Second-year fear: it's ok not knowing what you want to do after uni
By Ani Rawat
Ani, a student at Bristol Univeristy, tells us why it’s okay to not have an answer when someone asks where you see yourself after fulltime education.
It’s a new year, so that means new goals and dreams and trying harder to not procrastinate over degree work. But here I am, putting off my 3000-word essay on gender and sexuality in Twelfth Night, to write this article about graduate prospects. Perhaps it’s because, as a second-year uni student, Shakespeare feels less relevant to me than graduate life - that’s suddenly looming large over me and my peers.
As an Asian gal, raised in an Islamic home, doing a Theatre degree was a bit of an out-there choice. But who doesn’t love to push the limits of cultural and familial expectations? Coming home this Christmas break has got everyone asking me the same question: what do you plan to do next?
Honestly, it just makes me want to laugh. I’m halfway through my second year, surely I shouldn’t have to think about this yet? But, of course, I have. After all, how can I not when all our lives we’ve been told we should be thinking how we are going to land our “dream jobs”? It’s no wonder we have now been dubbed ‘the burnout generation’. All this pressure to succeed has caused a widespread paralysis; the promise of everything stopping us achieving anything. How can I not laugh? Our generation is more anxious, stressed and financially unstable than those before us.
So, when it comes to graduate life, how on earth am I going to survive?
Me being me, I of course have a ten year plan:
Years 1-3: Work on a grad scheme at a bank, saving for my masters.
Years 4-6: Complete my two-year masters in Drama therapy at Royal Central.
Years 7-9: Work with the NHS.
Years 10 and beyond: Go private, work for myself and aim to work towards a PhD.
Graduate life is both terrifying and exciting to think about. There are so many possibilities. This ten-year plan makes me feel more confident about my future, but I also worry that it could just as easily set me up for failure. Whilst these goals are not unrealistic, there is every likelihood that these next ten years will not run as smoothly as this. Only by acknowledging and accepting that I will never have complete control over everything that happens in my life, can I be more comfortable with the daunting thought of “failing” my way into a successful career.
There is so much pressure to be the absolute best in all that we do, but I am blessed to be surrounded by friends who have different mindsets and who have helped me look at things from different perspectives. It doesn’t all need to be planned out. It doesn’t have to perfect. It’s okay to not have an answer when someone asks where you see yourself after university.
My friends and I joke about how, when we’re all older, I’ll be the one throwing fancy dinner parties in my home somewhere in Bristol or London. It’s a lovely image. And having friends who have recently graduated, it’s an image that I truly hope we can make a reality and have a toast about in 10 to 15 years from now. My graduate friends make the prospect of graduating less daunting; if they can survive and do this, so can I. But I also have friends with absolutely no clue as to what they want to do beyond university. And in some ways that reassures me. I feel ahead of the game but can also change my mind and find new, different ambitions in my own time if I decide Drama Therapy is not for me.
Graduate job prospects are obviously not the same as they are with a degree in Theatre as they are for Maths. But knowing people from both these subjects, I can comfortably reassure myself, and hopefully you reading this, that it’s not as scary as we think it’s going to be. Although, some hand holding would still be nice when we step into the “real world”.
We always seem to be rushing to the next stage of our lives without appreciating the current moment. But we have time. Time to think, time to choose, and time to completely change our careers in ten years' time or one. So don’t rush; breathe and enjoy life, put your health before your career and work for what you want, when you know what that is, whether that’s five years after graduating or five years before.
Image by Ani Rawat