a job you don’t like. Make a monetary goal, keep working toward that. When you hit the goal, save everything and use the remaining money to improve yourself” (see How to Set Your Goals and Smash Them). There’s a possibility that due to several reasons such as pressure from yourself and others you might not get your dream job but will have to settle for something you don’t like because you have responsibilities or are tired of being home all day. So, while you’re doing this ‘unpleasant job’ you should have a hobby to balance things out or better still don’t get comfortable, in your free time go into other ventures and eventually you might be able to flip them into side hustles or proper businesses; CONTINUOUS SELF-IMPROVEMENT IS NECESSARY!
In other words, as J.I. said “…always think about continuing professional development and how you can use all your opportunities to make yourself more employable and increase your expertise in anticipation of the next door that’ll open”.
ii. Moving Back Home: Luckily for me I don’t have any student loans to pay shout out God and my parents. I already know I’m moving back home for a while, it cut costs significantly, at home I only worry about money for going out, mobile data or airtime.
I dislike staying in the family house because every two seconds I hear my name and it’s incredibly annoying but in this economy, I can’t be doing independent life. It helps you with your saving goals so when you eventually move out you’ll be okay. Good money management really is key toward hitting saving targets and generally not burning through your money, you’re not omo baba olowo (child of a rich man) like Davido so please sit down at home. When I first returned home I had a good amount of money Lord have mercy on me it was gone in about a month or so because I was going out every two secs and blowing money fast like Rick Ross on myself and those with me.
7. Furthering Your Education? My office partner, I.D. said that being a student has a lot of benefits, they get handed a lot such as student discounts (shout out Unidays haha), no taxes, student loans (subject to where your nationality & status). Suddenly, you leave the nest, it could be hard so you wanna go back. You must question your intentions for furthering your studies. Do you want to go back to school because of boredom, unemployment, scared to face the real world, employment opportunities, fulfilment or something else? When you’re thinking of PG especially abroad, you might have to consider if the courses will be offered in your language. A Twitter user said she moved to Denmark and was finding it difficult to find Masters programmes offered in English by Danish or Swedish universities but she’s been accepted and is on a 50% scholarship.
8. Social Life
Back in uni I used to be called ‘bait’ meaning popular. I used to know a lot of people especially black people. I met people in different places: church, lifts, kitchens, clubs, on the road, in a car, in the person’s room etc. I used to say, “if I didn’t know, I know your friend”. I was quite adamant about it but fast forward a year later, I moved to a new city for NYSC and I only know a handful of people and I barely talk to anyone on my street and no one comes to my place etc. This makes sense because uni was such a big place it contained thousands of people around your age so it was easy to link up with people but your office is probably made up of around 100 people more-or-less. In other words, there’s a lot less going on, where you’re going, who you’re seeing and your social feel like it’s gone through a funnel. There’s also a huge possibility that you won’t like your colleagues at least enough to not wanna be seen with them outside work, I’m quite lucky in that regard I can go out with my colleagues but I barely do that.
9. Was Uni a Waste of Time?
This is a contentious question and it will differ from person to person but honestly, you don’t pay for the degree alone, you pay for the experience it’s like buying drinks in the club vs outside. One Facebook user said that he realised that: “college doesn’t teach you enough and it was a giant waste of money to go to a big school”. This even stings more when you have student loans to pay off and don’t get work in your field of study. Another user said that her course was “spiritually nourishing but absolutely irrelevant helping me to find employment. This was something I didn’t even consider…” Another user said she went to uni in Australia but upon graduation she felt anxious about the real world but 3 years post-graduation she was grateful for the experience. She acknowledged that it might be a waste of money for some but she sees it as ‘lesson’ not a waste. Through uni she’s learnt how to balance life and work. Going to uni meant she could do anything because she was the first to go to uni in her family. Another user said ‘a bachelor’s isn’t worth a thing nowadays, most jobs are entry level paying $30,000 and are jobs you don’t need a degree for. My uni colleague P.S. said, “I realized that I’ve grown up a lot, thinking that I can rely on myself based on my knowledge from uni”.
In Nigeria your degree is still important, many employers won’t look you twice if you don’t have a certificate like that Skepta meme they don’t wanna hear it. So, to be on the safe side it is worth it.
Personally, I think it depends on what you studied and what you really wanna do. I studied law and I never really cared much for it but I’m grateful for all the people I met, I’ve made some life-long friends! I've tried to like law from reading to going to court and presently working in the legal dept of a govt agency all to no avail. I found myself toward the end thinking I should’ve studied literature. What is your situation? Did you enjoy your course or not? Comment below. Was uni a waste of time, money and energy for you or was it a valuable experience? Comment below.
In conclusion, you need to hustle hard and persevere this means developing thick skin like a crocodile because you will be rejected, you’re not irresistible like party jollof rice. You’ll be disappointed but there’s light at the end of the tunnel but you need to maintain a positive attitude (see How to Develop a Positive Attitude). You’re gonna be alright! Be innovative, creative and experiment. You’ll learn more about yourself in failure than in success and you’ll find what you want eventually but celebrate your small wins. Develop and cultivate some good money habits and know that you'll have to make a life-changing decision but don't fret, keep calm and move forward.
THAT'S IT FROM ME GUYS! NOW...
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Jeweller on Mondays, Book Connoisseur on Wednesdays, Quotologist on Fridays (ahh I'm still working on that one lol) and Blogger everyday! My name is Ofai and I'm passionate about blogging and it gives me fulfillment that I can help you out so sit back, relax and enjoy your weekly carats of #SelfImprovementGems with me!