10 things I have learnt since finishing university in 2011


‘Things turned fairly serious, even for us, with the approach of finals – from which —– warned us, we would never quite recover. He proved right except that it wasn’t finals themselves that were traumatic so much as leaving Trinity, which had become, for so many of us, a home from home.’ Derek Mahon on my alma mater – Trinity College Dublin

It’s that time of year again; so I thought this would be a good time for me to reflect on life outside the bubble of academia.  This post is going to be a lot more personal than what I usually talk about here, but I thought some recent graduates might appreciate hearing about my experiences just to know that – yes, things are tough at the moment, but you aren’t alone.  I would love to say that these early years of my ‘real’ adult life have been filled with excitement, adventure and new opportunities, but in reality the two years since finishing university have been the most difficult of my life.  I made a lot of mistakes, and undoubtedly suffered from a few circumstances beyond my control, but I’m finally starting to think that things (just about) look ok again, so what have I learnt?

  1. Being a millennial is hard work.  Recently I’ve read a lot about my generation being vain, lazy, and narcissistic.  In reality we’re not living with our parents out of laziness or lack of ambition, but because outrageously high youth unemployment is keeping us there.  Guess what?  I want to be self-sufficient; I want a job and maybe a family.  If I’d had my own way I would have been in full time paid employment immediately after leaving university, and I never would have lived with my parents again.  I want my own life, on my own terms, but unfortunately circumstances beyond my control made this quite difficult.  I can’t accept the idea that a generation, for whom lengthy unpaid internships are the norm in order to have a chance of even an entry-level job, is a generation that is lazy.
  2.  Living alone in a bedsit paid for by benefits is a terrible existence.  I was absolutely determined that I could not move back in with my parents.  No, never!  So instead I opted to put myself under a considerable amount of torture.  I claimed benefits in my university city, which I used to cover the rent on my bedsit.  I needed the rent to be cheap so I was living in a bad area, bad enough that I would frequently keep a mental count of how many syringes I saw in a week.  This was the least amount of money I had ever had in my life, which was saying something after 4 years of university.  I walked everywhere, rationed food, electricity (not heat though, thank god – as this was included in the rent) and just about everything else needed for a reasonable quality of life.  I had no TV or Internet, but on the flip side I read a prodigious amount; probably the most I had ever read in my life – which again is saying something after 4 years of an English degree.  My friends steadily left the city for more friendly employment climates, and I lived an increasingly lonely life – sometimes going an entire week without speaking to anyone.  But my persistence on not going back to my parent’s house lasted a full, miserable 6 months.
  3. Leaving your university town/friends/life is a process akin to grief, and should be dealt with accordingly.  Things had been slowly unraveling since before I even finished my exams, there was a period of time where I think I cried every day.  I was seeing someone who I loved very much, but who did not feel the same way about me, and even though I knew we were doomed to failure – I couldn’t let go.  Unfortunately this relationship was like a metaphor for the rest of my life in Dublin, and for my university.  I loved the city and the university dearly – and I felt really sick about having to give them up.
  4. Know when to let go, make an effort to do this ‘properly’.  I cut my university out of my life first, which was pretty difficult as it is in the middle of the city.  But it became too painful for me to even enter the grounds because of the memories wrapped up there (I had even lived in the ‘bubble’ on campus in my final year).  Having worked so hard to get to university, and made the most of my time there, I felt like I had failed myself terribly and had not lived up to my education.  When I finally did leave Dublin I made a clean break, I needed to clean myself up mentally – I didn’t want to visit the city again until I was ‘over it’.  It was exactly like breaking up with a human being, with the same emotions.  As soon as I did give up on the last shreds of independence, and admit I was failing badly – I moved home.  I made the decision and was back within 2 weeks, it was clear what I had to do.  When I got back I went straight to the doctors to ask for help, this was a good decision.  When you don’t believe in yourself at all, and despair of the situation you’re in: this is a bad starting point for job-hunting, all other factors aside.  It was part of admitting I wasn’t ok, that it was time to move on, and I couldn’t do that entirely on my own.
