Friday, 22 July 2011

Graduate Myth #1: The 'Graduate Role'

And now, in a new section for this blog: GRADUATE MYTHS. All those things you think are true, and to my mind really deserve to find out long before you pick up the bit of paper declaring you to be university educated. We start with the big one - the 'graduate role'.

Look at this woman. Look at her.

She's calm! She's in control! She's wearing a business suit that she probably didn't get in the sale at Marks & Spencer! She might even have disposable income! You can just bet she goes to work meetings and doesn't quietly fall asleep! She uses her graduate skills in the real world! Before I graduated, I imagined this might have been me. Less blonde, yes, but striding around London with a Starbucks in one hand and a briefcase in the other. (Actually, I wanted to work for the civil service but I rather appreciate this is currently impossible.)

It turns out that the lady in the picture is basically a model and therefore doesn't exist. There are people with those kinds of jobs, and there are even recent graduates with those kinds of jobs, but there aren't many. One day I still hope to stride around looking professional and have a job that challenges me, but it won't be soon.

(There are recent graduates out there with high-powered professional work that challenges them and they enjoy it. If you're one of them, let me know, as it would be nice to know that they aren't up there with unicorns and reputable landlords in terms of myth.)

I am exceedingly lucky. I haven't been out of work for about four years now, taking my university job into a full-time role in a new city when I left and then falling into my current role now, which was described as a 'graduate role'. It's not all bad. I am paid a salary. A SALARY! With SICK PAY! Like I'm a REAL PERSON! That's really very exciting.

It really isn't exciting, though. My role in my job has some seniority (translation: more people shout at me) but mostly involves administration and talking to the general public. And making the tea. I make the tea a lot. I don't even wear a business suit.

One day I will be that lady, but the most important thing I have found in the graduate world is that it doesn't happen immediately, and at the end of the day work experience is the most important thing. That is the most important graduate myth that I feel it is important to break.

{Any suggestions for your own graduate myth that needs busting? Let me know in the comments!}


  1. In the spirit of Old Spice Man, I read: "Look at this woman. Look at her. She's a clam!"

    Nevertheless, I'd contend that one of the primary roles of University is preparing a graduate for the amount of tea they will make. And if this isn't the primary role, then it would appear much of my time was wasted on secondary (or worse) concerns.

    I'm confident it's about making tea though.

  2. @xisor: The amount of tea I drank in university - particularly during those difficult essay deadline times - means that I am capable of making a cup of excellent tea in record time. I honestly never considered it as a graduate skill, but I shall do henceforce!

    *updates CV*

  3. I thought that was going to be me. I made it into the interview round at a big corporate financial company (though I wasn't going to have anything to do with the finances...). There were slim people in suits swanning around offices decked out with tinted glass and tropical fish tanks. Free muffins on rotating breakfast stalls on the ground floor. Free snacks. Free coffee. I couldn't help calculating just how much money I would save by living off packets of nuts and coffee in the first few months.

    It was everything from the glossy careers guides of university.

    The place stank of money. I was willing to offer up my soul (temporarily... but it could be negotiated, I am poor as a churchmouse) and do whatever they wanted. Just to be part of that place, breathing the money-air and being a Graduate Employee.

    Rejected, despite all the smiles at interview.

    Back to sipping tea and brandy in my lousy Londinium bedsit...