17 July 2023

Real Student Stories: What To Do After Graduation

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You might be worrying about what you’ll do with your career once you graduate – and you aren’t alone. So many students around you are in the same boat, whether it’s finding a career in your chosen industry or switching things up and trying something else.

Well, fear not.

We reached out to some ex-graduates to see what path their career took after graduation and asked them to share what regrets they had – so that you can learn from their mistakes. 

Spoiler: they’re all pretty successful now, so – don’t worry – there’s hope!

 Ex-graduate case studies: what they’re doing now


Current Role: Associate Director of NORTH (Digital PR agency)
Degree: BA Hons Commercial Photography

What made you change what you wanted to do and how did you get there?

“I got a job while studying at an old clockmaker’s organising their photo library. After I’d finished they’d get me doing a few bits of social media and writing press releases and I loved it! I then moved back home and got a job as a marketing exec doing link building, I had no idea what the job was, but happily accepted it.”

Do you have any regrets about your career path?

“I have no regrets about where I ended up or what I did, as I have a great job at a place I love, and I met my husband at university. If I were to start over, I’d have loved to learn more about business, as it relates a lot to what I do now.”

What piece of advice would you give to upcoming graduates?

“I would tell them to say yes to things and get to know as many people in their industry as they can, it’s helped me out massively!”


Current Role: Systems Engineering

Degree: Mathematics

What made you change what you wanted to do and how did you get there?

“I think that maths as a degree didn’t really have any truly good options for a career other than research, which I knew I didn’t want to do as I wanted out of academia.

I started looking at software engineering and other forms of engineering because I knew that I had good logical thinking skills, and they would open my options up so much more than if I just tried looking for “maths” jobs.

I found the job with Ultra Cyber online and applied, and found myself in the job a few months later.”

Do you have any regrets about your career path?

“With 20/20 hindsight, I think I’d be a much better engineer now if I’d done an engineering degree, but I don’t think I regret doing maths in the end.

I was lucky and did a lot of summer placements and a year in the industry – both of which prepared me massively for the world of work. I think if I’d been offered those opportunities and declined, I would regret it hugely now.”

What piece of advice would you give to upcoming graduates?

“Don’t limit yourself, especially if you’re a STEM student. We all learn to think in such a logical way when we’re at university, and it’s those skills that make you so valuable to companies when you graduate.

Mathematicians can end up in electronics and physicists can end up in maths and engineers can end up in physics because whilst we vary in specialisations, we’re all the same in terms of thought processes.

So when you finish your degree, apply for jobs in your field, but don’t rule yourself out of anything similar!!”


Current Role: SEO Marketing

Degree: MA English Literature & History of Art

What made you change what you wanted to do and how did you get there?

“I never really made a conscious decision to strive to work in Marketing, I sort of fell into it. 

After uni, I had my lifestyle blog and social media channels alongside working in retail. I then landed an admin role at a university and just said yes to working on the website and some print and social campaigns for new students.

From there I went on to work in a few different marketing roles and built my knowledge across lots of different areas, but I always had a love for reading and writing so wanted to keep that at the heart of any role I had. 

I took a lot of online courses, said yes to as many opportunities as I could and really learned from those around me – I think that’s what helped me get to where I am now.

While I think picking up the right skills and experience was really useful, the main thing was having an eagerness to learn and just get stuck in, which helped push me in the right direction.”

Do you have any regrets about your career path?

“I do wish I’d either done a placement or more work experience at university. It wasn’t really something people did on my degree when I was at uni and living in the North East of Scotland, there weren’t really any paid opportunities.

So getting the experience much earlier could have helped me get to where I am quicker. But I don’t regret any of the jobs I did, they all helped me learn new skills, figure out what I didn’t enjoy and mould my career from there.”


Current Role: Production Planner for Balcony Specialist Altana

Degree: MA Architecture

What made you change what you wanted to do and how did you get there?

“It was a gradual transition. After being without a job for around 12 months after finishing my degree, I first decided to start working in a different field where I also had training, namely as a cabinet maker.

After a year as a cabinet maker, I got the opportunity to work as a draughtsman in the same company and began making technical plans and drawings. 

Gradually, I got more and more varying responsibilities (mostly from being curious and lending a hand when I saw problems) and I eventually became a production planner in the company.

After working as a production planner in the same company for around a year, I decided to move to Copenhagen and pursue a production planner career in Altana which is where I work now.”

Do you have any regrets about your career path?

“Yes, if I had a time machine, I’d go back and persuade myself to not study architecture, or at least drop out and find something else early on. 