  5. Relationships will change.  A lot of people who were my best friends at university have dissolved back into the crowd.  I don’t know where they are or what they are doing.  I know that some of them I will run into again at some point, some I won’t.  This is ok.  The people who I had the deepest relationships with, my ‘real’ friends are still there, but obviously we see each other a lot less.  I feel like if I see some people once every 6 months, or even once a year I’m doing well.  I think scattered friends are a part of modern life.  So no, you won’t be partying with your friends every night of the week, but they are still out there – and the ones who really matter will keep in touch, even if it is sporadic and not ideal.
  6. People will support you.  Parents, much as they are often looking at things from a different perspective.  Surprise surprise, they do want you to be happy, and they know this situation is not ideal.  Friends, both home and away.  Some will be going through a similar thing to you and have had to move back home, others will be pursuing further education, interning, travelling (lucky!), have a scary real-world job/other.  In any case it’s likely they have some problems of their own and transitions are rarely easy, no matter which direction you take.  The job center (ha!) if you would like to call that support, you need money to live to though.  The doctor (in my case) without a course of anti-depressants to help me out it’s likely I would still be under my duvet crying.  If you need help, ask for it.
  7. You will be lonely.  I read somewhere that anyone going through a big transition in life feels lonely, as you don’t quite seem to fit in anywhere.  You aren’t a student anymore, but you aren’t a savvy young professional either – this is prime time for an identity crisis.  A lot of my friends have moved away from the area I grew up, and I can’t be bothered making new friends here (I want to move away so it feels like a waste of effort).  My social life has dwindled to its lowest ebb; I had more social engagements when I was 8.   And that’s before I even get started on (lack of) relationships.  This is probably the single biggest kicker of having to move home for me personally.  In an attempt to pull some hope out of the situation I will say that: I know it won’t last forever, even though it does feel like it at times.  It is good to spend time with my friends who do live here, again because I know I won’t be here forever and in all likelihood neither will they – and we’ll be back to the once every 6 months scenario.
  8. Your parents will not understand.  By my age (24) my parents were married with full time jobs and a mortgage.  Neither of my parents went to university or had the burning desire to travel which seems to plague Millennials (probably because we know a secure job and buying a house is completely out of the question, so we have to think of something else to do with our money . . . if we ever get a job).
  9. Job hunting is exhausting, and often a cruel joke, but you have to persevere.  If you have only just graduated, then my are you going to have fun with this lot:  The group interviews with candidates much older and more qualified than you, the interviewers who never get back to you, the entry level jobs which require 2 years of experience, being told you are overqualified, being told that you are underqualified, the 10 page applications with essay questions, when a job you interviewed for goes to an internal candidate, the way no one acknowledges your applications, being rejected by Primark/McDonalds/somewhere else you never really wanted to work anyway, unpaid internships, knowing your CV was screened out and not read by a human being etc etc.  All of this is a total nightmare, but you have to keep playing game.
  10.  Unexpected opportunities WILL arise, and you will probably end up on path completely different to what you imagined.  Towards the end of my university career I decided that what I really wanted to go into was publishing.  I wracked my brains trying to think of a route in, applied for as many publishing internships, work experience and entry level positions I could find, to no avail.  As my job search went on my net got wider, and by the end I had considered every skill I possessed, every subject that interested me just a little bit – I was willing to try just about anything I was half qualified for, and plenty of things I wasn’t – if someone would just give me a chance.  This was aside from a steady stream of retail/admin/hospitality job applications.  I know that some people will have qualified to go into a very specific field, but if you studied something quite general like me (English) then keep an open mind, you’re only limited by your own imagination as far as job hunting is concerned.

To conclude I will say that it has been a rough road, but I am in a much better position than I was two years ago, and about to head off on a tangent I never would have considered back then.  In an ideal world I would have liked to have stayed in Dublin, got a full time job there and watch things improve – but this never happened.  To a new graduate I would say:  The economy and the figures might be against you but do persevere, seek help when you need it – and try to recognise an opportunity when it arises, even if it is not what you imagined.  Good luck!

