A five-part series exploring the journey of a brown wenty-something from his teenage days at University into the big wide working world!

Hey guys, my name is Indy and I’m 25. I graduated University in 2013, over four years ago now (woah time flies!) and since those days a lot has happened leading me to where I am today. Where is that you ask? Read on and you shall find out!

I come from a brown family which has a heavy medical background and first generation parents. I didn’t choose to study one of the more popularly selected courses at University; I hadn’t chosen to do what the stereotypical brown student does up until then and I wasn’t going to change that! My degree course title was Geography with Business Studies (bet you weren’t expecting that!)

I know what you’re thinking.

Did you just colour in maps all day?
Oh right, you know all the capitals in the world yeah?
What’s the difference between a hill and a mountain?

I’ve heard it all before, and I give the same roll of the eyes each time!

I’m going to be honest and say I didn’t really know what I was doing during University. Yes, I had a great time and met some fantastic people, but my next steps post-Uni were what concerned me the most. Was I going to let that ruin my uni experience? God no, I still did everything I wanted to, and had three of the most memorable years of my life. There were times however, where I remember sitting through group work and others were talking about their career and next steps. They all had it planned out:

I’ve got a grad scheme sorted at (insert FTSE 100 Company here).
Yeah I’m going to do a Masters at (insert Russell Group Uni here).
I’m going to work for the family business when I go home.

All great thoughts and plans. This was me though:

Where are all my mates after this session ends so we can meet up and chill?

I admit the questions they all posed did cross my mind from time to time, but I didn’t really have any support networks within my immediate family who could relate to what I was feeling. My two siblings, both older than me, had jobs in their respective medical professions waiting for them post-graduation. So I sort of bottled it up and hoped it would disappear over time. Was it because I was ashamed? Scared of the consequences? I think I just wanted to portray an image that I had everything sorted and that I had this supreme level of confidence, that I knew what I was doing.

So I did what everyone else did. I applied for every Grad Scheme under the sun, and I even considered doing a Masters! Neither really materialised, so I thought ‘chal teek ya’, I tried. I’ll sort it out when I graduate then.”

However, when University had concluded, the summer of 2013 approached. And it became very clear that I didn’t know what I was doing until I had moved back home. I found myself scrambling around and unsure of what to do next. These questions kept running through my head:

How do I make money? Who do I work for? What do people do who don’t possess relevant skills for the working world?

My course didn’t offer many skills to equip me for the working world. It was more academic learning than preparation for the real world that awaited. But it’s not just my course that can fill you with a false sense of security; every student knows they missed a good chunk of lectures at one time or another – because it was too early in the morning, or because they found it extremely boring to attend. But in the working world, no matter how boring it can be, at times you have to still show up and attend!

Well it turns out I had obtained more skills than I realised from being at University. When writing my CV, I listed that I was part of two society committees, and pretty much overstated my roles in both on paper. That being said, I did learn how to communicate with different types of people, working with other societies, and gained experience in how to plan social events. It’s not as simple as saying, “let’s wing it and find a room to hold a debate session“! Planning was needed – how were we going to continue the session if the debate fizzled out? How many people would realistically show up? How can we market this to get others involved from the younger/senior years? In preparing my CV, I began to notice that all of these issues we tackled in societies were actual issues you’d face in the workplace.

I had also had a part time job at Boots Opticians over the three summer holidays of my time at University, just to keep myself busy and earn some money (plus no way was my Mum allowing me to sit at home all summer – it was either find a job, or I’d end up being put in the family business which wasn’t how I wanted to spend my summer!) This bulked up my CV to an extent, because I had worked in and dealt with actual workplace problems.

Now with my CV circulating among different job sites and recruiters, I began to wonder:

How can I satisfy my parents AND get a job that pays so that I become more independent? Am I finding a job for the sole purpose that my family can beam with pride that I am in a corporate profession and they get to say how successful I am and proud of me they are?

Unfortunately, I did just this.

Looking back, I don’t regret what I studied at University. I enjoyed my course as it showed me a different part of the world that I don’t think I’d know about otherwise; I travelled to Mumbai for a fortnight to formulate my own research topic; I wrote a dissertation about a real world issue in the brown community, and I still had a business edge from the Business Management element of my course. University for me was all about having fun; living away from home really solidified my as you can’t rely on mum to make you daal-roti when there’s no food in the fridge; no chaa-da-cup or dhaliya when you’re ill with fresher’s flu; you’re on your own and forced to grow up and be responsible for yourself. University is for everyone – you just need to ask yourself what you want from the experience (you kind of have to answer this on your own). It just so happened that I had to face up to answering this question much later than others. Maybe I did leave it too late to think about what I would do next, but somehow through rolling in the society circles as I did, I managed to obtain skills that I’m making use of in life. Personally I think University can provide you with both a great experience and tools for life. On one side, you have a good time and create some amazing memories, and on the other, you prepare for the working life which inevitably awaits us all.

If only I knew at the time that this was just the beginning of a crazy journey, one that got even crazier in my first job! Read about that step of my journey in the next piece tomorrow.