Here’s a picture of me a few minutes before graduating with a Masters in Professional Acting.
My face says it all, really.
You figured out your modules, you dodged the lectures you could afford to miss, you grew an encyclopaedic knowledge of the works of Foucault and the sandwich selection at the canteen, you bluffed your way through seminars, and you claimed victory over many a power socket in the library during exam period. Now you’re wearing a silly hat and Dementor robes, ready to walk up to some bloke you’ve never met who’s going to give you a scroll of parchment with Latin gibberish and oh look, your full name on it. How the hell did they know your middle name was Russell?
There are many cumbersome ways to classify a graduate, and Dustin Hoffman’s not one of them. You’re either one of the lucky ones who are set for life because they studied accountancy, medicine, law, or IT, and then there are the others… who are dreading the unknown as they binge on the canapes at the after-party.
I come from a generation that was fed the lie that if you go to university, you’ll automatically make buckets of cash in no less than six months, or, if you’re a woman, you should go to university to nab a smart husband (shudder). But I promised myself I won’t be negative in this article, so leaving aside my bitter ruminations, here’s some advice from one graduate to another:
Be proud – Firstly, well done. You’ve come this far and you’ve seen it through. You’re a little older and wiser, and I sincerely hope you were allowed to study in a field that you’re genuinely passionate about. I hope you make waves in your area of expertise. I hope you unveil new discoveries and make the world a better and richer place with your endeavours and break-throughs.
Stay strong – We live in a job-saturated, nepotistic and economically precarious world. It’s cut-throat out there, and everyone’s fighting for a position, fighting for their bread and butter. But please please please, do not lose heart. Know your worth and keep fighting. Gun out fifteen CVs a day, religiously check your cover letters, and keep your finger on the pulse. You’ll make it work, one way or another.
Keep learning – It’ll probably sink you deeper into more debt, but hey, in for a penny, in for a pound. A lot of students are seeking refuge in postgraduate and PhD courses to either avoid having to think about full time employment or in the hope of increasing their value in the job market. The trouble is, you’ll potentially overprice yourself out of it by doing so.
But so what?! Once you do land a good position, you can say you worked your screws off for it, and you can be sure that your tertiary education will come in handy in some form or other. It’s only now, two years after graduating, that I’m realising how much my education helped me grow not just as an artist, but also as a worker and an individual. Keeping yourself on a student budget disciplines you for the future. It teaches you the value of money. A lot of courses also train you in the art of diplomacy and time management, assets which will shine during interviews and work placements.
Work other jobs – Having a diversity of work placements in your CV will show employers that you’re a productive individual. You didn’t just sit around waiting for your dream job. You went out there and acquired a range of skills and life experiences. So yes, you might have to do the odd teaching stint or a few night shifts at the bar, but it means that money’s coming in and you’ve got something else to add to your résumé.
Make yourself known – Unfortunately, our graduate and internship scheme culture in Malta is still in its early stages, so we have to go on the hunt ourselves during and after our studies. Put yourself out there, even if it might mean having to work for nothing or peanuts. Look up companies that you aspire to work for and send them a letter showing your interest.
Don’t take crap – The older you get, the more you’ll learn to stop yourself from being taken advantage of. Yes, you’ll have to make a lot of sacrifices and endure some dire work conditions in the first few years, but that’s part of the journey, and for the sake of that measly pay cheque, you’ll have to bow your head a couple of times. You can learn quite a few things from your suffering; you’ll probably be enlightened to become a more reasonable boss in the future, and you’ll learn more about your rights as a worker. But do know what’s acceptable and what isn’t in the workplace, and when you can, get out of that situation and move on to the next adventure.
Be responsible – If you furthered your studies beyond an undergraduate level, chances are you had to take out a ruthless student loan, which will rid you of all your earnings for the next ten years. This is where you leave behind your carefree teens and early twenties and become an adult. This is when you’re at the mercy of the bank, so get thrifty unless you want to have your parents’ house repossessed.
Good luck everyone. You’ll do just fine.