My First Year As a Fully-Fledged Graduate (and the lessons I’ve learned)

This time last year, I was balancing freelance writing for multiple publications, a full-time post-graduate course, a couple of internships and the dreaded job search. Terrified of months without work, where my type-A personality could easily lose confidence in finding something, I ploughed through job applications, long train journeys to interviews and every devastating rejection call.

Then, in the middle of April, I clinched a copywriter role at a performance marketing agency in the centre of Edinburgh. In just two weeks, I uprooted my Glasgow life of 6 years and took up a room in a flatshare, glad of the new feeling of financial security but anxious about my now long-distance relationship and the potential loneliness of a new city.

Nearly 12 months has passed, and so much has changed. I flew through my last few weeks at university and then passed on my Masters dissertation to focus on my new job. Completely new to agency life and the foreign concept of SEO, I’m now far more knowledgeable and have taken on more responsibilities than I ever expected from the first career job. Mercifully too, my relationship survived the long-distance period and we now live together.

It’s not been easy though. After those crazy job search months last year, I somehow thought that once I got a role the stress would melt away. Instead, it continued, occasionally becoming so intense that I’d forget to breathe. My personal life has been fractious at times, and I’m constantly down on myself for not managing to keep up with my passion of film reviewing and writing as much as I’d like. A day away from my new website feels ridiculously like a badge of shame.

It’s not all doom and gloom however. I’m proud of my passionate nature, which still means that I really take things to heart and can make me excitable about silly things (Canadian dramas about horse ranches, for example). As I often try to tell my partner (but frequently fail to do so myself), it’s also important to recognise the big changes that can come in just a year, and to feel proud of them.

To combat those harder points in the coming year and to avoid old mistakes, I’ve created my own self care list. I must admit to feeling sceptical about some ‘self care’ instructions, but it’s still important to recognise where there are lessons to be learned and what you can try and fit into your daily routine. Mine runs as follows –

1. Learn to let the small things slide

I find far too much of my day is spent obsessing over minutiae, taking a toll on my perception of the situation and pushing me to make rash decisions that I later regret. What I’ve found inspirational this year is talking to or reading the writing of people who have learned to just take things as they come. This particular expletive-filled post reminded me that it’s important to spend your energies on the issues that really matter (not an easy feat).

2. Reduce extra-curricular work to 3 set days per week

This is a huge thing for me. After multi-tasking so much during my post-graduate university course, I was sure I could just continue once I got a job. That’s not been the case, and understandably the job is often demanding and takes precedence over other work, which means I feel guilty for not writing reviews or working on my website. To combat that, I’m setting aside 3 days a week where I’m allowed to work on those extra demands. The rest are for relaxing after long work days.

3. Take better care of my health

Since working in an office, I’ve become far less active. With recent stresses as well, I’m probably drinking more than I should, which never helps things. My task for the months ahead is to walk more, particularly in good weather, and to reduce drinking to nights out at the pub, avoiding those bottles of beer at home. I’m also going to book regular horse riding lessons, which should get me out in the open air a bit more.

4. Reach out to people for advice

Definitely not good enough at this one. Stupidly, my anxiety tells me that no one wants to hear my problems, which leads to me bottling them up and them getting worse. However, it’s good to get a perspective of a situation that isn’t directly involved, and I’ve learned in the last few weeks just how invaluable that can be.

5. Say ‘no’ a little bit more

Many of us would benefit from being a bit firmer with our time and commitments. Rather than saying ‘yes’ to everything, spreading myself too thinly and adding more stress to my days, I’m going to be stronger in moderating what I sign up to.

With this going out publicly, I’m planning to hold myself accountable to these tasks for the year ahead. Last year has been full of intense changes and trying new things, but it’s time to pare back on the snowball of stress and anxiety for the months ahead, if only to learn to enjoy the little moments.