Graduate Blog

Remaining Pro-active Despite Soaring Underemployment Figures

writing writer letter

A recent study conducted by the New Economics Foundation, commissioned by the National Union of Students (NUS), that claims that many Graduates are forced to work in jobs they are technically over-qualified for, with underemployment figures soaring from 2.3 million in 2008, to 3.3 million today.

So it’s not just me then. Good.

However, far more troubling statistics follow, which shows that 25% of underemployed Graduates are still in the same position a whole three and a half years later.

At least another 2 years and 9 months to go then. Or potentially, the rest of my life until I’m dead. Brilliant!

The thing is, despite the employment climate for ambitious, talented, confident Graduates being so painfully bleak, what happens to all of those qualities in a Graduate when they have to compromise who they are in order to financially support themselves? Maybe you can hold on to that passion and energy for a few weeks, months if you are lucky.

Not me, I hated my life almost instantly. My Mom and Dad definitely thought I was being dramatic at first. But even they began to see how I was losing my sparkle. I wasn’t passionate about theatre and drama anymore. As persistent job rejections or ‘no responses’ gathered in my email inbox, my confidence plummeted so much, that I stopped bothering to look for any more. I became more reliant on drunken nights out for pleasure, and lived for Saturday nights. I would rarely want to see my friends sober because as much as I tried to be happy for them, hearing their insta-success stories made me jealous. In the week I worked, came home, watched TV, and went to bed, to repeat the whole sorry process the next day. At my lowest point I woke most mornings dreading the day ahead.

One day after a work, feeling particularly self-pitying and angry that the world was so against me, my mom said something like, “You have two choices here. You either accept your position or make the best of it, or you carry on being unhappy. Yes, you will still be stuck in that job, but you can choose your attitude.” I’m sure I argued that accepting it was like admitting defeat. Looking back I realise that I, bizarrely, thought that hating on every single aspect of the job was actually being proactive. Being miserable assured me I wasn’t getting comfortable or complacent I thought. In reality, it just drained me.

I remember it being New Years Eve in a couple of days. I was feeling positive, eager for a fresh outlook, as the one I had clearly wasn’t doing me any favours. So, I chose the acceptance/happiness. I realised that I was the only one to blame for being miserable. For a start I had completely neglected who I was. I was always an over-achiever since childhood; always looking for another string to add to my bow, or experience to have. Yet I’d just let that drive, and zest for life evaporate when the effort I put in didn’t return the reward I desperately wanted.

Two things I was certain of though, I wasn’t a quitter, and I had worked too hard to give it all up just like that. So I did something really cheesy. Starting from January 1st 2013, I wrote down all of the good things that I could make happen, or that just happen for a whole year and look back on what I’ve done on the same date in 2014. So far, I’ve joined Musical Theatre classes, booked a holiday to Las Vegas, I’m training for a charity marathon, and rekindled my love of reading, and do way more of that than my old bad habit of watching rubbish TV.

It’s still true that I hate my job; I don’t think that will change until I leave and get one that challenges and excites me, so there is all the more reason to make your life outside of work hours rich and full. The first step on the career ladder may be out of reach for now, but that’s just one bit of who we are right now. The rest of our lives, for most young Graduates, are within our control and there for the making.

About the Author

Sophie Bicknell Sophie Bicknell

I graduated from The University of Worcester in 2012 with a 1st Class BA (hons) in Drama and Performance and since graduating, have continued my part time job I had whilst at university at a well known supermarket. Drama and Theatre has, and always will be my passion, therefore I find creative outlets in performing with local groups, watching plays and musicals, and writing theatre reviews for local newspapers and magazines. I hope to find long term employment in a career that is exciting, rewarding, and challenging. An ideal career would be within a Theatre based environment, or Drama within education.

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