Graduated, Now What? The Post-University Blues…

When I remember thinking three to four years was so far from my immediate future. It seems that before I knew it, graduation had come and gone.

When I hear the word “graduate” or “graduation,” I associate it with success, excitement, a period of transition, and most importantly, an overwhelming sense of fulfilment. I feel as though there is this belief that graduating from university should evoke feelings of pride and success. Unfortunately, my experience, and I’m not alone here in saying this, hasn’t been anything like that and I’ve got a terrible case of the post-university blues.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly proud of all I’ve achieved during my time. I’m graduating with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 6.00 and I’ve been a scholarship recipient despite coming from a disadvantaged background. But do I feel excited? Am I overwhelmed by the fulfilment and success with this qualification to my name? The simple answer is no.

Did I set myself up to feel let down? Potentially. Perhaps it was my own overly naive view that if you put in more than the effort required. I completed work experience with a local newspaper, even though it was not a prerequisite and that as soon as you complete your undergraduate degree, that piece of paper is your one-way ticket to full-time employment straight out of university. I don’t know if it is just me, but I feel increased pressure to secure full-time employment prior to attending my graduation ceremony.  For the fear of being viewed a “failure,” or “unsuccessful.”  (Side note: That’s EXACTLY how I feel.)

Since the completion of my degree, I have applied for over one-hundred jobs. I’ve been asked to attend an interview for only one of these applications, and that was a fill-in position for maternity leave. I’ve lost count on the number of hours I’ve spent polishing my cover letters and pouring over my answers to Key Selection Criteria making sure they address exactly what is asked. It was an obsession. Every morning I’d sit down with my cup of coffee and engage autopilot. Apply, polish and pour. Apply, polish and pour. I’ve never been one to fear rejection in the past, but after enduring this vicious cycle repetitively, my soul was scathed. A sense of dread would fill my lungs the more I would click “submit application”.

Eventually, this fear transpired to feelings of self-loathing and a resentment for tertiary education. An investment of both time and money had equated to this. A blank space. One I was trying, ever so desperately to fill.

But I am not alone. The 2017 Graduate Outcomes Survey (GOS) results outline that one in five university graduates were unhappily working part-time in 2017.

In this day and age, graduates are experiencing a much slower transition rate to full-time employment since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) took its toll on the economy in 2008. The overall rate of undergraduates working full-time has remained on a steady decline. In 2008, the full-time employment rate for undergraduates was 85.6 % compared to 71.8 % in 2017.

Was it my course of choice? The 2017 findings from the GOS demonstrate that graduates with a degree in communications scored within the bottom five, with 60.3% of graduates securing full-time employment. This leaves 39.7 % working part-time or unemployed. Graduates in medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, and rehabilitation experienced the highest full-time employment rate of 95.9, 95.2, 86.8 and 85.7% respectively. This could correlate with the fact that with these degrees, graduates meet professional registration requirements and experience a higher employment rate as a result.

On the contrary, coursework postgraduates experience a much higher employment rate in comparison with their undergraduate counterparts. 86.1% of postgraduates reported being in full-time employment in 2017. This is a one percent increase from 85.1 % in 2016.

So, with that in mind, whilst I am feeling incredibly disheartened in the lack of employment prospects for my study area, there is a glimmer of hope shining brightly on the horizon. I can happily say that I have been accepted and am undertaking the Master of Teaching (Secondary) course to utilise the skills I have learnt in my undergraduate degree as a writing and media major to teach English and media to secondary students. These statistics alone are a promising indicator that I will gain full-time employment and encourages me to think that I’ve made a step in the right direction for my future.


Words by Dakota Powell

Dakota Powell is a postgraduate Master of Teaching (Secondary) student with an undergraduate arts degree majoring in writing and in minor media studies. When she is not working hard to achieve her dream of becoming an English/Media Teacher, she is often found savouring the very last sip of her vanilla latte or completely immersed in a game of AFL Football, and tragically dons the red white and black wherever she goes. To keep up to date, you can follow her @kotastrophes (Instagram) and @kota_powell (Twitter).

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

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