7th November 2013:  Following the responses I have been getting to this post I have written an update which can be viewed here


    • Angela

      Right now I am working a 9-5 temp job in an office and saving my pennies to move to Berlin – which got under my skin after spending a month there last September. I’m hoping I’ll also (for once in my life) have a little bit of money for pre-Berlin travels, so watch this space! Career wise I have no idea anymore after so many knocks, ideally I would like to write/design or something else creative . . . in reality I’ll take anything that pays the bills and is just about tolerable while I seek out something better. Do you have any plans? My plans always since university seem to fail/evolve beyond recognition!

      • superjenn10

        Aww that sounds great! that sucks about the knocks, but at least you know what you don’t wana do! Well I’m not sure if its the same in Ireland but in Scotland we do 4 year honours degrees, but you can graduate after 3 without honours. So I did that and went to teach English in Hong Kong for a year so I could travel.. Hated teaching though! So I came home and went back to do 4th year and I graduate next week! Still no idea what I want to do (definitely not psychology) so I have an interview for a retail company who operate on cruise ships next week! Hopefully get paid and get to travel! If not I’m gona get any job going and save up to do the work Australia years visa! I’d love to go to Berlin though, good luck with your plans, what’s for you won’t go by you as they say 🙂

  1. Angela

    Yeah, it’s the same set up in Ireland. Last year I (briefly) had a job in Austria working for a ski company, but quickly realised it wasn’t going work out for various reasons – but have you thought about doing that? The pay is very poor for the amount of work you have to do, but obviously everything is provided for . . . this is the time of year they do most of the hiring (my interview was in August for a late November departure). Australia would be awesome, good luck!

  2. Kat

    This post describes the last 4 years of my life perfectly. I finished my second round of studies bang on in the middle of the Austrian recession, my relationship fell apart, I couldn’t find a job, had to move back in with my parents, took up studying again. Fast forward 2 years, we are still in a recession, I am graduating again and am still living with my parents. So I decide to split with my hometown, leave bad memories behind and come to England – which was back then still in the recession. Can’t find a job again, almost have to move back to Austria, internship hopping for a year and finally a job. What I’m trying to say? Don’t give up, it might take a while but eventually things will work out!

    Thanks for writing this, definitely struck a chord. Good luck in the future!

  3. Angela

    Ah, this is funny – I’ve just done a similar thing and moved to Germany . . . but who knows if the intern-ing will work out here. I pretty much have no idea what I’m doing with my life from one day to the next! Keeps things interesting, also makes things DIFFICULT. I’m sure I would have been equally mixed up in my early 20s after graduating without the recession making it even harder, but yeah, what a time in my life this has been (!) Good luck to you as well!

    • Kat

      I know what you are saying about living day to day – as you say, it keeps life interesting but makes a lot of things very difficult… I for example am unable to commit to a relationship at the moment as I have no idea where I’m heading, which is quite lonely sometimes. It also seems like a ‘waste of time’ to make friends in places you might not stay in so I’ve learned to entertain myself – and have gotten quite addicted to bad TV series 😉

      • Angela

        Yes, exactly this. When I did move home to England a lot of my old friends had moved away, and I wasn’t interested n making new friends because I had no intention of staying myself. As for an actual relationship – forget it. I hope things will be more stable and settled in the future, it seems like a distant horizon though –

  4. Mark

    This blog applies in so many ways. I graduated from university in 2011, im 23. When i finished i came home, saved for the summer then went travelling in south east Asia and Australia for 7 months. When i returned i realised i was broke and had to give myself a financial foundation prior to looking for work. For the last year i have been labouring for a flooring firm whilst looking for jobs. I had an interview yesterday at a recruitment agency and got a rejection. I was told that even though i interviewed superbly and i met the criteria personably, ultimately i have been labouring for a year got the impression i have ‘missed the boat’. An employer is always going to hire someone fresh out of uni rather than someone who graduated 2 years ago with no relevant experience. So now what? I dont know what i want to do (similar to above in that i will do anything tolerable that pays the bills), but as far as it seems i have no way of even gaining an entry level job. Im so lost, i do not know what is going to happen for me or where to turn to next.

