What now? That was probably one of the most terrifying questions you could have asked a 21-year-old me.
I had just finished my study, submitted that last assignment. I had an upcoming graduation ceremony that I had been told to look forward to but was feeling nervous all the same.
It was supposed to be a period of calm, but my skin prickled with anticipation. Change was on the wind. I had spent all the time I could recall in some sort of schooling system. I hadn’t loved it, but it provided a structure, something to base your life around – and now it was leaving.
Soon I would have a degree, physically grasping it in my hand, surrounded by the beaming confident faces of my former peers, now my direct competition in the industry. All those conversations I had been having with family and friends about this moment came rushing back.
“Aren’t you excited to finally graduate, to get out there and into a career in the industry you’ve been training for?”
I’d give them the kind of answer that would leave them with a satisfied smile, and an end to the questions that were tying knots of panic through my stomach.
Am I excited? To move on? Into an unknown space where I was sure that I’d be incompetent. A space that I would feel entirely out of place in. I wasn’t excited, and I had just been getting more nervous as the years went by. It felt like I had only just gotten used to university life before I was waving it goodbye. And now here I was, at the doorstep of my future.
The start of my professional career
In the weeks leading up to my graduation, I had the urge to hide. To enjoy these next few weeks of bliss before my career would come knocking and that degree would be firmly in my grasp.
But there was a part of me that wanted to do something different, that was sick of feeling powerless. This was my future, and it was me who was supposed to dictate it. Not the other way around. Before I knew what was happening, I was skimming through SEEK and LinkedIn.
There was no shortage of competition in my industry, so I had to be proactive. I could be early; I could be the applicant who was putting his name out there while everyone else was taking the time to rest.
Touching up my resume and sending an email to the place I had completed an internship in the hopes that I would get a recommendation letter, I began to make it a daily ritual. Look for opportunities, make a list, and start applying. It felt like every new day brought a new spin on my current predicament; new positions would disappear as quickly as they appeared.
Some places I would get rejection emails from within the week. Some I wouldn’t hear from for a few weeks, keeping me apprehensive all the while. And some didn’t end up getting back to me at all. This knocked my confidence, but I was lucky enough to have the encouragement of friends and family. They insisted this was normal, especially being fresh out of university and trying to get into a chosen career.
Eventually, my constant efforts pay off. Two interviews, a trial article, and several phone calls later – I’ve officially landed a job before I’ve graduated. I remember leaning back in my chair, hands over my face, and a deep sigh of relief leaving my body.
I had done it; I had gotten over a hurdle I had thought too high for at least the next few months to a year.
Yes, luck had a part to play, but I wouldn’t have had a chance if it hadn’t been for my initiative and tenacity. I graduate still with nerves, but with a comforting thought at the back of my mind as I’m bombarded with imagery and messaging of “hit the ground running and jump into the industry!” I’m already all over it. I’ve got this. My career has already begun.
Pleasant surprises from the EPIC office
And here I am now, writing these events as they played out just over a year ago. It dawns on me just how different I am now. And at the same time, how certain parts of me haven’t changed at all. When imagining my future all those months ago, my nervous mind had done a great job of turning corporate work and the “big bad” industry into this unwelcome place where I was sure I didn’t belong.
After a year at EPIC, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I’m surrounded by colleagues, peers, and a team who are happy to support me and help me settle into the work environment. After my expectations of what I had assumed a corporate position to be like, there were a few things that pleasantly surprised me about my office space.
Several meetings and regular communication
I confess I’d had some expectations that amounted to being hard stuck to an isolated cubicle. From team meetings, one-on-one’s or just catching up about what we’ve done last night/over the weekend, we have a close-knit dynamic that keeps us familiar, comfortable, and safe.
Work that fulfills me beyond the creative aspect
Going into work in marketing and social media, I expected the work to scratch the creative itch and not much more. However, when I think back to moments like transcribing my first interview in my first week of work and conducting my own first phone interview with a participant, I was overcome with the idea that I’m a part of something that’s doing a lot of good for the community.
Every week is different
One of the biggest fears moving into corporate work is the monotony. In my current role, my work can involve a diverse range of tasks and skills. Which has not only meant that I’ve learnt a lot in the last year, but very rarely am I left bored with a week of work as a whole. I’m being constantly challenged and inspired with each new project.
Teambuilding lunches and activities
I had assumed that these were the kinds of perks boasted about by organisations but rarely put into practice. Thankfully, my team places a lot of value on getting out of the office and spending the teambuilding budget on activities that we can all enjoy together. I’ve gotten a lot of value out of this, and it’s one of the many reasons I’m so grateful for the team and organisation I’m a part of.
Advice for people in the same position
EPIC has become something beyond a fantastic career opportunity for me. It’s become a key part of my development and the perfect way to gently introduce me to corporate work. And now that I’m on the other side of one of the most developmental years of my life, I’d like to offer some of my own advice to those who are in a similar situation to where I was. If you’ve just come out of university, degree in hand, and at a loss of what choices to make and where to direct your energy, then here’s what I’d suggest.
First things first, take a deep breath. Take the time to get into a space where you feel comfortable and safe. Employ strategies to take some stress out of the situation: write down your thoughts, make a list, etc. Know that everyone’s employment journey is different, and you should be happy with however you decide to move forward with yours. Take stock of your emotions and understand what’s driving them; from there you can begin moving forward.
2. Seek advice
A big fear that comes with this transition is how unknown every new situation feels. Reduce that and speak to people about it. Friends or family that made the career jump themselves, how was it for them? How did they go about it? This is not to say that you should directly follow their path, but it’ll give you an idea of what to expect and if it’s really what you want for yourself. If you’re lucky, you’ll get some proactive strategies from these sources that you can utilise yourself.
3. Don’t be discouraged by rejection
Plain and simple, in most industries there are going to be more applicants than positions. If you’re sending out a lot of applications at once, it’s difficult not to let a stream of rejections in response get to you. My advice is to change how you’re viewing the situation. You’re more than likely new to all of this, so view the rejections simply as practice for that position you’ll eventually land. It’s a process, and you’ve got to trust it.
4. Enjoy the ride
This is something that I wish someone had told me. While you might feel rushed and under extreme pressure, it’s important to keep in mind that this situation reflects a positive change in your life. You’re finally taking that step out into the world and getting experience that’ll be useful for the rest of your career. If you can fit it into your schedule, be sure to organise something to celebrate after you’ve landed a job!
These suggestions are simple, but effective, and a part of me wishes I had been told to keep these particular things in mind when taking the plunge into my professional career. The most important thing to remember is that this journey is yours.
Even after an incredibly formative year, my career is still well and truly in its early stages. And after the year I’ve had, the support I’ve received, and my expectations being subverted – I can meet those same questions that used to drill needles of anxiety into me with a sincere smile.
Am I excited about where I am in my life right now?
Yes. Yes, I am.