Who knows what life will be like after Graduation

Photo & Design by Emily Coxhead.

The thought of leaving university is definitely bittersweet.

What feels like a time that should be filled with so much excitement, happiness and joy is slowly starting to feel like a time that is the most daunting. It’s a moment where possibly the biggest changes in your life are about to take place. Maybe you’re off travelling, maybe you’re moving to a new city or maybe you’re starting a new job. Who knows what life will be like or where it will take you.

I came to uni because I didn’t know what else to do. It was all that was talked about as soon as I arrived at College, so it seemed like the right thing to do and the next step in my life. I chose a course in photography purely for the fact that I liked it, but no real aspirations beyond it, and I started at the University for the Creative Arts in September 14. Without any real thoughts about a career it was only in 2nd year, when we had to find work placement, that I realised I really needed to do some thinking and decision making. I never really considered that one day I would be out of education and actually have to get a real job. The thought of growing up and moving forward wasn’t the issue though, my problem was that I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I saw myself going.

Watching my brother and sister graduate, obtaining far more academic degrees than me, and successfully finding employment in progressive and stable careers – they made finding employment seem like a breeze.

Then here I am,  still in limbo. Constantly being asked that dread question, “so what are you doing after University?” Ask me this 3 years ago and I hadn’t even considered my career prospects. Ask me this today, tomorrow or next week and it’s not much better. I seem to just freeze when people ask me. All you get is a mumbled answer of jibber-jabber. “I’m not sure. I’ve looked at this, I’ve done some work experience in this, but I’m not sure”

As a little girl I grew up thinking I was going to be the next prima-ballerina, little did I know I’d grow up with horrific knee pains and have to stop dancing. But even as I got older I never let this pain stop me. I never let it stop me from achieving great things or doing well in something I loved. I used to believe I could do anything, be anything. But lately, the fear of finishing University and finalising in a degree which doesn’t  instantly lend itself to your ‘dream’ career, has become the most nerve-wracking moment in the life.

So what do we do about? I wrote down my interests and asked myself some basic questions (work alone or in a team? be your own boss? work in a company? live in a city? work in an office? work outdoors? work 9-5? go travelling? go part-time?) They are easy questions which soon find out what you like, what you don’t like, what you want and what you don’t want.

If you’re like me and simply looking for a part-time job upon leaving uni to increase the bank funds, just remember do not settle (long-term) for a job you don’t want, or something that ‘will do’.  It is easy to fall into a comfortable position within a role that’s not quite your full potential. All it takes is for you to work and work a little harder and plan and plan a little more. Whilst you’re working part-time you could be thinking about turning those dreams into something a little more than a glimpse of what could be. Turn them into a goal, break that goal down into a plan, a plan is backed then by the actions you take to make that dream a reality.

I believe that as long as you’re working towards something which genuinely motivates you and you’re driven by all its possibilities, then how can you not succeed. Enjoyment and happiness is essential, but the important thing to remember is that there is no need to panic, as all good things come with time – note to self.

I have dreams and I have ambitions. Whilst I might not have known 3 years ago, I do know what I want now. I know what I need to do in order to get there and I know how good I could be at it. But my lack of confidence for speaking up and being open with people simply falls into place again. I worry so much about what other people expect of me and what I should be doing to please them, that I push aside my own ideas and simply do and say what I feel is expected of me.

However, as a process of trying to out grow / overcome this inability, I thought the best way to start would be by putting my plans into action & actually starting generating the idea. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of the past 2 semesters at uni researching and thinking about setting up my own business. Now you’re probably thinking, oh she wants her own photography business. No, I most certainly do not – This has to be the hardest part of our degree. Making people realise that just because I took a degree in photography it does not mean I am going to be a photographer.  I have course mates who are looking for work within charity organisations, assisting, photo editing, magazine/publishing companies. gallery work etc. What seemed such a refined and limited degree at first, has really opened me up to so many doorways which I never considered before.

One being, my own independent business.

I always dreamt about having my own little space, with a pretty door and snazzy tiled floors, but never really put much thought into the idea until studying my degree. Over the past 3 year I have had the opportunity to exhibit my work in several exhibitions, work within a gallery space and visit numerous galleries and museums. Throughout this time however, I find it hard to ignore the struggle upcoming graduates suffer to get noticed in the public art sphere. I love to view practitioners work to experience and interpret the significant or elemental quality and likewise I want to create this opportunity for others (the customer), but also give graduates and arising artists a chance to show their work.

This is when the penny dropped. I am adamant one day I will have my own space (independent business) to celebrate and create a hive for illustrators, designers, makers and all creatives.  I want to be able to show what is happening in all the tiny studios across the country. And even possibly have a small space within the shop  which can be available to local schools or artists to exhibit work and collections – who knows! (this needs planning)

Now I know this doesn’t come easily, nothing worth waiting for comes easily. But I have  so much motivation and passion for this that I’m determined to make it a success. I’m already turning my dreams into a something a little more than a glimpse of what could be. I’ve turned it into a goal and I’ve broken that goal down into a plan, backing it by the actions I’m doing to make my dream a reality – 4 SIMPLE STEPS. 

My grandma always used to say their was never such a word as can’t and all it takes is turning your can’ts into cans and dreams into plans. We all have to start somewhere, and mine would be business planning.