    • Angela

      That ‘financial foundation’ is what makes things so much harder and is so often overlooked in my experience. I lived in Dublin and then moved back to north of England, not exactly job hotspots. I desperately wanted to move away – and not only because I thought I would have more chance of degree relevant job elsewhere, but I couldn’t even apply for these jobs until I had enough rent/set up money to be in a position to move – catch 22.

      The recruitment agencies are tricky. I attempted to sign up to loads of them but received no response, they weren’t even interested when I went to visit in person or phoned. My boss at the company I eventually ended up working for (through an agency) told me he was surprised they had signed me up as apparently they don’t usually like graduates! I hadn’t heard this before, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this was true. The boss at that company had children a similar age to me and in a similar position, which just goes to show that employers are not entirely cut off from the world. They know things are tough for young people, and they know the economy is in bad shape. Whether or not they are inclined to give you that golden chance you have been looking for is another matter . . .

      I’m completely at a loss as well, I don’t know which direction head in. The need to be open to any and all opportunities in the past few years just in order to get on means that I now can’t tell you what I want anymore, because I’ve spent so long compromising and just seizing what is available. It’s frustrating and confusing. All I can say is good luck, and you aren’t alone 🙂

  5. Leona

    I’ve just gotta say, like everyone else, this post applied to me so much. I’ve just graduated in July, found myself having to move back with parents after contemplating staying in uni city just for the sake of it even though I knew the place depressed me! Been holidaying to avoid real life. It’s not so much the job prospects (I want to go into film editing and surprise surprise all the jobs are in London) but more so the emotional side. The friends side. My other half lives in another city and still has all her uni mates with her. I feel so inferior to her, as my home friends have either left/settled with their own lives/not that close anymore…so it’s hard to make new friends when you don’t want to be back home anyway? It’s so confusing! And it’s probably not doing anything to my health, because it’s making me think about the way I’m coming across, and criticise myself as a person too much. That’s what struck me in your post. The emotional side. At what point made you realise you had to speak to a doctor? I think I feel a little funny, like I’d be wasting their time with my thoughts and problems…

    • Angela

      When I finally gave up on being able to find employment in my university city and moved back home I really felt like I was starting right from the bottom. No money, few friends who lived close by, no graduate opportunities in the north of England. Instead of being proud that I had graduated from a good university I felt like a complete failure because my life reflected that; I was unemployed and living with my parents – I felt stuck in stunted childhood when I should have been starting adult life. I didn’t have the energy, physically as well as emotionally to even get up in the morning. When I woke up each day I felt sick about the situation I was in before I even opened my eyes; I had to get help. I had been treated for depression in my second year of university, so I knew the drill when it came to the doctor. They will help you, and they will take you seriously although of course it feels odd to start explaining to them how you feel and what you want. I got really upset when I visited the doctor the first time because when I put my worst thoughts into words it made them seem more real, it was a proper admission that I was not ok and could not deal with my situation alone. I’m surprised by how much response I have got from the post – and I think I’m going to do a follow up post soon, its so good to hear from other young people in the same situation, but I also feel so sad about this as well. I don’t it’s an easy time to be a young person.

