To mark World Mental Health Day, Sophie Thompson has shared her candid account of the anxieties that often come with leaving University and entering the working world to remind her fellow fledgling career women that it’s absolutely OK to not feel OK about #adulting.
For most people who have been through university, graduation is one of the best days of what-seemingly-short-life you’ve had so far. Sure, you’re forced to sit in a stuffy hall for two hours listening to some so-called local celebrities you’ve never heard of try and motivate you into living your best life, but the ultimate feeling of accomplishment is getting onto the stage knowing that the three years of hard work were worth it and your family are sat in the audience cheering you on.
But what the guest speakers, your tutors or even your friends don’t tell you? What comes next.
What happens when you’re left in the world to fend for yourself? What even is council tax? Will I be arrested if I don’t pay it? Where on earth am I supposed to get a job that doesn’t require 2,29383 years experience?
Post-uni depression is real, and watching your friends move onto greener pastures and start their blossoming lives can be a super lonely experience.
There’s also a stigma attached to moving back home to your parents’, that people might think you’re failing or question why you’re spending your days in the bedroom you grew up in watching Netflix when YOU have a degree.
But even if you decide to stay in your new location, suddenly you don’t have the warm blanket of student finance to be your trusty backbone when you want to go out for your friend’s birthday or take advantage of the Beauty Bay discount that only comes around once in a blue moon.
You find yourself saying “let’s hang out!” to your University friends in the hope they won’t forget you but realistically you know it’s not *actually* going to happen, it’s just a polite phrase to keep your friendship going. We don’t take enough time for ourselves. Yes, you applied for 20 jobs today, and no, you don’t need to feel guilty for binge-watching your favourite TV show. Or maybe you’ll even apply for no jobs tomorrow because who’s going to stop you?
But when you do score an interview, there’s the inevitable being told you’re not right for role because you “don’t have enough real-life experience” even though you already undertook unpaid internships while studying tirelessly and right now all you can think about is money. Do they not know I have a degree? We’re told all our lives that a degree is an answer to doing anything we want.
Not getting your dream job as soon as you step out of the gates of your University can also be an overwhelming experience. A job you feel like you’ve worked hard for but don’t *really* want can feel so demotivating.
Emily Williams, 24, and a Sheffield Hallam graduate, summed up perfectly in an interview with the BBC about what it feels like.
She says she used to walk to work every day and think: “How can I get slightly injured, not enough to be seriously hurt or die, but just enough so I don’t have to go to work?”
It’s a level of pressure we shouldn’t have to feel. It’s easy to forget that you juggled A-Levels and writing personal statements before you even got onto the library-all-nighters and re-writing 4,000-word essays because the 1% could make a difference in your grades and you should be made to feel proud every inch that you made it here, because it’s hard and nothing in the world can prepare you for it.
Social media undeniably plays a huge part in the disappointment that can come with oh-damn-I’m-officially-an-adult life because nobody ever shares the countless rejections you’re faced with and you only get to see their holidays and parties, not the faces of people in the same position as you fearfully opening their bank statement.
And that’s exactly it. We expect working life to be like university with even more freedom, but all of a sudden you become an adult, and even in your first job, you’re faced with new people, new procedures and more change than you can ever prepare yourself for. Ultimately, you’re just blagging it as you go – and we need to learn that’s OK.
It’s OK to take time out because you don’t feel ready. It’s OK to realise that maybe you don’t want a career that’s anything to do with the degree you just spent £27,000 on. It’s OK to travel because you worked freaking hard for it. And most importantly, it’s OK to admit that sometimes you need a hand from other people.