Is My Degree Worthless?

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So this is an unscheduled post (read: rant…) that I have been debating writing for some time now, but today I have decided it’s time to get this off my chest because I am deeply unhappy.

As you may be aware, I graduated this summer with a 2:1 in BA (Hons) Graphic Communications from a good university with good employment ratings in a field where there are still a fair amount of jobs going despite the recession. And yet, here I am, almost five months later, having just been rejected for yet another design job and feeling incredibly frustrated, stressed and plain old fed up.

The process of finding a job has always been difficult. You have to find suitable vacancies, spend hours (often just on one application) filling out the application forms, etc. and then the real hardship begins. Some jobs send out almost instant rejections, making you question if they took a proper look at your application. This in my experience is usually from agencies. Others never get back to you at all. Sometimes, just sometimes, you get an interview. I have applied to at least twenty jobs for every interview I have had. And I don’t get as many as I’d like.

After the stress of preparing for, getting to and then doing the interview, comes the even more stressful waiting game. There is always dread, mixed with optimism. This optimism leads you to start to plan the new life you will have now that you have finally got the dream job, the other part of you tries to ignore these day dreams as they make it so much worse when the rejection comes. But you have to dream, you have to plan, because if the job is a reasonable distance away, (which for me, they almost always are as where I live has almost no design jobs going) you have to be prepared to answer questions about what you would do if you were offered the job there. They want to see that you are committed enough to move or commute.

The rejection inevitably leaves you doubting both yourself and your abilities. The smart thing to do, which I always do, is to ask for feed back to see what you can do to improve your chances of finding a job in the future. I haven’t yet received the feedback from this interview, but up until the one before that, no-one actually gave me any constructive criticism. They would tell me that they liked me and that they liked my work, but that they thought someone else was slightly better suited. The previous interviewer told me that it came down to me and one other girl, who they chose because of her software skills. After reflecting on this, I realised I had been extremely critical of my software skills and had been putting myself down.

With design interviews there is often a practical task element to test these skills and at this particular interview, the task had been very suited to me and I completed it in the set time and was complimented on what I produced. I didn’t lack the skills or I wouldn’t have done it so well. That meant one of two things; either she had a lot more experience with software or the way I spoke about my skills put me out of the running. As I have no way of finding out her software capabilities, I decided to really focus on building my confidence in the way I spoke about these skills. Afterall I can do it, I can do the job role and I have the degree to prove it. The realisation that at uni friends would regularly come to me asking for software help gave me the confidence to speak more highly of these skills in my most recent interview, but still it seems I am not good enough.

If it is this hard to find a job, despite having worked my arse off to get a good grade, is my degree worthless?

Overall, I don’t think it is, but if you compare it to experience then it seems to count for nothing. I am currently working part time in retail for a very well known company in a job I got quite easily despite the most gruelling interview process I have ever experienced, because of my employment history. I had proven I had the required skills and had the confidence to speak highly about them because they had been tried and tested in some fairly challenging job roles for some big name companies and in on, I had even been promoted and given a position of responsibility. Some of these skills and experiences are transferrable to the job I want to be doing, but it’s that well known issue of lack of experience makes it hard to get experience.

That’s not to say, that I haven’t done work experience in the design world, because I have done a two week placement at a magazine where I learnt a lot in a short space of time. Plus some of my work from that has been published in the magazine, which is so cool! This is one of the things that keeps me going. Someone has previously given me a small chance and the sense of accomplishment I got from seeing my work published was incredible and if I did it once why can’t I do it again? Maybe I should try and get more experience or do some freelance work, but it’s not like I haven’t tried to do both of those too.

Right now, I am deeply unhappy with my life. I feel stuck. I feel like everyone else is living their lives and that I’m here, back living with my parents, working a job I don’t want to do and generally not doing much worth talking about, just waiting for my life to happen. I question every ‘big’ decision I have made over the past few months over and over again. Should I have moved back to MK when I knew there weren’t any jobs going in my field here? Should I have started working? Does that look like I’m doing something with my time or like I’ve given up? Should I quit my job to be able to start working somewhere with less notice? Would quitting make me more motivated to do more applications? How many applications should I be doing each week? The list goes on.

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I have had some really positive feedback from other interviews and my hard work has before paid off and gotten me published and a nice certificate, but the whole process is a constant emotional roller coaster, which is mentally exhausting. On top of that, I am the last one from my friendship group to get myself a graduate job, which is hard to deal with. I am happy for them and they do deserve their success, but I can’t help but feel envious whenever I see someone else has landed the dream job.

In the end though, the only thing I can do is keep trying and hope that one day my determination and dedication pays off. There are still jobs out there, so there is still hope. Who knows, maybe the next interview will be the right fit for me? But tonight, I am going to wallow in self-pity whilst catching up on some TV. Then tomorrow, I am going to get up and do some more applications.

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38 responses to “Is My Degree Worthless?