  6. Loren

    Hi, I really enjoyed reading your blog. It’s nice to know I’m not alone! I put my heart and soul into Uni, especially this final year. I had to make a big move to Plymouth for a top up year just to get the full BA and knew no-one but got really good grades because I spent every minute of the day doing my work. I had high hopes that I could get a kind of job helping people with my degree and experience as a care worker, with the council or something like that but noway! Not even an interview! It’s taken me 5 months to be able to get a job, and that’s in France as a chalet assistant for 6 months (which is awesome I know!) but I feel so worried for being in the same position again when I get back. I’m hoping to try and do abroad internships/waitress jobs for as long as I can but have no idea now what I’m going to do in the long term. I feel so annoyed because I did retail/customer service jobs before I went to Uni and now I’m absolutely desperate to be considered for a role like that now! Before I went to Uni, I left my friends on bad terms and then my mum moved to a really small village with nothing to do, I made a few friends at Uni but haven’t kept in touch. It was always me making the effort! I’m lucky I have a great boyfriend but he lives so far away! I’m so worried about being able to make friends in the future. People seem so anti-social these days and already have their friendship groups.. Anyway sorry for rambling. Your blog is really supportive! Glad to hear you’re in a better place.

    • Angela

      Hey, sorry it has taken me a few days to reply to this. It’s so dispiriting to have put so much work into university and then be completely unable to get a relevant job (or even any job) at the end of it. I feel like the government is incredibly critical and unsupportive of young graduates as well – workfare schemes in Poundland, threats to cut benefits to under 25s etc. I have just come back from some travels and I was surprised by the amount of young people who were in the same position as me; graduates who had been working unsuitable jobs, who were mixed up, had struggled to make friends after university, didn’t know what direction to take so were travelling . . . I hope you enjoy your chalet job, I have a suspicion you will meet a lot of people who have been feeling the same way as you 🙂 Enjoy your time there and make the most of it – cross the next bridge when you come back. I’m starting to learn that life is incredibly unpredictable, so you never know – something good might come out of all of this (eventually!) That’s my hope anyway.

  7. Loren

    Hey, thanks for your reply. The government doesn’t seem to do anything to help graduates. There is so much support for getting people with no qualifications into work, like apprenticeships, but that doesn’t apply to graduates. Looking back now I wish I had done an apprenticeship before doing a degree! I can imagine how travelling is good for people in this situation, at least with no exact commitments we can use it as a chance to travel because once you’re in a job it’s hard to leave. Where did you travel if you don’t mind me asking? Thanks for the kind message. I can’t wait to go and be around people! haha. My social confidence has got so bad, at least I can work on that while I’m there! You’re right life is unpredictable! My teacher said at my graduation there is no point having a plan because it never happens that way, things will just happen. Fingers crossed!

    • Angela

      I spent two months in Berlin (I thought I wanted to live there, but I then changed my mind) then I travelled through Austria and Italy . . . so just a modest bit of Euro-travels, but all places that I hadn’t had the money to be able to go to before. I think I’ll probably head further afield for my next serious trip – and plan it as an actual trip, not a move gone wrong 😉 I guess the key is to try to make the most of whatever situation you’re in, but that can be pretty hard at times!

  8. Matt

    I graduated last year, and so far it’s almost made less sense for me to look for a standard 9-5 job because the qualifications and experience required usually have to be so specific for you to get anything slightly above minimum wage.

    Right now, with bugger all commitments in my life other than the standard day-to-day responsibilities and doing the whole starving artist thing to get by, i’d rather just indulge in fun personal projects because sadly in many cases the route to earning a decent living these days is the journey-equivalent of watching paint dry xD

    I’m actually glad I came across your blog because i’ve been thinking (but haven’t yet made my mind up) about travelling across the US for 6 months. I think deep down i’m trying to grow a pair and just do it, but I’d love to chat to you about your own experiences travelling. Could I be really cheeky and ask you to drop me an email so I can spam my questions there instead of all over the comments section?

