I graduate from university in July. This naturally comes about with the daunting question of “what next?”
The last 16 years of my life have been regimented by routine firmly placed in education. I left school at sixteen, went to music college for two years, squeezed in a gap year, and came to university. Three years later, here I am abut to end my degree.
I decided to study Creative Writing and English Literature at university. This course has enabled me to develop my creative skills through language and text. I have enjoyed the course and feel like it has benefited me in numerous ways. However, that question still hangs like a noose around my neck: what next?
As a qualified writer I have found that jobs aren’t quite so readily available as what they may be for other career paths. With the country in the shape that it is with all the employment cuts and, in particular, cuts to the creative arts, it is increasingly difficult for graduates to find work without settling for bar work. I have nothing against bar work, I have worked behind a bar and quite enjoyed it, but after three years of studying and £20,000 of debt I expect something more suited to the skills I have paid to hone.
In the arts, it is particularly important to be proactive and entrepreneurial. If I cannot see a job, or a challenging way of earning money, I must create a job. Writing as much as I can for as many publications as possible is essential. I do this and hope that one day I’ll catch a break. But this technique is extremely labourous and often not very productive financially. This means that I must bow down to the capitalist culture and work part-time (full time once university is over) to pay the electric bills in order for me to write. Already I will have fallen in to a state where I am working in an unsatisfying job that takes up more time than university and means I don’t write enough, further reducing my chances of gaining suitable employment.
Since employment is such a tricky route for a writer, I consider further education: a Masters degree. I discover that Masters degrees cost somewhere between £5000 and £6000, a figure I simply cannot afford. Student loans, my lifeline as I do not have rich parents, are not available on a Masters degree. This means that once more I must work part-time, although this is no problem as I would still be studying and would be on track to furthering my life. The job would be a side dish to the main of education.
I question: after I pay the thousands of pounds for a Masters degree, will I be able to get a job? Sadly, the answer is no. Me having a Masters degree instead of an Honours would not create any more jobs. I would still be in the same situation, just in more debt and a few years older.
I worry that the value of a degree has decreased since numbers of students going to university have increased. This makes me think that I need a Masters to stand out from the crowd, but then what was the last three years for? Where did it get me? If I don’t take a Masters I could end up working in an unsatisfying job. If I do take a Masters I could end up passing two years of my life to be in the same position. Experience seems to be much more valuable than a degree, but that brings me back to the same problem of not being able to find a job to gain experience in.
So, as the noose tightens: WHAT NEXT?
Further education is too expensive and a job isn’t guaranteed afterwards.
Work isn’t available for a writer anywhere since there are so many students that are prepared to write for free.
A teaching qualification isn’t on my agenda.
Travelling requires money and is not a permanent solution.
So, I’m left hanging: WHAT IS NEXT????