You might have felt it by now. If you haven’t, trust me, you will soon.
It starts from the dark recesses of your brain, like an itch that you need to scratch. The more you think about it, the stronger your anxiety will become.
University feels like home — a cosy place you can navigate blindfolded. You know every corner — from where to get the cheapest food that’s worth your allowance to that corner where you and your friends love to hang out in. It is a safe space where you met your best friends, the friends you keep for life — the same ones you spent long hours studying or doing crazy adventures with.
But just like home, you have to leave it. And reality can smack you hard in the head.
While one of the happiest moments of your life is getting that certificate, proof that you’ve done your time learning at the university, in front of all your peers, you will remember that long walk back to your seat with a piece of the future in your head — ‘so now what?’
This question will stay with you, stewing, simmering inside your head until your first interview.
Welcome to adulting.
University days allowed you to experiment, to make mistakes and to learn from them. The reality of applying for a job and working, on the other hand, is a lot different.
My university days were a decade ago, but I still remember how ‘fish-out-of-the-water’ I felt days after my graduation. Nothing prepares you for what happens next.
I met a few of you. One of my most recent friends is graduating just like you. He is smart, best in his class and talking to his other classmates, they looked at him like a real MVP. If there’s someone they know who will have it easy finding a job, it’s him.
But on a chilly night in Al Jabal Al Akhdhar, he shared his struggles and concerns. He felt he didn’t have enough training, that he should have done more. His ambition was simple, to work for one of the big fours of the accounting industry and while armed with theories and knowledge from some of the best professors in the country, he still feels wanting. He still felt wanting despite being one of the best students his university produced.
There is no universal manual for life after university. Even the most successful ones, they have to navigate stormy waters to reach dry land.
Do you know what your worst enemy will be in the coming days? Your own insecurities.
One, two or three months into the job market looking for the right vacancy for you, it will dawn on you that while you were the big fish in a small pond, there is a big sea out there with bigger fishes. That you have to compete with 10 or 20 others, best in their class from other schools, for one job would add fuel to your insecurities.
I wish you’d land your first job easy — that you will find one on your first try. But if you don’t, understand that often, you have to create an opportunity for yourself.
It didn’t make sense then. ‘You are the captain of your fate,’ said my teacher echoing an even wiser author. You will have trouble understanding this too right now, but with time and experience, you will also know what I am on. It has to take time to sink in. What happens to our life, we have a say.
For four to five years, your university has been your world. I want to welcome you to a newer world. It may look scary, but it’s nothing you can’t conquer.
Do not succumb to your fears, to thoughts that you are never good enough. School was a stepping stone, and the next steps to success are up to you.
Spend some time deciding what you want to become. Trust me, there will be moments that you will end up going with the flow. I know a lot of artists who have to give up what they love because their passion didn’t pay the bills. I know a lot of my peers who ended up working in totally different fields. There is no shame in that. Experience is the greatest teacher and as you navigate your way into finding yourself and what you want to do for the rest of your life, know that things happen for a reason. And you have to work and fight for what you want. You might get derailed from where you wanted to be but know, you can find your way back. The anxiety you feel now is good. To worry is to be human. If you don’t know what to do right after graduation, know that you are not alone. But have a plan. Put them into action. If there’s a barricade in the way, figure out how you can triumph over them. I hope to see a resilient you who will stop at nothing to become your dream. May the odds ever be in your favour.