  9. Alex

    I want to say I am 24 and in a very different position. I am not going to sugar coat this take the advice or leave it. Look I can tell you right now why you do not have a job, just from what I read:
    1) You complain (that entire thing)
    2) You cannot see, take or make opportunity (speaks for itself)
    3) You have entitlement and have earned nothing (refuse to take a job right now you feel is beneath you, instead go on welfare and complain. You complain you can’t holiday? What are you doing? You’re not working?)
    4) You have no goals or order. (Your goal was get degree get a job hands down? Why pick English? Did you think they just gave you jobs with degrees? It is a limited field)
    5) You do not know who you are. (Such insecurities you would rather make someone be with you when they don’t want to)
    6) You cannot multi task (you never worked while you studied)
    7) You show no leadership or team work qualities, obviously your communication is ok because you did English right?
    That package is not appealing to an employer. Remember they are buying an asset. Honestly I can hardly spell, so I don’t use big words and I read/ practice every day, I also have several down falls and I know all of them and work on them. I grew up in housing commission and had a job since I was 15. I won’t blame society, the world or anyone. Instead I see the win, I see my goals and I take them. I graduated high school while working 20 hours a week to help my family, I was an assistant manager by 18 and worked full time till 19, and I was accepted to university and moved to another city on my own dollar. I Did a year of architecture before realising like an English degree it will not get you much without getting a job through a friend so I dropped it after a year(saving me 4). By 20 I worked fulltime for a year thinking of what will get me a job. At 21 I did Engineering for 6 months realising I didn’t like it and switched to a business degree majoring in Accounting and finance when I turned 22. I did all this while maintaining a full time job, I have never struggled with money, I have a medium two bedroom house for me and my girlfriend but we have all the things we want and no concern for money.
    I had it bad growing up but I’m not writing a blog on it, I did what I could without self-pity. Now I am 24 and have yet to graduate in fact I am only in my second year. I do have something you don’t, job offers, in fact I have three considerable ones. I have an offer from KPMG accounting, BDO accounting and General Electric’s finance. I accepted an offer financial consulting for 60K a year + KPI bonuses monthly + supa, a graduate’s salary is only 48k on average, and additionally they are flying me all around Australia for licences and certificates. This is because I have demonstrated many desirable aspects to an employer I can hold a 38hour a week job (working from a shit position to one with responsibility) and a 38 hour a week study commitment. I don’t know anyone in the position I am in and I come from a poor family, so I have been given nothing and expected nothing.
    The reality is you are just another kid (I see them every day when I go to the university) who moved from school to school never worrying about life or its opportunities, expecting a job to come with your degree. Why pick you over people who are hard workers? You need to sell yourself and believe me they will never choose you over a grad because you have been out for two whole years (your education is dated) with no commitment or conclusion to your degree except that “looking for jobs is hard”. That statement says more about you then anything I can say. Life’s hard chief and the challenges I face every day are harder then your pathetic self-pity. Complaining won’t get you a job so just stop it.
    I will give some advice:
    1) Stop your complaining and feeling bad, it will make you feel worse and I know this from my episodes with depression. Positive thinking and positive goals.
    2) Get a barber shave and haircut (can’t afford it, buzz cut and clean shave), a tailored/fitted suit (Navy/ Grey plain suit, white shirt, blue tie) Maintain hygiene. I don’t care if you need to get a loan, steal it, or call your dad.
    3) Realise your degree clock is ticking, in fact it’s gone you will need to find an entry level job.
    4) Pick another subject to do while you work AN AVERAGE JOB (labour if you must) because that’s what successful people do, they don’t sit on welfare. Also an employee can buy that you were unsure at first so you continued work and study but now you know.
    5) If you are getting interviews and being stepped over you are failing from impression. Practice speech, learn how to sell something and then apply that to selling yourself. Shake hands like a man and look them in the eye.
    6) Realise this key fact “the degree is worth nothing, the person is worth everything”. A degree means you can do the job and that’s great so can 1000 others.
    7) Go from A – B – C because that is a goal that is a plan. You went from A – C and gambled B and lost. Harsh luck but you should have worked and networked not only studied. I know 5 CEO’s and over 30 Directors from my interview process. I have received offers from everyone for employment.
    8) Earn your position, don’t expect it.
    I hope you take this as a wake up call I really do, sorry if it appeared harsh but you really need to pull your head out. It is pathetic and employers will smell it a mile away. Also delete this blog or at least this post a short background check will have this on there computer. Good luck, more importantly make your own luck.

