Why I Rejected a Grad Scheme

26/11/2012 12:27 GMT | Updated 23/01/2013 10:12 GMT

One of the scariest things about graduating from university is the lack of structure and financial security awaiting the ex-student. You can't just sign up for a few modules to fill up your time, and the student loans company no longer just plops a monthly sum in your account for being a little clever clogs in higher education. The solution? Find a job that gives you somewhere to go for 35 hours plus a week, and a few pennies for your troubles. For many graduates, this in itself is another problem, given the competitive job market, the very thought of which makes my stomach try to escape from my body.

So why on earth did I say "thanks, but no thanks" to the final round of a graduate scheme? A moment of self-destruction? A full-blown Quarter-Life Crisis? Tourette's Syndrome?

No, it was none of these, but I do believe it was to do with a syndrome- 'Locked-In Syndrome'. Some of my friends lucky enough to have secured a job seemed to have had mini-crises of late that are clear signs of this malady. Like sufferers of its famous namesake, they feel like the world is going on without them, their friends exploring new and exciting opportunities, but they are locked. Unlike sufferers of their famous namesake, they are not trapped in their bodies, they are imprisoned by a contract with a company. Restrained by their golden handcuffs, they watch on helplessly as So-and-So plans their gap year in Peru, or someone else gets the dream job they didn't have the courage to wait it out for.

If I had been selected for the job I applied for, I would have probably had to make a decision about it by mid-December. I felt that going any further in the process at a time when I am trying to finish a dissertation, complete another module and forge a path as a writer was not a wise idea. How could I make a clear decision about my future with so many other stresses and strains clouding my judgement? It would be the professional equivalent of a quickie marriage to a stranger in Vegas, a rush that would probably result in neither person in the partnership being entirely happy. I would always wonder 'what if?', and the company would always ponder, "What's eating Melissa Steel?"

Of course, for those set on a certain career path, early recruitment can be a relief. Indeed, I am sure that many readers are going through this same process now and cannot identify with my feelings at all. I myself will continue to apply for graduate jobs, I just need a company willing to go through a slower courtship. I'm old-fashioned like that.