A clients view: “THE CORONAVIRUS CLASS OF 2020. NOW, WHAT?”

I recently came across an Instagram account called NewGrad a few weeks ago. The account has been set up by a fellow post-grad called Olivia and she has dedicated her time and the account to inspiring and educational content, all centred around helping and supporting new graduates, as we all try and navigate the unknown ahead of us. I asked if I could write a piece for her website as I really engaged with her brand mission and found some of the content, articles and interviews really helpful and inspiring. I’ve added my submission below, it’s a little longer than my usual posts but it’s all heartfelt, honest and there’s a few laughs thrown in for good measure. Enjoy!

Everyone has their final deadline for their end of year project highlighted, circled multiple times and deeply engrained into their consciousness from the very first day of final year. Tentatively clicking that ‘submit’ button after painstakingly proof reading and quadruple checking every last detail of your seemingly never-ending mass of files (which are stored on several memory sticks, to ensure you don’t encounter that situation again that you did during dissertation – *shudder*) is the final hurdle before entering a newfound world of freedom. For me, and for so many of us who have just completed, or have the end in sight of their final year, we couldn’t have expected a more disruptive and downright strange end to our years at university. As with many, my university closed almost a month to the day before my deadline, and as a result, my course mates and I felt a surge of worry and doubt as we headed towards the final push for our projects. As a fashion marketing student, the closing of the university wasn’t ideal for me but it wasn’t a complete disaster either. I could still and quite happily work from my accommodation, continuing my work on my laptop and I could still contact my lecturers if need be. For others, to say Covid-19 threw a spanner in the works is quite the understatement.

My school at uni is made up of various creative courses from graphic design, costume, architecture and fashion. For those students in Textiles or Costume Design, the pandemic had pretty much single-handedly almost undermined their full four years at uni. Their years of learning and practical work, of developments and long hours leading up to their final year piece had almost been made redundant. My heart broke for them. An email shortly followed after the closure announcement that said that these students would have to be assessed on their working technical documents instead. I couldn’t imagine spending all of that time and energy, and of course money to have your years’ worth of work measured by a document. Something that in the world of art and design is superfluous to the end result. If someone required a dress to be made, a document detailing each aspect: the cut, size and shape of the fabric would be helpful, but it’s just not the same, is it?

Friends of mine who take textiles relayed their dismay and anger to me, but ultimately they knuckled down and did the best with what they had. It was the same for some of my course mates too. Photoshoots had to be cancelled, meaning no original imagery could be captured for their projects. This meant that the dreaded secondary imagery had to be used, which is almost considered a sin when you’re constantly bombarded with the narrative that ‘you have to be unique!’ in every ounce of your work. We were given allowances for this, but it didn’t make us feel any better. We were told that because of the circumstances, this would all be taken into account when marking. But, nobody wants their work awarded a more superior mark simply out of pity, that’s even more demoralising than putting your all into something and falling short. On top of that, graduation was cancelled. For my course and I, this was the nail in the coffin. We were all very deflated and the motivation to finish our work had disappeared quicker than you can say Covid. After everything, I managed to submit a full four days earlier than I planned to. I’m still not sure how I managed it, but after a full four years at uni, the age-old habit of underestimating my abilities was still present. But this time, I’d wholeheartedly and without doubt outdone myself, and I’m hoping, finally silenced that irritating and unhelpful voice that seems to appear just at the moments when you need it least.

 As I write this, it is exactly a month and three days since my final deadline. Don’t get me wrong, there were times in the last few days up until my deadline that I was happy to pack it all in, run off to the outer Hebrides, and make a new life for myself. But now, after taking some time to unwind and Netflix the hell out of my newfound free time, I now almost have too much time on my hands. This inevitably led me to think about my future and the career I want. At first, I started to panic that the docile and relatively plain sailing nature of student life was over and I now found myself being quickly and quietly ushered into the real adult world before I even had a chance to blink. It’s like trying to navigate yourself around the tube in London, when you suddenly find yourself swept up off of your feet by a mass of busy and irritated looking commuters, all bustling onto the same tiny train, to then find out that you’re on the wrong tube. There was too much spare time which meant falling into a deep hole of worries about what my future looked like was all too easy. But, utilising the newfound and eternal optimism I decided I had to adopt in order to get my final project completed, I decided to try and utilise this time best I could.

I love fashion and I enjoyed my course, but after completing a marketing placement at a well esteemed fashion brand in London, this changed the game for me. I learnt so much and grew as a person, but the experience wasn’t an easy one. I had to learn things the hard way and often, I felt alone, not only in this gigantic yet densely packed city, but also in my team, too. This changed a lot for me. It pretty much changed my idea of what I wanted to do. Granted, not all companies would be as challenging as certain aspects of this one, but still the general practices of marketing just didn’t seem to gel with me. I realised that I wanted to take a slight change of course, and to be involved with something that is less focused on one particular industry. I love writing and after previously working at a digital magazine before uni, I knew I enjoyed the fast-paced mix of different tasks that came day to day.

Currently, I have no idea what I want to do and it’s quite a scary thought when the past four years of my life have been laid out for me, helping me to safely navigate from one year to the next, as I tried to grapple with the toddler years of ‘adulthood’. Having that lack of structure now is strange, and I know so many people feel exactly the same as I do, and that should give us all comfort. When I was little, the idea of being 23 years of age (24 in January, which still makes me wince) meant you were a fully fledged adult, with a real house and a real car and had your life planned out. But the reality is quite the opposite and I’m actually okay with that. Despite the obvious challenges that we’re all currently facing, having so much time on our hands now is the best time for anyone who like me isn’t sure of what their future will be, to do something about it, even if it’s something small. By no means am I expecting to have secured my dream job, in a brand-new city come September, but I’m doing something everyday which will guide me towards the best path for me.

Updating my creative portfolio, entering competitions, signing up to webinars and joining inspirational and informative groups on social media are all small, but impactful things I’ve done in the last few weeks. Even though I don’t know which job applications to send my portfolio too right now and I may not hear back from the competitions I’ve entered, but it doesn’t mean I’m back to square one. Every time I do something, I feel slightly closer to my end goal of pinning down my ideal career, whatever that is, and it keeps the momentum going. I think my ideal job would be to work at a media company such as Vice Media or to be a part of the editorial team at a magazine such as Women’s Health, being a part of a company that’s always got its finger on the pulse of culture in society. Nothing is clear right now, but I’m hopeful and determined for the future and that’s all any of us can be. We have the time to work things out right now, make progress and then suddenly change our course. As we’ve all currently had to stop due to the pandemic, it’s important to remember now more than ever that life isn’t a race. We’ve all got this, and at our own pace.

By Rachel Langan 08.06.2020

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