    • Angela

      Thank you for commenting, I’m glad that you replied as I think it is good to have both sides of the argument here. First of all let me congratulate you on your own hard work and ability to make the most of the opportunities presented to you, I am sure that your success is well deserved. However, I would like to make a few points:

      I think if you read my post again carefully you will see that nowhere do I mention that I refuse to take a job which is ‘beneath me’, in fact I actually mention the minimum wage jobs I applied for without success. I have worked minimum wage jobs in the past, and I would do so again if necessary.

      Looking back I see that I wrote this post in June, and I have some news for you: at that time I was WORKING 9-5 in a temporary job that allowed me to save up and do the travelling which I wanted.

      I DID work while I was studying, during the summer at home in England.

      I chose to do English because this was a subject I loved and have a great passion for. No, I was not looking further ahead to career prospects when I selected this a degree, but even with the difficulty I have had finding employment I do not seriously regret my decision to study English in any way. I would never have chosen to study something I was not absolutely passionate about, even if the future financial rewards/career prospects were poor. I was fully committed to the subjects I studied and I will continue to reap the rewards (even if not financial) of this for the rest of my life. I worked extremely hard to get into a prestigious university and I believe that my time there was well spent and my choice of subjects was correct.

      It is true that at the moment i do not know which direction to take, but I’m increasingly learning about the things I DON’T want, even if it is trial by error. Is it a crime that I am clearly not so erudite in my career decisions as you appear to be? I believe that I WILL figure this out, and that I am still very young. Our experiences are different and what works for one person will not work for another. I do have life goals and beliefs and these are not tied to any particular career or salary figure.

      And finally, I will not be deleting my blog: I am proud of what I write and I know that it is of interest to others.

  10. torrentephotos

    Dear All, I’ll start by praising your deep thoughts, intense writing and willingness to share your thoughts and ideas, even if they don’t fit along with the others. Candor and the ability to share, two strong attributes. I arrived on this page because Angela spent some time on my work and I came to see and read and understand her and her thoughts.

    I finished my undergraduate studies in 1991. I got married in 1993. I got divorced in 1998. And in 2000 I dropped my corporate copywriting job and ended up volunteering in Mexico. Since that time, I’ve been traversing the world doing different jobs including portrait photography and English teaching in China.

    Developing cultural intelligence has been critical for my survival. Understanding different people – how they live and how they think – has brought me great opportunity. Seeing my life and my lifestyle as an ever evolving, organic being has been another way I’ve been able to keep living a minimalist and nomadic lifestyle. But one filled with freedom and creativity and good people. Flexibility has been another key element in my success. The world is so different from one place to the next. Learning how to live with and within the bounds of different cultures creates opportunity, friendship and cross cultural awareness.

    At 45 years old, I still haven’t figured out anything. But I don’t think there’s any particular thing to figure out. So long as I wake up most days happy with who I am and happy with what I’m doing, I’ve got everything I need.

    From here,


    • Angela

      Thank you for your reply!

      It’s a while since I wrote this post, and I still can’t claim to have ‘figured it out’. Recently I have been temping in an office again, but in less than a month I will be leaving to travel around South East Asia. Travel is something that I have prioritised since graduating as I believe it is time well spent and is always a wonderful learning experience – and I enjoy it of course.

      I’m starting to focus more on the opportunities I have at a particular moment, rather than comparing them to where I think I ‘should’ be. Right now I’m happy and grateful to be free to move around when I want without being pinned down.


      • torrentephotos

        Right on Angela. the only thing we should be, is happy. and each of us finds happiness in a different way. southeast asia is an intense and wonderful place. take the train from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet and then you can walk across the border to Poipet, Cambodia. Poipet is an insanely magical border town. From there, you can take a micro bus to Angkor Wat and check out the temples. The colors and people of Cambodia are beautiful. JT

  11. Pingback: Blog Mancunia | Too Late For Cake
  12. monikaisme

    Thank you for writing this post. I’ve just finished my life in tcd and the struggle is real. I refuse to move back home and am claiming benefit to be able to afford life and will have to try for rent supplemment as the benefit is very small and I can’t afford my rent. Job hunting is miserable and I wake up every day hating life and feeling miserable. Any advice on how to hunt down an interview?

