What Can I Do With My Degree?
I thought of others who left their courses without completing them, including my own father, who dropped out of university after one year
“When I graduated I thought there would be someone waiting outside after the ceremony with a job for me, but it isn’t like that”, a lecturer told a group of undergrads fast approaching the end of their degrees. I was in that group, and despite Laura Cockett’s accurate analysis of job-getting post uni, I still found myself hoping the same thing would happen.
It didn’t, of course, but whilst you might not bag a great job on the day you graduate, plenty land one within a year of graduating. After a quick hunt through my friends and an email or two to university alumni departments, I had a collection of graduate success stories.
Peter Bucknall | University: Buckinghamshire New University | Degree: Audio and Music Production BA (Hons) | Classification: 2:1 | Occupation: MIDI Designer
“I left university in June last year and the plan was actually to go travelling for a while before finding a job. Then a couple of months later a friend of mine told me about a job going in the video game industry. And having always been a gamer, I found myself with a rather difficult decision. In the end I decided to go for the job because it sounded like an amazing opportunity and I've got all the time in the world to travel!
"So I applied, got the job and started at FreeStyleGames at the end of October, working on the new Guitar Hero game, Guitar Hero: Live
“It's crazy working with a team of amazing people developing a game which is part of a franchise I played religiously growing up. My job title is MIDI Designer. I analyse the songs that will be going in the game, then use MIDI information (essentially digital music code) to make the most musically accurate and fun gameplay possible, which means deciding which buttons the player has to press to make them feel the most connected when rocking out with the music! It's not exactly what I studied at uni, but some of the things I learnt have definitely helped in this job.
“I feel incredibly blessed to have this job and work on two things I am so passionate about every day of the week; music and video games. And funnily enough, I have actually had the chance to do some travelling whilst in this job to places like the US and Germany to show off the awesome game we've been working on. So overall, I'm pretty positive I made the right decision after university!”
I also interviewed Tom Cridland, who launched his eponymous clothing line in 2014, having graduated in 2013.
Tom Cridland | University: Bristol University | Degree: French and Portuguese | Classification: 2:1 | Occupation: Clothing designer and entrepreneur
You graduated in 2013 and launched your clothing line soon after, didn’t you?
Yes, pretty quickly after that. I was deliberating what to do. I started a job hunt back in September 2012, and I was applying for law jobs, but I’d hate to be a lawyer! I had an interview at a big law firm and I didn’t get the job there and that made me re-evaluate whether I wanted to do law.
When I graduated I decided I wanted to become an entrepreneur. And I started jotting things down, developing a business idea. And then I came up with the idea of a menswear brand focusing solely on trousers.
I applied to my local government for funding, which I received in November 2013 after a series of presentations and writing up a business plan. I made my first sale at the end of January 2014.
How does what you’re doing now relate to your degree?
My supplier is in Portugal. Without the language skills I picked up through my degree I probably wouldn’t have been able to get the business off the ground so quickly. I managed to persuade them, despite the fact I had no experience in the fashion industry or business and only a £6,000 Start Up Loan, to do low minimum order quantities and also produce things like artwork labels and bespoke deigns and colours. I’m not just ordering random stock – it’s all made very specifically for my design. Usually people would say “You’ve got to order 500 of these in each colour” but using my language skills I was able to negotiate.
You’ve probably stayed in touch with people you were at uni with. Are there similar stories to yours with those people?
Yes. All of my best friends are from university. My girlfriend of 6 years is from there. All these people play a big part in my life and the vast majority of them have gone on to do great things – and there’s a big spread in what everybody’s doing now.
What advice would you give to people who graduated this year?
I’m still pretty young to be giving anybody advice! But I think it’s important to have everything planned out. Try and be as organised as possible. It’s just a case of sitting down one afternoon with a pen and paper and planning out what you want to achieve.
What are the plans for the Tom Cridland brand now?
It’s definitely expanding. Sales are increasing this year because I’ve got a lot of press for The 30 Year Sweatshirt and now The 30 Year T-Shirt. The next thing we’re going to do is launch a full collection of trousers. And then we’re doing American Fraternity clothing to create awareness in the US, spreading the word through their university system.
I know the above achieved 2:1s, and all is hunky-dory for them, but it doesn’t have to be any different for those who didn’t quite make that classification. Of course, I understand that 2:2 students don’t need me to tell them “everything’s going to be alright”, but in a world where you’re always hearing “so and so will only take you on with a 2:1 or higher” I think it’s handy to see what people have done following their 2:2s, and what options are out there for grads with a Desmond (2:2).
I talked to someone with a so called “Drinker’s Degree” that has gone on to be very successful…
David Fern | University: University of Kent | Degree: BSc Physics with Astrophysics | Classification: 2:2 | Occupation: IT Administrator for RGL
“I started my Masters in Advanced Computer Science directly after my BSc. The Masters was originally with a year in industry where I started a year-long placement with Wanstor (an IT solutions provider) as a support analyst. Three months into the placement I was seconded to RGL Forensics (forensic accountancy firm) for 2 months. RGL then negotiated with Wanstor to buy me out of my contract and take me permanently at which point I withdrew from the placement year and converted my 2 year masters to a 1 year course.
“Now that I work directly for RGL I am the IT Administrator for offices in London, Manchester, Singapore and Dubai. I also provide out of hours support for RGL’s 18 offices in the US as well as in Chile and Australia.”
In addition there are loads of high flyers that got lower than a 2:2. 3rd class degrees were awarded to Carol Vorderman, Christopher Hitchens and Michael Morpurgo.
It’s also always worth remembering that folk reach beautifully impressive heights without even completing their degrees. Graham Norton is one example, and in his own words: “I stopped by University College Cork and did two years there and then left. My reasoning being that I could just lie about having a degree from University College Cork; if I said I went to Oxford and got a first, someone might bother to check that, but a BA Hons from UCC – ‘Yeah I’m sure you did’!” (BBC Four - More Dawn French's Boys Who Do Comedy).
I thought of others who left their courses without completing them, including my own father, who dropped out of university after one year. He has since held high positions with companies such as Guinness and Hewlett Packard, and holds a certification in Bid Management that fewer than 1000 across the world have.
So as you reach the end of your university career, remember that there’s more to getting a rewarding job than the classification written on a degree certificate.
- Sam Bennett
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