post-graduate abyss (pəʊst–ˈgrædjʊət əˈbɪs) (noun) pəʊstpəʊst– the general lack of direction and feeling of emptiness commonly befalling recent graduates who have no idea what they’re doing with their lives.
Hi there, I’m Miriam and I’m the newest Graduate Trainee here at the RCN Library and Archive Services. I have just finished studying English Language and Literature at King’s College London and my position here at the RCN is my first graduate role. Over the course of my degree I had a range of part-time jobs, from working in retail and catering to teaching children chess, but when graduation day finally came I still had no idea where I wanted to go next. It seemed like everyone around me had grand, and very grown-up, life plans and that I was the only one who didn’t have something figured out.
I termed this period, ‘the post-graduate abyss’, a phrase which for me summed up both the comparative emptiness of my days after the intensity of the final few months of the degree and the underlying fear that I would never find a firm direction, and spend eternity on my parents’ sofa.
So, after several weeks of waiting for inspiration to strike, I finally decided to get my head down and actually start properly thinking about both what I wanted to do, and the kinds of places that I wanted to work. I knew that I wanted a varied role, and that whilst I enjoyed the academic work of my degree, I wanted a job in which I could also work and engage with people every day. It was also important to me to work for an institution that had noble aims and an ethical ethos at its heart, and I wanted to build a career working for organisations that I believed in.
During my final year of university I started working in the King’s College London Maughan Library as a Shelving Assistant. I initially took this post for purely practical reasons; it was an on-campus, well-paid job that I could easily fit around my studies. However, after talking to my colleagues at the Maughan Library, and researching entry-level roles in the library and heritage sector, I began to think that library work might just be the thing I was looking for. It would not only give me the opportunity to remain in an academic environment, whilst still helping people every day, but also the opportunity to work for educational or philanthropic institutions.
I was particularly attracted to the ‘Graduate Trainee – Customer Services’ position at the RCN because of the opportunity it offered to gain an understanding of all aspects of library work, and thus find out which roles in the sector would suit me best. Some entry level positions in libraries only offer the opportunity to work in one part of the service, but Grad Trainee positions normally offer more variety and the opportunity to gain a range of skills. I was also keen to work for the RCN, an organisation that supports and champions nurses and HCA’s all over the UK.
Fast-forward a few weeks and here I am, just finishing up my first month at the RCN. It’s been a really busy few of weeks and there’s so much to learn, but I think I’m getting the hang of things, and beginning to find my feet. I’m really looking forward to the coming months, and learning both about the RCN and library and heritage work.
I am also so relieved to have escaped the ‘post-graduate abyss’ and on the way to an interesting and fulfilling career. In a few weeks I should even be off my parents’ sofa.