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From University to the World of Work

By: Tomiwa Folorunso

June 2017.

I was sitting in a park in London with my best friend, the day after the second interview for a graduate job that I had my heart and soul set on when I found out my degree classification. A 2:1 in History from the University of Edinburgh. Relief, I shrieked, cried, called both of my parents who obviously didn’t answer and then cried again as the tension that I had held in my shoulders for the best part of two years disappeared. My four years at university had been ups and downs to say the least. Two years on I’m still unsure if I picked the right university or degree and I’m also not sure if the cost, not the financial one, the other costs, were worth it. So that moment that I saw my degree classification, I wasn’t just proud of myself, I was happy to put my time at university firmly behind me.

August 2017.

I woke up, checked my phone and read the email that said I had not got the job I had interviewed for in London. I cried, my mum came home from work to cuddle me and wipe my tears. I got into the shower and interviewed for two other jobs. There is nothing like a bit of rejection to make you work harder. I got both the jobs, one was temporary, just for the month of August working for a theatre company I had long admired and the second was a one-year 14 hours a week internship.  

I thoroughly enjoyed working with Stellar Quines, but hindsight is lovely, and I realise that I probably was not actually in the right mental place to undertake the job. I rushed into it and looking back I kick myself because I could have not only given more but also gained more from that opportunity. I was young, I was nervous, and I was dealing with the transition of moving back in with my mum and brother, losing my support network and sounding boards of close friends that I was used to seeing on a daily basis and still trying to hold onto my independence. My first piece of advice, do not rush. If you are not good, you cannot be good for anyone else, take care of your mental health especially during moments of transition.

September 2017.

My temp role finished, I took a week off, went to Croatia and London, got a tan and came back excited to start my internship. I had a unique opportunity where I was working in a very small team, in an organisation that was going through a lot of transitions and so I had some wonderful opportunities.

I sat in strategic board meetings and around tables with some of the most powerful women in Scotland’s third sector. I worked with people who challenged my thinking and also taught me a lot, I went to Budapest and some rogue parts of Scotland I had never heard of before – I’m a central belt gal! I remember sitting on a train off to facilitate a workshop at a conference and although slightly terrified, super excited to be pushed out of my comfort zone. I learnt so much but that was because I was prepared to get my hands dirty, ask questions and say yes to opportunities.

I also learnt some pretty harsh realities that year, it was a low moment sitting in Brussels airport with laryngitis, a broken phone screen unable to talk or breathe. A result of not having a day off for 20 days. Boundaries are important, make them, and stick to them.

August 2018 – present

When I was at university, I was very good at just ‘doing my thing’. I didn’t feel the pressure to apply for this job or do this programme or whatever. But for my first year after uni, I felt the pressure, like I was not doing things fast enough, wanting to copy other peoples ideas because I did not have confidence in my own. So my last piece of advice or tip or whatever is talk to and take advantage of the people you meet, listen to podcasts, think about what you do like and almost more importantly what you really do not like and most importantly, trust your gut, you will get where you want to be and where you should be, in your own time.

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