Last week I started a new job, my first full time job since graduating university and becoming a ‘proper grown up’. I’m working as a staff writer for GoThinkBig and so far, I think it’s going ok (though obviously you’d have to check with my editor on that one).
It’s been a long trawl to get to this point though: months of CVs, cover letters, waiting, rejections, interviews, more rejections, watching all of my friends land jobs before me, more applications, more interviews, more rejections, wondering if I’m ever going to get a job, more interviews, more rejections, and tears. Until eventually one day that phone call came. That one where someone said, “We’d like to offer you the job.” Then there were more tears, happy tears this time.
But landing my first job has got me thinking about being grown up. At 22, I certainly don’t feel like a grown up. But I guess things have changed a lot over the last few years. I moved hundreds of miles away from the tiny little village in Essex where I grew up to study journalism at Staffordshire University in Stoke-on-Trent and then promptly came home again after graduation when I was jobless. At the same time the friends that I grew up with were all doing their own things, going to different universities or getting jobs.
When I look at where my friends and I have ended up, I’m really proud of us all. We’ve all ended up doing really different things and we don’t see each other half as much as we used to, which is a shame, but we’re all happy with where we are and when we do get together it feels like we never went away and nothing’s really changed.
But then I got wondering about how my friends think we’ve all done and what they really think about what everyone else is doing now. So here’s what my school friends are up to and what they think about us being ‘all grown up’ and having jobs.
“I’m working in Portsmouth as a therapeutic radiographer, basically that means I’m dealing with cancer patients on a day to day basis, giving them treatment either to cure or relieve the side effects of their cancer. I did a three year undergraduate degree in therapeutic radiography in Portsmouth and had to do numerous placements during my course and I found out about my job through that. I love my job, I love the patient interaction and knowing that I’m making a difference to people’s lives.
I thought what was best for me was to get out of our tiny little village and do something different with my life. Don’t get me wrong, I love coming back and seeing my family and everyone. But I have a completely different life down in Portsmouth that’s really independent and I’m quite glad that I’m self-reliant, that I don’t have to rely on my parents anymore. At 22 I’m quite proud of that.
But as long as we’re all happy – and especially now Kirstie’s got on to her PGCE for September. I mean, Kirstie’s happiest when she’s working with kids so that’s not much of a surprise. And Natalie was always going to be a writer, there was never any question about that.
I think maybe Katrina’s career was a bit of a surprise because she was thinking about midwifery for so long and then she changed her mind a few times. But I guess I always thought she was going to end up in healthcare in some capacity, I just didn’t really know where exactly. And now she’s a mum, which is amazing. It wouldn’t be a personal choice of mine, but then I’ve never been in her position – she’s in a steady relationship and she’s got a good support network around her.
I think being in different parts of the country has actually been quite good for our friendships, I think it’s made us closer as a group because when I’m back we make the effort to get together. I think we took it for granted that we were friends because we knew that we were always just there. And I think we grew apart a bit with college and uni but with friendships that you’ve had since you were five you’re always going to have them. To be honest though, I just don’t understand where the time has gone since we were starting school. I’m just happy that we’re all where we want to be and doing things that we enjoy.”
“I’m currently on maternity leave from my job as a dental nurse and receptionist at a dental surgery in Essex. I was pretty lucky getting the job as I saw it advertised in the paper after the closing date and they wanted a qualified registered dental nurse and I wasn’t qualified or registered but I applied anyway. I didn’t hear anything back for ages and then out of the blue they called and asked me for an interview and then I got invited to do a two week trial. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I didn’t go to uni, I was going to, to do midwifery but when they kept saying I didn’t have enough experience I set my sights elsewhere. And I don’t think I missed out. I didn’t want to go too far away anyway because of my boyfriend. And I still went to college to do my dental nursing and I did that qualification without having to pay all the fees of university as it was NHS funded and I was earning at the same time.
I find it really weird that we’ve grown up and it’s strange that everyone has jobs. I always knew I’d go into healthcare, I just didn’t really know where and I didn’t think it would be dental nursing but I’m happy doing what I’m doing. I didn’t think Rachel would go into radiotherapy, I always thought she wanted to be a physio or do something with sports. I think with Kirstie I thought she would be a dance teacher so I guess I wasn’t too far off as she’s starting her PGCE in September to do teaching.
I find it weird that everyone’s separated though, I always thought we’d be in the same area. And it’s harder to catch up with each other now. It’s harder to fit everything in now we all have quite separate lives and we have to make an effort. But when we do meet up nothing’s really changed, you kind of forget that you haven’t seen each other in ages.
And now I’m a mum and I don’t really know if I want to go back to work. I mean, I do want to go back because I enjoy my work but I feel like I don’t want to miss out on the milestones of Isabelle growing up. I think she’s just completely changed my perspective on everything.
Before I had Isabelle I did think I would do my dental hygienist course but now we can’t really afford for me to give up work and there’s not as many jobs going in that as there are in dental nursing. Isabelle is more the focus now, I’m more family-orientated, my life pretty much revolves around her.”
“I’m working as an English Instructor at a secondary school in Essex this year before I start my PGCE course to train as a primary school teacher in September. This basically involves working with students from years seven, nine and 11 to improve their English, sometimes it’s teaching and sometimes it’s doing things like reading with them to improve their levels.
I had applied to start my PGCE last September but I didn’t get in and I was pretty gutted. But I think reflecting on it now, not getting in has done me a pretty big favour as it’s given me the chance to build up experience in secondary education as well as going on to do my primary teaching course.
I think I was so gutted because I just really wanted to get on the course and get on track for my career. I didn’t feel like I was the only one though because there were quite a few of my friends who were in a similar position, trying to build up experience to get that first break.
Obviously Rachel had got her job as a radiographer straight out of uni and I always thought she’d go into something medical based. And I knew Natalie would do writing, so that’s no surprise at all.
But I think the path that Katrina’s taken was the biggest surprise because she was so interested in midwifery and then she did the emergency call handler job but she didn’t like that. So I guess I just didn’t know what she’d end up doing. I always thought she’d go to uni and obviously she didn’t but she’s happy with where she’s working. And obviously she’s a mum now too and I think that’s brilliant for Katrina but I just feel far too young to even consider it as an option. I just couldn’t imagine having a person who is completely reliant on me to survive but Katrina’s doing so well at it.
I just think it’s pretty crazy that we’re all in jobs and that now. And we don’t see each other as much anymore, but when we do get together we have even more to talk about. But we still end up having the same conversations about guys that we did six years ago – I guess even though we’ve grown up a bit, some things never change.”