Architecture, at least in Denmark, is a very artistic educational field which demands a lot of creativity and conceptual thinking. I think I would have made a better engineer or perhaps even a doctor, or some other profession that is much less subjective.”

What piece of advice would you give to upcoming graduates?

“I’d advise first-year students, and I’d tell them that it’s perfectly fine to drop out and try something else if you’re not feeling it. Staying another 4 years just for the sake of finishing what you started simply isn’t worth it if you can’t see yourself in that specific career!”


Current Role: PR Account Manager

Degree: BA (Hons) Business Management

What made you change what you wanted to do and how did you get there?

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I finished university, and I still don’t know exactly what I want to do now. I enjoy PR, but it’s not my career dream – I’m still trying to work out what my dream is. 

When I finished my degree I had a nine-month-old and was struggling to find a part-time job that fit in around family life, as my husband is a head chef so works unsociable hours. There were very few part-time jobs on offer and all “entry-level jobs” needed one year+ experience. 

I started at Prominent in the summer doing unpaid work experience one day a week to get some office experience under my belt. After about 2 months, I was offered an office admin role at their sister company, which was an advertising agency.

I did that for a year and an opportunity came up to do media buying. I did that for a year and then an opportunity came up for Prominent going PR and I have been doing that since March 2020.”

Do you have any regrets about your career path?

“I wish I didn’t do a degree at all! I now have around £50,000 in debt and I use very little from my degree as the whole course was very generic.

I have learnt a lot more at work in each of the roles I have had. I also wish apprenticeships were promoted more at school and weren’t viewed as negative or ‘less than’ a degree, but more a different path to your career.”


Current Role: Account Director 

Degree: BA Graphic Design

What made you change what you wanted to do and how did you get there?

“I enjoyed working with clients and being more creative on the front line of the conversations. The design industry is definitely booming more in the North East.

But in 2013 when I decided to make the change, it was a very small pool so the progression routes both professionally and financially were quite stunted. I also wanted to move into a role that had more transferable skills so I could grow with my skill set.”

Do you have any regrets about your career path?

“I would probably not have attended University. It was great for the social side and learning living away from home life skills, but in terms of the degree I don’t think it set me up for what working in an actual agency was like.

Agency is incredibly fast-paced and involves spinning a lot of plates – Uni you get 1-2 months per solo project so the transition was quite vast.”

What piece of advice would you give to upcoming graduates?

“Try and get as much work experience within your industry as you can as it’s eye-opening and opens up those connections for when you do get into work.

Also, ask yourself the questions: what other doors could my degree open for me? Is it too niche and could I see myself doing it in 10 years’ time?

What are my options after graduating?

Graduation, while the end point of your university life, isn’t the endpoint of everything. In fact, it’s the beginning. This is the time when you can take a breath, take a step back and evaluate what your interests are and how you want to spend your time – now it’s all yours!

Here are a few of the key options you can make once graduation is over and you’re ready to start adulting.

Get a Graduate Job

Start applying for jobs and graduate schemes. If you’re still wanting to work in your chosen degree field make sure you really zone in on the subject-specific skills your modules taught you and outshine the competition.

If you’re going for something a bit different, consider what transferable skills your course taught you like analytical skills, communication skills and more.

Study Further

Not ready to fly the nest of education? You’re not the first. If you’re graduating from your undergraduate degree course why not take a look at postgraduate options? You can continue at your own university or take a look for a new adventure.

Do an Internship

Internships are a great way to get a taste of an industry without committing. They also look really good on your graduate CV, too.

Take a Gap Year

Finally, you can always pack up your worries and jet off somewhere. Take some time out and see more of the world, find yourself and discover what it is you want to come back to.

Ways to cope with the pressure of graduation

If you’ve gone from having no options to too many then this can also be overwhelming. Here are a few tips to not let the pressure of knowing what to do after graduating get to you.

Don’t Rush Into a Decision

Time isn’t running out – it just feels that way. Take a deep breath, take a step back and don’t make any rushed decisions about your future.

Make a Plan and Prepare Not To Stick To It

Our case studies confirmed that even the best-laid plans don’t always come to life. Having an idea and a direction is good, but in life, you have to be prepared to go with the flow and accept that the ideal may not always happen – and that’s okay!

Try Before You Buy

Placements, internships and volunteer work are great ways to get a feel of different careers. Give things a go and don’t worry if they’re not for you, move on to your next thing and consider it another thing crossed off the list.

Have Fun

You’ve already worked hard to get to this point, make sure you let yourself enjoy the results and give yourself some time out. Catch up with yourself and get ready for whatever you choose next.