Handling the ‘what’s next?’ question

Hello! Tell us a bit about yourself – what has been your work or university experience?

Lara: I went to the University of Sussex to study Journalism and graduated in 2020. Since then, I’ve interned at my church in the Communications department. This involved theology training, running their social media and helping the team with online church services. After that, I freelanced as a videographer and video editor, assisting clients in sharing and telling stories in tech, finance and the arts. Check that out here!

Anna: I studied International Development with a pathway in Arabic at the University of Sussex. I then did the Charity Works graduate scheme and worked in Christian Aid in campaigns before moving to Tearfund. I always hoped to go down the international NGO route but never expected to so soon. Or to work with youth or have a creative role as I now produce the Together podcast.

Adam: So, to throw the ‘cat amongst the pigeons’, I never went to uni (sorry Dad). Instead, after leaving Sixth Form in 2016, I was a self-employed videographer, an apprentice at a major technology company and finally part of the digital team at We Are Tearfund. It was definitely the expectation that I would go to university, and I was all signed up for it. Still, I ultimately decided it wasn’t for me – it’s not for everyone.

What would you say have been the most significant challenges since leaving university?

Lara: The biggest challenge for me was figuring out what I wanted to do next. When you finish university, there are so many options, which can be quite overwhelming. In realising I don’t have to have my life all planned out, and instead, I can choose to have faith for the next step, I found the pressure lifted. 

Anna: Not many of my friends had started working full-time when I graduated, whether that be church internships, studying or being unemployed (thank you covid-19). So I felt less supported in a new stage of life (especially in moving to London and moving houses three times and churches four). I also was aware of losing out on connections by working from home and, with graduation cancelled, a lack of closure from university. 

Adam: The biggest challenge has been working out what I want to do. There was a big difference between the final years of school with varied subjects and free periods versus a workplace where the work can be the same thing all day, 9-5. Finding a role that you can do day-in-day-out that still allows you to have a life outside of work is challenging but rewarding.

What have been your favourite parts of working life?

Lara: I’ve loved meeting new people and connecting with local creatives again after the lockdowns. It’s been great to support each other and bounce new ideas around. I’ve also enjoyed the flexibility and variation between projects when freelancing. I’ve learnt a lot about industries I’d never considered before.

Anna: I have so much more purpose. I don’t work well with setting my deadlines, and I procrastinated on many essays at university. Working life has been a great affirmation of your strengths and skills, with many opportunities to grow and learn new things – and meet new people! Rather than my degree being theoretical, I can put into practice what I’ve learned and register the impact my work makes. 

Adam: Getting to do stuff I’m good at and learning new skills that help me do a better job. While not the worst student in the world, I was NOT good at writing essays or sitting exams. Luckily, nothing like that exists (in my line of work). So I prove myself through my practical work rather than through a score on a test.

What do you wish you had known about the transition? 

Lara: I wish I’d known that it’s okay to do something different to a traditional route. You can sometimes feel like you are left behind when everyone seems to be getting graduate jobs, but you go to volunteer for your church or start a business or take a break between uni and work. Trust that God might have something else planned for you. Trust Him in the process when it feels like doors might be closed.

Anna: Things take time. I cannot overstate this enough – you will not be CEO material on day one of your job. It takes a while (even years) to build healthy new rhythms and a new community. Your capacity will decrease as you’re concentrating at work. But we also can’t rush the process. In transition, God is doing so much transforming, empowering and healing behind the scenes. Silence that inner critic! 

Adam: This will be encouraging or discouraging, depending on your experience. Generally, I’ve found that most people don’t pay much attention to your qualifications, which school/university you attended or what grades you achieved. One of my fears about not going to university was that my not very impressive A-level results would hold me back in the future. However, my results have never been commented on so far. 

What would be your practical tips for people now entering work? 

Lara: Stay connected with friends. When entering work, people get busy, and it can be easy to compromise on your close friendships. Keep investing in them, even if it’s just a few texts, a call or a monthly catch-up.

Keep learning. When you remain teachable, you’re open to more opportunities. Join any courses or workshops that might help run your business or add to your skillset.

Anna: It takes up to six months to feel settled in a new role. Do joyful things on the weekends, so you don’t feel you live to work and carve out time to rest. Sabbath well, you need it! 

I actively push myself out of my comfort zone. Still, since being through so much transition – socially, spiritually and logistically – it’s been essential to maintain strong friendships with those who remind you of God’s purposes behind it all. 

Adam: Having a mentor or guide in your early career is helpful, but be conscious of how you see your value. It depends on the workplace you’re in and the level of training you need. Still, I’d encourage everyone not to feel less valuable just because they’re younger. Especially in big offices (and even more so if you didn’t go to university), people can feel the need to patronise or shelter you from the realities of work. 

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