    • Angela

      Hey! Wow, this was very much my position 4 years ago. I claimed benefits in Dublin after finishing TCD – which mostly got sucked up by rent, so I was desperately poor. I also applied for jobs every single day, I even had to go the the library every day to do this as I couldn’t afford internet at home! At the time I think things were economically still on the way down for Ireland, and for the North of England when I eventually gave up and moved home. I really empathise with you because this was probably one of the toughest times of my life . . . I guess it’s, uh, character building. Unfortunately I probably don’t have any advice that you haven’t already picked up from friends/the internet etc. Things are still pretty tough for young people, esp. the just graduated. But if you haven’t tried already: register with some temp agencies, they took me with no admin experience but since then I’ve gained a great a deal, think creatively – how could you utilise *any* skill or past experience? don’t rule any jobs out, even the retail/service type ones you probably had pre-degree, and most of all persevere . . . applying for jobs every day is tough, but you have too just keep going . . . it’s not easy, but you have to do it. I would also say that when I first finished TCD I was very stuck on Dublin and could not conceive a life somewhere else, but once the majority of my friends left and the poverty and daily job grind set in everything began to look different. I never thought I’d actually end up living in Berlin (and I’ve been in Amsterdam for 5 months now) so I would also say be open to other options and opportunities – think outside the box – have a look at what other people in your class are doing and see if anything looks vaguely feasible without much in the way of funds – you never know where ski season/cruise ship/au pair jobs might lead. Nothing is ever a wasted experience, good luck!

  13. LS

    Wow. I know this is an old post, but this is almost exactly where I find myself at the moment.

    It’s two years to the day since my last university exam, and a little less than that since I had to move back in with my parents in my hometown. I miss Wellington desperately, but just couldn’t afford to live there when I was unable to find a job of any description. In the last year ish I’ve had about 8 part time/casual jobs thrown at me (I’ve still never gotten any job I actually applied for, these are all things where someone I know has called me and told me to go see someone. Cleaning jobs, working in cafes, house sitting etc.) but nothing even remotely relevant to what I studied (which I LOVED). Now I feel stuck here because of the 3-4 part time jobs I have currently, and don’t know what to do about it. These people have all been so good to me, but it all feels very pointless to be doing minimum wage, dead end work in a town where I have a total of three actual friends.

    I suppose I’m just trying to say that I relate very much to what you’ve written here – the grief, the loneliness, the frustration of endless failed job applications, the aimlessness. And the insatiable travel bug which seems to have bitten most of our generation… Still working on that one! Flights are insanely expensive here. It’s been the most frustrating two years of my life so far, but I think that in the process I’ve done a fair bit of growing up and toughening up, hopefully without being too bitter about it all. 😛

    Nice to know someone else gets it, though. Hope things are looking up for you now!

    • Angela

      Hey! Several years after I wrote this post, I’m amazed that it continues to get comments – I guess I hit on things that a lot of people are feeling/going through. I bounced back home a couple of times after finishing university, but right now it seems that I’ve finally managed to carve out my own life elsewhere. If it helps – or just as an observation – these days it seems that virtually all of my friends have found stable full time jobs (although not all doing quite what they would like!) and have managed to move out on their own again. It’s now 4 YEARS since we finished, so I would say . . . it took a lot of time. There have been some definite plusses to such an unstable and frustrating time – the freedom to travel (between temp jobs/jobs that didn’t mean much), being able to save up while living at home, slowly learning that actually post-education life CAN be fun, being open to opportunities/odd life paths that wouldn’t have occurred to me before etc.
      As an update: I’m now living in Amsterdam where I’m working as a full time editor for an international media company, and I *still* don’t have anywhere near as many friends as university or as I would like. So . . . persevere!

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