17/07/2013 08:15 BST | Updated 15/09/2013 06:12 BST

Graduates: No Job? Give Yourselves a Break


Around this time, thousands of recent graduates will be leaving the warm, cuddly security of the 'student' employment tag and will now be facing their worst fear, the fear of the unknown, or 'unemployment' as it is more commonly referred to. Having just finished my second year, I've already started to pen lists (in my very best handwriting, of course) of all things I will do in the academic year 13-14 to become the better person I know that I am destined to be. Firstly, I've promised that this year I will really try. I am of course capable of getting 80% in everything; I've just never really tried before. I will also be finishing all my work with a week to spare and I'm never eating junk food again. I will be starting yoga or pilates (whichever one makes me thinner, quicker), and perhaps have a FiloFax to chronicle all my successes, mapping out all my studying, fitness and other miscellaneous life-things timetables. It will also come in handy for writing down all the stuff that busy-business-people-who-are just-so-busy do, like, "Remember bulb for Big-Light".

In other words, I still have another student loan funded year to pretend that by some beautiful majesty of karmic justice, I will land the job and life of my dreams, just in time for graduation. But for a lot of my friends, the time has come to enter the real world and suffer a dramatic lifestyle shift .Cue anxiety, insecurity and fear, coupled with the dread of moving back in with parents. And while I can appreciate that this transitional period is often difficult, too many people have been conditioned to treat the post-uni leap into working life too much like the prospect of being told to go base jumping with a floss harness.

The pressure that students are under to lasso their dream job, before they've even sent off their UCAS application, is demented. The media, your tutors and your peers are all seemingly hyper-jacked up on the Jeremy Kyle one-size-fits-all mantra, 'GET A JOB!' and it's terrifying. We are told that we are all basically wasting our time at university if we're not doing medicine or accountancy. We are told that we should have started building our credentials from Year One. I wouldn't be surprised if they actually meant primary years. Quite honestly, I think we should all give ourselves a break. It's important to feel a bit of pressure, just enough to inspire you, but not become a slave to it. Of course it's important to try and get a head start, apply for the things that you're interested in and research your industry of choice. Of course it's important to be proactive. Of course it's important to get work experience, God knows they can't help but bark that in our faces at every available opportunity. Just use your time effectively. How much will a week's work experience with your Auntie Sue's neighbour John, who works at Microsoft emptying the bins on the front desk, benefit you? Just because Microsoft can be attached to the work it doesn't automatically give you any new skills or credibility. If I took a shit in a bathroom at Channel 4 and scratched some stuff on the toilet door, does that mean I can add that to my CV as a 'Contributing Editor'? I hope so because that would look absolutely dynamite. But obviously I couldn't, I hope you understand that.

My friend's step-dad made the good point that this is one of the few periods of time in your life when you are allowed to be inexperienced and not have a clue what you're doing. You probably don't have any real-world responsibilities yet like mortgages or kids. You can't afford them, remember? I don't mean you should be bone idle but explore your options because (I write this painfully) you have the world at your feet. If you have it all planned out with these ridiculous five-year plans everyone's so eager to churn out, you leave no room for surprises or chances because you'll already be tied down to some other shitty job making a chunk of money that you only get a chance to spend on the weekends or a month out of the year. I don't think work and life experience has to be mutually exclusive so take a holiday and explore, guilt free. You never know who you might meet once you leave your comfort bubble. And try not to be too scared of the next chapter because it is quite often the case that if you're not doing anything that makes you feel nervous, you're not really living.