Life after graduation – the journey since December 14, 2011

It’s like you’re studying forever, then suddenly you look like you are being inducted into Gryffindor, before a strange person in a funny shaped hat announces your name and your degree title… You have suddenly graduated from university. What an amazing feeling it is. Despite regaining some time to watch television without feeling guilty, it is a feeling that keeps you wondering what’s next. I didn’t exactly know what that would be for me, and I was entirely ready to find out either.

I graduated on December 14, 2011. However, I completed my studies exactly one month before that. Even though I had not received my marks for my last pieces of assessment, I already knew that I was heading straight to graduation feeling quietly confident in the assessment I submitted. Many of my friends had grandiose plans to travel after graduation, but I already had done that in June and July travelling across Europe. While my bank account would have been crippled if I had travelled to South America, or somewhere else, there was enough money in the kitty to send me down to Sydney. Still on a high after graduating the day before, I boarded a 5am flight to Sydney ready to see what I could find, while also seeing what Sydney could find in me.

My capstone unit in my Business degree was Personal and Professional Development. I learnt a lot in this unit about self-awareness and recognising areas which you can develop in yourself. I knew that I did not have any human resource consultancy experience, or enough experience in reporting – only what I had reported on during my studies. I was keen to improve on this in Australia’s biggest city. I worked on my key contacts down in Sydney and before I knew it I was working for one of the world’s largest hospitality and events management companies, in a pretty sweet temporary human resources role. This role gave me a bit more of an edge, but also a chance to test out another area of the human resources industry. I did this for almost one month before returning back to Brisbane. I knew my return meant I had to make up my mind with regards to employment.

When I returned I received a very strange call from the State Emergency Service who became aware of my experience in volunteer coordination with a project I founded the QUT Big Lift (www.qutbiglift.org). They had also mentioned seeing my profile on LinkedIn (has anyone received employment out of LinkedIn?). In a bittersweet role where you are only needed during natural disasters or extreme weather events, your mind is forced into this awkward paradigm where you anticipate bad weather to sustain your employment. So I was back earning money thanks to a summer of sunshine, or lack thereof. I also remained engaged as an active Alumni member of the community seeking to strengthen the very project that got me the gig at SES, the QUT Big Lift. Additionally, I volunteered for a number of other organisations, and scored an executive position on the board of Optiminds Queensland.

Since throwing the mortarboard (that’s the name of that funny little graduation hat), I applied for something like 128 jobs. There was a point where I felt that doing job interviews was my full-time job. The graduate market is inherently tough, and it can make or break your motivation to the point in which you feel like you never did enough, or were not smart enough. I applied for the lamest of jobs, and was deemed over qualified, but when applying for graduate roles was told I never had enough experience. All my personal adversities that inspired me to attain my degree were not going to exhaust now that I was out of university. There were a few companies that I really admired, and was keen on them getting a piece of Michael Attard. But how on earth would I entertain them… In a competitive graduate market, how the hell could I get the spotlight on me? I was even tempted to do the whole Elle Woods (Legally Blonde) scented paper resumes. I soon realised this was almost impossible given every application process, or jobs portal is online dammit!

I guess the challenge is the fact we live in a globally competitive market. When you graduate from your degree, your high school, your TAFE course whatever, what makes you different to everyone else who completed the same degree as you. Degrees are simply not enough. I knew this which is why I worked full-time and studied full-time throughout the most of my degree, yet my experience often deemed my over qualified.

Now I am employed with a company that I have admired for a long time, and sought employment within for several months. I made it; but I waited. I was offered a total of six jobs straight out of graduation, two in Sydney, one outside of Alice Springs, one with the Queensland Government, and two very mundane jobs. I know beggars cannot be choosers, but I needed to identify with the job, with my role, and with the company. It is important for graduates not to accept the first job that comes their way. Think long and hard whether or not you will be working with the company for the long term, or if you get offered another position you will just get up and leave and risk damaging your reputation when that employer is asked to provide a character reference.

By the same token, in Australia we are quite young graduates. For me I graduated as a 21 year old, I am the President of the QUT Big Lift an organisation that will continue a legacy myself and an amazing team began in 2010, I have had some pretty sweet jobs in my time, but I am only 21. We have the rest of our lives to grow old, so don’t let the graduate market tell you that you have passed your ‘used by date’. Live your life, and seek happiness, not an income. If you can find a happy medium of the two, then so be it. I am proud of where my journey has taken me, and where it will continue to lead me. From growing up in a museum of words and symbols of discouragement, I now live in a gallery of awards and achievements with my name on them.

4 responses

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  1. Avatar
    Sarah

    Michael! I loved reading your blogs and this one was no exception. Your writing is so inspiring and yet down-to-earth and funny. I really liked your point: Live your life, and seek happiness, not an income.
    All the best with your new job and future endeavours!

  2. Avatar
    Christopher

    Have a good night.

  3. Avatar
    Robin Price

    Michael, it was great to read your blog and fantastic to read that you have a grad job you are happy with. Congratulations and all the best on behalf of the HR major teaching staff.

  4. Avatar
    Tamas

    Michael, congratulations on your success straight out of graduation. However, I feel I must point out that you are a special case. My friends and I graduated over a year ago with over 200 hours experience in our field and our secondary majors. Despite having the good grades and the experience, the seven of us did not even receive one job offer after graduation, let alone six! It is important for undergrads to know my experience so they don’t look at your situation as the norm. I didn’t receive my first job interview until 7 months after graduation (which I luckily scored) and most of my friends are still just getting their foot in the door. Unfortunately, there is still some stigma in the workforce which will judge you by the title of your degree rather than your ability and experience. Mix this with a little competition from the other thousand graduates in your area and you have a cocktail of disappointment, ego bashing and frustration. It is how you handle yourself through this period that determines your readiness to become an adult in the real world. The perfect job or organisation isn’t going to come your way, you need to work your way there. I must admit, my version of life after graduation isn’t as ideal as yours but it is more realistic.

    Graduates, take any opportunity you can, whether volunteer or a mundane job in government because this opens doors and will expose you to skills and pathways that you may not have gained if you sat around waiting.

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