Feeling Stagnant After Graduation During a Global Pandemic.
Job hunting is really getting me down. Graduate jobs are scarce right now and it's an uphill battle to make your voice heard in a sea of other graduates. I'm sure that I'm not the only one feeling like this, or that it's just because of the current pandemic and the issues that it has created, but it's something I'm not seeing anyone talk about publicly.
It's a shared experience that a lot of us are going through, so I'm here to vent for us all.
For anyone who doesn’t know me, here’s a little background.
I’m a 2020 graduate from Birmingham City University having gained a first class degree in psychology. I'm a very fast paced, hard working, very independent and driven individual and I have a hard time sitting still (metaphorically in this sense, but also literally sometimes) and not knowing what my next move is.
This is the month that I should have been wearing my navy graduation cap and gown, walking across that stage and receiving my diploma from Lenny Henry. I should have been trying not to cry when my Mum inevitably did and getting a boomerang of me throwing my cap in the air with my friends in front of Curzon, having one last cider in the Eagle and Ball and hugging and congratulating my graduating class mates left right and centre.
Unfortunately, none of that is happening. As a replacement we are getting a virtual graduation which I assume will be over zoom or something similar all from our respective homes, probably nursing a drink but still wearing our slippers (if not just completely in pyjamas anyway). Thanks to COVID-19, the most iconic day of our university journey will no longer take place.
So that’s a bit of a bummer. And this is on top of all the other university related things that COVID-19 has already messed with including finishing my dissertation, finishing my degree in general and having no contact with any of my uni friends since March. That and the holiday we were planning to celebrate graduation was axed too. On top of turning the rest of the world upside down.
For the last year or so I’ve been super excited to finish my degree and get myself out into the real world of full time work. I’d finally get out of my part time retail job, I’d be able to start saving for a house, travel a bit over the summer, start giving back to those I love a bit more and get my nails done for the first time (this one’s small but it’s the first thing I plan on doing after I take my first steps into a new career!) I was so ready to work in the career I’d finally chosen to move forward in, something that I really enjoy, have a genuine passion for and would be so happy to make my career for the rest of my life. Social media marketing.
Yes, I did do a psychology degree and not a marketing degree. At 17 when applying for universities I didn’t know I could make writing and creating content a real job - let alone a career – except from the off chance that my Instagram blew up and I became an influencer. By the time I’d realised that I could, I’d been through 2 years of my degree already and didn’t feel like I should throw it away so close to the end. That and I’d just got myself into almost £30k worth of student debt and that wasn’t about to be for nothing.
Unfortunately that leaves me looking for a career in a sector in which I have little experience in and no professional experience in at all. So, I thought the next best thing was to find an internship. I hadn’t set my expectation of contract duration or payment high – I was pretty happy to do a three month, minimum wage, hourly paid internship. I have experience showing that I have the basic skill set, the drive and the willingness to learn, as long as I push myself I should find somewhere which will take me under their wing right?
Wrong. Corona strikes again.
There are no internships. Well, there’s very few. Those that are still recruiting are essentially all London based. I am a West Midlands girl and with my zero savings and the extortionate public transport prices in the UK I can not afford to either temporarily move closer or to commute daily. Especially not for something that would barely cover those expenses, let alone eating, if pay me at all. I’ve seen a few Manchester based internships floating around, but the same issues still apply – and there are no direct transport links to Manchester where I live either.
Where are all the Birmingham based creative companies? Because I can not find them. Either they must have all blocked me on LinkedIn, they’re not hiring or they don’t exist. Creative companies, please consider relocating to Birmingham and giving us Midlands kids a chance!
Internships seemed like a miss, so I widened my search to entry level jobs instead. I know my way around social media, insights, influencer marketing, student level marketing, content creation, organising and running social accounts – I have enough of a skill set for an entry level position.
Aha, again, there’s very few openings. I’ve found more opportunities to apply for through this than internships, but still, the majority of what I’m finding wants 3+ years of marking experience and 82 examples of work with household named clients. How am I meant to gain any experience when no one is hiring anyone looking for experience? (But that’s a whole separate issue that I could write a whole other post about).
The issue with there being so few openings is that Corona didn’t stop all of us from graduating. We’re all here and eager to work which means every single opening has become so saturated with applicants. I feel as though marketing graduates will definitely have the upper hand in these few and far between roles compared to a psychology graduate. We both might have similar professional experience levels, but they have a degree in it.
I’ve tried every tip I can for creating the best CV and cover letter that I can to showcase my potential, and I’ve had a few interviews but nothing that has thrown up anything concrete as of yet.
So, I thought, what can I do to help myself stand out and give myself a fighting chance in this sea of graduates? And it finally hit me – freelancing. I can build my experience- working with clients, creating content, working professionally – without actually having to put myself in an office based environment working for a company.
I immediately started taking free online courses; freelance marketing courses, SEO skill building courses, copy writing courses, Facebook Ad courses, and I set up my own freelancing career. I used a few freelance websites to find clients and got my first client within a few days and got paid. It wasn’t much but it was my very first one! Once I realised yes, this can definitely work, I set up my freelancing Instagram to act as an online portfolio as well as a good marketing tool and easy way for potential clients to find me. I was on a roll.
And then… nothing. Again.
It was as though a lot of small businesses weren’t operating enough to warrant needing a hand with their social presence during the pandemic (if at all) and any bigger brands and businesses are busy working with either more experienced freelancers or much bigger agencies.
Again, I find myself sort of stuck in a hole. Maybe not a hole, maybe more like really thick mud. I’m unable to move despite being able to see what I think is a full path and a full life just in front of me. I can taste the freedom, the next life fulfilling steps, the happiness that is just there.
But I can’t quite reach it.
I’m trying my best to stay positive despite feeling like everything seems to be against me. Every rejection email I get I’m trying tell myself don’t worry, it just wasn’t meant to be, the universe has other plans and a path for you but this wasn’t it. I’m trying to keep working hard despite the setbacks (those normally experienced by graduates as well as the added ones thanks to the pandemic) and hope that I will find something. However I find it getting harder every day.
Graduation is painted as the end of your academic journey and the starting point of the rest of your life. But it feels as though nothing is beginning, even though I’ve never been more sure of what I want my next steps to be in my entire life.
I’m know this isn’t all down to the pandemic – I wasn’t expecting to find a job the moment I got my classification or anything - but it surely hasn’t helped the graduate job market in any way, shape or form. And I can’t even whisk myself away on holiday to distract myself or fill that time with festivals and beer gardens and road trips.
I’m hoping that it’s not just me. If you’re reading this and feeling overwhelmed and relating to everything please know that you’re not alone. And if you want to get in touch please please do because I sure as hell feel very alone.
I will continue on my job search, I’m not about to give up – I’m a stubborn, driven, hardworking fighter and I know I will get there eventually, but I just wanted to write this piece both to share my thoughts and feelings and as a little bit of catharsis.
Stay safe x
Find me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cerys-taylor-326047189/
Find me on Fiverr: https://www.fiverr.com/cerystaylor