  1. I have had many a day just like that. Living in the middle of nowhere in Leicestershire is not going to get me a job that I want, and I’ve decided that working in this industry is not what I want to do. I don’t like the lifestyle, I don’t like the people, and I don’t like the person you have to be to be a part of the industry. However I still don’t think three years of uni (and £30k of debt) was completely worthless. I have a job that I enjoy – even if it is only until december – a job that pre-uni Becca wouldn’t have even applied for because I wouldn’t have thought i’d even had a chance. Now it’s time to start over and decide what I want to do with the rest of my life. Which, when you’re 21 and all your other uni friends are doing something with their degree, is not the easiest thing in the world. So I feel your pain, girl. We can do this! Best of luck for everything, and never give up <3

    Liked by 1 person

    • Having worked in retail/customer services at different places since I was 16, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone (aside from maybe the management) who ever actually wanted a career in retail, it just seems to be something that people end up doing. And I do not want to be doing it anymore. my manager keeps asking me why I don’t want to be doing full time hours ‘like everyone else’ but it’s just not where my heart lies. I do it, and I try to be good at it, but I would work so much harder doing design work, as I enjoy it so much and it’s something I decided I wanted to do when I was 17. So far, I’ve made it past a lot of hurdles (a levels, degree, etc) but this last step is a big one. I just hope I get there soon, as I really can’t bear the thought of working another christmas in retail. x

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      • I know exactly what you mean – I do love my job (in retail) but I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life. I just need to find out what it is I do want to do, and for the most part when I really think about it, I just feel like I have no point to my life – no direction, no career goals, no nothing. And that’s really hard. At least you know what it is you want, and since you have come so far already you must keep going. If it’s what you want you should never give up on your dream. x

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      • It’s difficult to have to choose a career so young, but I’d say you just need to find something you enjoy. Whether you like talking to people or organising things or something more creative and then find a job that satisfies that. Design does that for me and you’re right I can’t give up on it, I’ve just got to keep going x

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      • It really is! we’re expected to make all these decisions about how our life plays out – yet we’ve barely led a life to be able to really make these decisions. Sounds like good advice to me! Thanks :P
        I’m sure you’ll get where you want to be one day! :D

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      • Thanks, hopefully you’ll figure out where you want to be soon & get there quickly too :) x

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hope so too! :P x

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  2. Don’t beat yourself up about it! Best thing to do is keep at it, find some volunteer work if you can in your free time so it shows that your really passionate about graphics and it’s what you want to do. There is always that chance that there is gonna be someone with more experience, but one day it’s gonna be you they pick over the newbie!

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    • It’s hard not to! When you’re truly passionate about something, you put a lot more of yourself into in and that makes the setbacks so much more painful. I know this whole experience has made me better at interviews, so that can only help. You’re right though, I just need to stick at it and maybe I should try and find somewhere within a reasonable distance that I could go and get some work done even as a volunteer because the experience still helps x

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      • Maybe contact local charities? Local news papers?

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      • That’s a good idea, I’ll have to take a lot into it in the morning :) x

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      • Or even start up companies! I dunno how you would find one of them though lol. If it’s what you want to do, don’t give up on it. Your time will come!

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      • I’ve been trying to get some freelance started, but I don’t really know people who own their own business. I’ve been trying to get something through my hairdresser, but its been months and they haven’t replied to my messages or contacted me at all. I did some quick work for a uni society my brother is a part of and I’m working on some invite designs for my parents’ birthday party, but I’d like to be doing more! x

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      • Try Gumtree. I’ve just looked and there are adverts for designers to volunteer to make logos etc from home.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sorry! This sounds like a rough time :0( Hang in there. I know five months feels like forever, but maybe something’s right around the corner. Are you able to apply is some bigger cities? You mentioned maybe it was a misstep to move back home.

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    • I know, its just hard to stay positive at times. Where I live has pretty good links to London, Oxford and Birmingham and I’ve been applying to jobs too all of them as well as places like Manchester because my uncle lives up there and I like big cities, so I’m happy to move. Most of my interviews have been outside where I live.
      Moving back home was the right choice financially, but I felt like I had to compromise somewhere x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I can understand where you’re coming from, it is really hard in design as there’s so much extra work in pulling your portfolio together, luckily I’ve only applied for jobs I’ve been interested in and got them, bar one where they got me to do a load of work, didn’t give me the job as I had “no leadership experience” but have still used my ideas and other suggestions I made since. I do have an idea of somewhere you could contact not too far from MK, if you’re interested I can drop you an email with more info x

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  5. I know how tough it is, I can definitely relate. What I did when I was looking for a job in a new industry that I had very little experience in, is make a list of everyone who I wanted to work with and then I just started trying to contact them. After a bit it worked! Someone offered me a job.
    xo
    styleontheside.com

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    • Just seen your comment! Sorry for the slow reply.
      Good advice to contact people directly! I have done that before, but not for over a month so I’ll try contacting them again. Hopefully persistence will show how much I want it!x

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  6. Exactly how I felt after I left uni…
    Clare’s right, try and get more volunteer/unpaid experience under your belt, it does show how passionate you are to employers whilst also allows you to pick up experience/potential jobs.
    I’m a journalism graduate and I got rejected a lot from my own local newspaper! Since then, I’ve been traveling and picked up a few unpaid, one paid, writing jobs. I applied for the my local newspaper again recently and they want me to come in for a week to see how it goes, in terms of ‘getting my foot in the door’ it feels like I’ve got my whole bloody leg in!
    It’s graphics you’re into right? Maybe put an ad up on gumtree, or wherever, say you’re a Design grad and if anyone wants work done you’re willing to do it for free, build up a portfolio and more importantly keep at it!
    Many, many people have degrees now, it’s not about getting a degree to get your dream job, it’s about how you’re using it and how you’re getting to the next step. Don’t see a degree as an end – see it as a beginning and something you can build upon!
    And, one more thing, if you easily got a dream job after just graduating then you wouldn’t truly appreciate it if you got it now.
    I hope this hasn’t came across harsh, it’s hard out there, it really is – it’s driven me to despair plenty of times and still does some days! haha. Life doesn’t start right away after uni, it certainly didn’t to me, just enjoy your work for now and it’ll come!
    (You’ve done pretty well already by coming down to the last two!) xx

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