What I’ve learnt during my first year out in the real world

Over the past few weeks, and months really, I’ve seen a stream of graduation photos across social media. Recently, I also got a “On This Day” notification from Facebook, featuring photos from my when I graduated with a 2:1 in Journalism last year.

They do say that time flies when you’re having fun, but the more pessimistic version of me realises the harsh reality that life isn’t as long as it seemed as a child. A lot has happened over the past year and I have found myself reflecting on my life in recent weeks.

Here is what I have realised in the months since graduating

1. I appreciate my time more

During my days at uni I would often sleep in, crawl in to lectures just in time and spend a lot of my days doing nothing. To me, this seemed like a great way to spend my time. I was tired (and probably hungover), I had to work in the evenings so I had money and so I figured staying in bed binge watching Netflix was a suitable option.

In retrospect, with all of that free time I should have been out enjoying the beautiful and vibrant city that I called home. After being in an office 9-5 and a half an hour journey in the car each way to the office, I have come to appreciate the joys of being more active and discovering new places – I now make more of a conscious effort to make the most of my weekends and evenings if I can!

2. Working life is tough but rewarding

This is quite an obvious one, but nevertheless is something I have been reflecting on. I started my first job at Clarks 3 days after my 16th birthday and have worked ever since. During my first year and a half of uni I had two jobs and Sundays were my only full free day and since leaving uni I have had two industry-based jobs.

Whilst I enjoyed working at Clarks, the Claycutters Arms and David Lloyd because of the social side of things, I never considered them as rewarding or motivational as such. I was working to earn money because I didn’t have the privilege of rich parents.

My first job after graduation was a huge let down in terms of the people, the job role and the company as a whole. I never felt that I was getting anything out of it financially, emotionally or career wise – every day felt like a losing battle.

Now, after finding a new position in a small business, I have realised that in the right position working can be more than just being able to afford food. I love Varn, I enjoy the work I do and I get on well with the people I work with.

Earlier this week I spent 3 nights plus a bit of my Sunday restarting a training presentation for a client after all of the content was lost on my water damaged laptop. I stayed up until 11:30pm for those three nights, desperately trying to get back on track.

The client was pleased with my training, my boss was pleased that our long-term client left the meeting feeling that I had delivered the service required and payed for.

Days like that are tough, days when I don’t feel 100% are tough – but I enjoy and embrace those tough moments because I know I will be rewarded.

I am just entering my sixth month here, and already my manager has discussed the opportunities for growth in the future. Amongst all the goofing around with nerf guns and the quarterly staff days out, I also know that if I continue work hard I will be rewarded with the support to grow not only in myself but in my career.

3. Saving isn’t as hard as I thought it would be

Admittedly, saving can sometimes seem like a mammoth challenge, especially if you are trying to save a minimum of £10,000 for a mortgage deposit. Everyone has their own outgoings and their own struggles, but after being realistic with myself I realised it doesn’t have to be a struggle.

My brother, a mortgage advisor, continually pestered me when I graduated. He told me to save, save, save and to make sure I save atleast £500 a month.

Now, my salary isn’t awful by any means for my experience level, but I soon realised that £500 was completely unrealistic when I have a car to run and food to buy. After panicking about how I could possibly save and Googling saving tips, I came across the ‘jam jar’ method of saving.

It suggests that you take your money for the month and separate it in to jam jars (or just remember what you allocate in your bank account) for different outgoings (bills, fun, savings, etc). I then found this one site that suggested that you should have 50% for bills, food and petrol, 25% for savings, 10% for fun, 10% for education (books, films, classes) and 5% for charity.

I slightly edited this and split it 55% for bills, food and petrol, 25% for savings, 10% for fun and 10% for education and this has helped me massively! I now know my limits of what I can spend and it helps me set aside a good chunk for my mortgage fund each month.

4. Follow your heart and let the rest follow is my new motto

I wouldn’t be in my current job If I hadn’t of listened to myself and quit my previous position and I wouldn’t have met my boyfriend, Scott, if I hadn’t of given him my number on a napkin when he was waiting our table two months ago.

I have started listening to myself more. Call it gut feeling, instinct or following your heart – but regardless, it has led me to two great things this year so I am going to do it more often in the future.

5. I am the most content I have ever been

People say that school is the best time of your life, others say that university is the best time. But right now, this is the most content I have been in a very long time and possibly the best period so far.

School was great, you have more ‘friends’ then, you get up to mischief and you start developing your own personality. The only thing is, you are also fighting to fit in, pass exams and try and please others and mental health problems in schools is rocketing.

University allowed me to be myself and to start adulthood properly without constraints. I learnt skills and I got downtime – but I also suffered through two years of depression, which wasn’t detrimental but it was tough nonetheless.

Over the past 12 months, I have shaped myself. I have continued working to keep depression at bay, I have done more of what I love, I have focused on having me time, I have travelled solo. I have pushed myself to exercise more, see the people I love more, to blog more, to work harder and to learn more.

Because of that I have realised that I am the most content now than ever. As well as having the continued support from my closest friends, I have found love and I have found new happiness in myself and in life.


The past 12 months since graduation have been a whirlwind and a learning curve – but bring on the next 12.


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