Ah, another day, another influx of flying mortarboards appearing on my newsfeed. As the Mexican wave of graduation ceremonies laps at our shores, it takes me back to 2012 when I found my 21 year old self accepting my scroll on the steps of Glasgow University’s Bute Hall.
And it all reminds me how odd a feeling it is to graduate. There is of course the primary feeling of ecstatic relief (no more weeping in the library behind a flask of old coffee and an Everest of highlighter-saturated notes. Ever again. Oh my god EVER AGAIN). However, this intermingles with the background sense of panic, which in turn comes from the harsh but inevitable truth that this means we must now fund our own lives. No more student loan to fund our “studying”. No more watching Jeremy Kyle until 2pm. Bedtime must no longer take place in the “am.” Graduation is over and we must don office clothes and go to work and earn a living. Ewww.
Of course, back in the day there would be no second, third of fourth feelings (panic, fear, slight nausea) after the primary relief, because once upon a time a degree on its own was enough to land you a respectable graduate job. However, we graduates now find ourselves amidst a minefield of internships, unpaid work experience, and the ever elusive request for “life experience” (for those of you who have been living under a large boulder until your early twenties.) Not to mention the ever increasing demand for a Masters on your CV or several years’ worth of experience in a field you have only just graduated in.
The worst thing about the whole thing is the exploitation and hypocrisy of the industries which should be supporting us. Yes we might consider giving you a job, as long as you complete a year’s worth of unpaid, full-time work. If mum and dad are wedged then no problem! Come on and enjoy yourselves, and well done on getting that job at the end of it! The rest of you without a parental bank to support your paths towards career success can have the pleasure of working in the hospitality industry for several years before you can afford to finance the kind of further education that we, the job industry, demands.
Of course, graduation was a fun day and I will cherish the memories (or lack thereof) forever, but after it all, a tough skin is essential in order to weather the torrent of rejection letters awaiting your inbox. The “who you know, not what you know” notion has never been stronger, and unless you have the right connections, or you have Rupert Murdoch for an uncle (there’s a Jeremy Kyle show for ya) then that undergrad Arts degree just ain’t gonna be enough.
But let me end on a positive note lest you find me bitter and twisted. Chatting to one of the coffee shop’s regulars the other day about the situation, he asked me did I know that in Chinese, the word for “crisis” is split into two meanings; “danger” and “opportunity”. Considering the exponential wealth rate from our Eastern counterparts, and the way they have changed their country beyond recognition in the past decade, it is a more important message than any. If one cannot find opportunity in crisis, then one has no hope at all. Carpe diem, kiddiewinks!