Graduation is a big deal. Well it was for me and my family anyway.
I would say I followed a pretty standard path in life so far. I'd even go as far as saying I did everything I was advised to do, what was 'ideal' for my future. I come from a very working class background, went to a comprehensive school, managed to get (pretty much) straight A's, did a foundation year at college to figure out the path I wanted to do in the Arts and finally landed myself at University. I think I can confidently say that following that I did pretty well. I found myself, (not in a cheesy way I mean in a look this is the kind of work I want to make now kind of way), juggled uni with a (very) late night bartending job and surprisingly bagged myself a first class degree. That's not to say I didn't work hard. Future employers please note: I work very hard, promise! But then I thought, what now?
I suppose there's a beauty in this stage of your life, you could go out and do whatever you want. In theory anyway. I had friends with internships and graduate jobs lined up, but I found myself getting a bit lost. Time and space is so valuable, I think that's something we forget all the time. I have no shame in saying I along with many graduates have moved back home, back in with my parents to try and save some money. I do think finances is something many avoid talking about, I think the art world can be elitist and the reality is not many can afford to work unpaid internships for the experience. I intend to keep a roof over my head and the goal for me is to be fully independent, my skills are valuable and I can and will be paid for them along the way. Anyway, that's a whole other topic to get into another time, what I was trying to say is it's okay to not know your next step. Take some time for yourself, that's something that has taken me years to realise.
I suppose leaving university I felt a little unprepared. Some people blame the universities for that. But you want the truth? There's no one track way to success in the creative industry anymore. There's no one track way to that freelancing illustration career of your dreams. Everyone is so different and appeal with such different skills and qualities, so I guess it makes sense that the industry doesn't work that way. I recently applied for a job working in graphic design at a TV studio, it was a lead designer role (I wasn't aware of that at the time and in all honesty was a little out of my depth), against all odds I got shortlisted to the final two candidates, but didn't get it in the end. How did I feel at the time? Pretty crappy. How do I feel about it now? I'm glad, because I don't think it was the ideal job for me, my skill set and I will be valued more elsewhere.
My advice to recent graduates? You do you. Yes the climate and job industry is hard, yes it's competitive but the beauty of it is there are so many route you can follow, follow your own. Figure out your own path and whatever works best for you. I personally believe that as long as you're still doing something and putting stuff out there then that's a step in the right direction. I may not have a tonne of professional experience (yet), but I'm still making things happen. Make yourself an active part of a community, whatever your interest might be. Take part in events, meet new people, surround yourself with positive creative people and you'll stay motivated in no time.
Life isn't a race.