Advice for the graduate world – Alex, Business Management, graduated 2017

Alex Nixon, 3M, celebrating his graduation from University of Surrey at Guildford Cathedral

Me at graduation

When I came to the University of Surrey I came straight from college with no gap year, no foundation year and as a result I was institutionalised. I had been in education from pre-school all the way until I finished university. Like most students going to university I was driven, highly motivated and completely naive to the world that existed around me.

Throughout University I would like to think I grew up quite a lot having been on placement, having my first serious relationship, living away from home all massive changes that helped develop my perception of the world. Now as I sit at work at 3M, the same place I was on placement I am in a similar situation with only the 3M perception of the corporate world.

The rollercoaster ride of final year to graduate role

Having had an exceptional year at 3M and having been invited back as a graduate  I was super excited and very keen to start. The issue I had was that after university I moved home away from my friends who also returned home or moved to London or went travelling.

Most students will tell you that during the final months of University they are filled with a mix of emotions; relief, joy, anxiety, excitement, dread. The best way I can describe it is like sitting on a rollercoaster like Stealth where you are rising slowly to the top with the impending drop approaching. As you stop at the top of the ride for a moment you are calm and then it sets off.

Unlike a rollercoaster graduate life does not set off at 100mph, at least not for everyone. Like many theme parks there are a number of rides you can try your luck at and lots of queues you have to be patient in.

My top tips for graduation

There is no Google maps for Post-graduate life. Pre-graduation there are tried and tested routes available to you: GCSE’s, A-levels/Btec, University. The caveat is that if you work hard and get good grades you should get a good job. If the job is not what you expected, the skills and experience you pick up can help form your path.

TIP 1: Don’t burn your bridges and keep your options open

Sometimes what seems like a wrong turn means you avoid traffic later along the route or your experience is relateable later in life. No one will suggest a route for you to a final destination, especially as you probably don’t know what it is.  However, lots of little journeys and adventures can be a great way to help you find out where you are going next if you keep your eyes open and look out for the signs.

TIP 2: Set an objective not a destination

Knowing what you want i.e. the opportunity to continue learning, to earn money, to continue travelling is  more important than what do you want to be. I would highly recommend sitting down with a friend, coach, mentor and doing the ‘Who, What, Why’ exercise to explore your motivations. Simon Sinek explains more in his Ted Talk.

TIP 3: Find your team

In a world that is hyper connected, face-to-face interaction is super important.  At university I was very sociable and an active member of a sports team. When I graduated and moved away the huge commutes every day made me feel quite lonely.

I had never not been in a team. Whilst at university I had been popular and would see most people either at training or at the student union or in the local pub.

My advice is to find a team, find somewhere your feel like you belong outside of work and make time to see your friends. That involves planning and commitment over and above work but it will keep you sane.

Alex playing rugby in his team at the University of Surrey

Playing rugby at the University

Employability & Careers 

Alex was invited back to Surrey in May to speak to our Student of the Year students at the awards ceremony. His speech was both truthful and inspirational, so we asked him to write this blog. The Employability & Careers Centre provides further tips for graduation in the blog series to be published later this week.