A Year Already? – My Reflection and Tips for Recent Graduates.
“What are you doing after graduation?”
I really don’t know of any final year student that wasn’t asked this question. As expected, the answer varied.
For me, I was going to study for a masters degree in International Development. I had received offers from 6 top universities in the UK, had my documents for visa sorted and felt certain that it was the next step for me. Everyone around me knew I was going to do a masters.
Later in September 2017, I chose the University Reading for my masters, rented a really nice apartment and moved from Birmingham. However, circumstances beyond my control meant things would not go as planned.
And for the first time since graduation, the anxiety and fear that came with graduating set in . Considering, that I was moving back home (Nigeria) I had to deal with everyone reeling out the unemployment statistics and those who did not know me or the circumstance I was in asking if I had cancelled plans for my masters because I wanted to come home and get married (rolls eye).
The feeling of not knowing what awaits you post-graduation can be scary and overwhelming. One year ago, I was 21 years old and 100 percent ready to finish undergrad, but I had no plan set to start the new chapter apart from a master’s degree which did not work out. Now, after one year in the “real” world I can say that there is so much I have learnt.
Here are some tips for people who are were I was about a year ago- not sure of what is next.
1. It is not weird to not know what lies ahead– You are not the only one who doesn’t know either. However, what do you do with this feeling of uncertainty? Stay stuck or find a way to move forward? Not having a set plan means you are more open to meeting new people, travelling and trying new things. Instead of being anxious, see this phase as a learning curve.
Things may not work the way you want, but eventually it will work for your good if you are focused on how to get the most out of the situation than the situation itself. So, whether you have to move home because you are an international student, you feel like you do not have enough work experience or you graduated with a grade that makes you less employable. It is important that you focus on what you can do, what you can actually salvage from the situation than throw a pity party.
2. Clarity comes by taking baby steps everyday – As I have put myself out there and gained experience in various areas, I feel like I have began to find clarity. I am now more aware of the kind of activities I want to get involved in, the kind of people I want to be around and I want around me. Instead of waiting for the perfect situation and opportunity, you can search within yourself for what you already have in your hand and take advantage of the opportunities around you. You can stretch yourself by doing something you have never done before. You can acquire a new skill. Sometimes, it is by doing that you find clarity of what you really want.
3. Financial literacy pays- One goal I have always had since I was fifteen was to be financially independent from my parents by the time I had graduated from university. Although this happened a whole year earlier as I had planned to complete my masters, I was still to a large extent able to achieve it. I have an incredibly supportive family, but being able to learn about how to manage my finances, save and invest from a very young age made it a lot easier for me to not totally depend on them financially after graduating. I have spent a good part of this year talking to young people, especially those around me about how to make, manage and multiply money no matter their age or current stage in life. You are not too young to become financially literate.
4. Reflection is essential for your growth- The first thing I had to do to face the real world was to reflect on all my experiences, all the skills I had developed while in university and how to leverage on them and monetize them. Reflecting made me realise that I had done a lot in my 4 years of uni outside the classroom that was equally as important as what I learnt in the classroom. These knowledge made me confident enough to take on roles that were not solely based on my degree or the grade I had graduated with. So, one thing I have definitely learnt is to continuously keep track of every skill I am developing and how every experience is preparing me for the future I want.
5. Social media can be a major source of opportunity- I got about 6 job offers within 2 weeks of moving back home. I had job offers from the UK and Nigeria (Imo, Abuja, Lagos and Kwara State). I never had to send in my CV for any of them and at least 4 were from people I had never met before. However it was either these people followed me online or knew about the work we had done with Lively Stones and trusted that I had developed skills and experience that made me a good fit for their organization just by reading my posts and following my progress online. This has definitely made me become more intentional about sharing activities that highlight the experiences I have immersed myself in that makes me more valuable as well as the skills I have developed along the way.
Social media provides an equal playing ground and makes networking a whole lot easier. You do not have to pay to connect with so many amazing people and you can do it from the comfort of your room. In fact, when I got the chance to give my first Ted talk earlier this year, I used the opportunity to let a hall full of amazing young people that social media is their new CV.
6. Be your own shameless plug- Every opportunity and every risk you take by putting yourself out there is worth it. I have always wanted to take on roles that revolves around youth development, women empowerment and/or community development. I really doubt if there is anyone around me that did not know that these were the sectors I was interested in. I figured that if I put this out there enough, I will be more aligned to opportunities in those areas.
My first major job after graduation was as Programs manager of Slatecube . I also worked as an executive assistant to Brains and butter and one of my roles involved planning the Brains and Banter event. I did these role virtually as I wasn’t based in the same location as my employers.
In addition, I also had the opportunity to speak at and host consecutively the first two Colab for women event in Kaduna.
All these came as a result of putting myself out there and from talking about the things I had interest in and could do to the people around me. Put yourself out there whether on social media, at events or just sending a message to everyone on your contact list letting them know about the skills you have, the amazing things you have done and can do, as well as opportunities you are looking for. Shameless talk about your achievement and goals, you may be surprised the opportunities this will open to you because of this.
7. There is no box- In this age of digital disruption, I think it is important that young people should never put themselves in a box. You can access opportunities and work for/with anyone from anywhere in the world. Always remember that opportunities available to you are not limited to a particular sector or location.
8. You can’t compare yourself with your friends-Comparison is indeed the thief of joy and it is so easy to compare where you are to where other people especially those in your circle are. One thing I have learnt is to really set my own goals and compare my achievements to my own goal. I have learnt how to deal with envy, jealousy and covetousness while intentionally celebrating with others and facing my front- which is all that God has in store for ME…ME not my neighbor or my friend.
9. Community is important- However, when you graduate your peers will be at different phases than you. It is easy to feel isolated especially when you are not in the same physical space as your friends; this is where communication comes in. I moved back to Kaduna, Nigeria, and didn’t have any friends from the UK where I had spent the past 6-7 years of my life. Also, the people really close to me where at different points of their life. Some had gotten fantastic jobs, other where now in their final year of university while others were studying for a masters degree.
I had to be intentional about keeping people who I still wanted to maintain a relationship with close. I also had to be careful about the expectations I placed on people as we were all in different phases of life.
Has anything here stood out to you? Please share with your friends and leave a comment.
The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.-Psalm 32:8