Graduating from university is quite possibly my biggest achievement in life so far and finally being presented with the certificate which represents 3 years of hard work is something quite special to me.

Throughout my first year of university I doubted my abilities thinking that perhaps university just wasn’t for me. Everyone was having a great time apart from me, surely that couldn’t be right? But what this experience taught me was that however much I felt like I was underachieving every time I received essay marks back, or the stronger I disliked general university life, the harder I needed to work and the more effort I needed to make to think positively about what people always say are supposed to be the best years of your life.

And I did just that. I worked harder, shut out all the negativity I was putting into daily life and made the most of the experience because I knew that if I didn’t push myself to get my degree I wasn’t going to end up on the career path I wanted. Of course a degree is not always relevant and there are other valuable options out there such as apprenticeships, but for the jobs I was searching for and the future goals I had set myself I knew that I needed more than A Levels and work experience.

What lecturers tell you from day one of university is just how quickly the next three years are going fly by and that has definitely become a reality. The build up to the end of university was a daunting experience in itself, not knowing exactly what to expect afterwards. Not only was there the worry of attaining the degree classification I was aiming for, but also the wider panic of not knowing what to expect for the future. Would I find a job soon after leaving? Would I find a job that I was actually qualified for? Or would I find a job that I was truly passionate about?

Fast forward to last week and I was sat in my graduation ceremony in Winchester Cathedral with all my course mates feeling a real sense of pride at just how far I’ve come. I’m officially a graduate and I’m a graduate who 5 months after completing university is already working in the field I wanted to work in.

In all honesty, I didn’t believe I would be so lucky to land myself an internship so soon after finishing university. It was a real accomplishment to turn up to graduation, shake the hand of my programme leader and tell him that I had not only found an internship but I had found an internship relevant to my degree.

But this was only made possible by finding an SME who was willing to take on a fresh faced graduate and could trust me to come into their business and have to learn pretty much everything from scratch. I did a Media Studies degree in which I had learned a fair deal about social media and I completed a module on advertising and branding but in reality I didn’t really know much about real world marketing, it was just something which I took a real interest in.

A recent survey carried out by Give a Grad a Go found that 72% of employers considered attitude as more important than work experience or academic record which is hugely positive for new graduates who may have found it difficult to get the work experience they needed or perhaps didn’t get the results they were aiming for.

We have previously written about how SMEs are the perfect match for graduates, often being able to offer them something which large corporations cannot. Working within an SME can enable a graduate to have increased responsibility as companies will want to make full use of the skills they are able to bring to a small team. Although being thrown into the deep end can be daunting it pushes new graduates to see that they do have the necessary ability to manage projects which also brings great personal fulfilment. Working within a smaller team also means that it’s likely to work across a variety of departments helping other team members where needed which will help strengthen a graduate CV as well as overall skillset.

For me personally, I have had a lot of one-to-one support which has helped my learning from day one. I believe working within a small marketing team has really benefited my progression as I have been able to learn directly from both the Marketing Executive and Marketing Manager.

It may have only been 5 months but I already feel a lot more confident about the future of my career. I know that I picked the right degree for me, one which was broad but led me down the route of marketing but could also take me in other directions. I know that I love my internship and am proud of everything I have achieved so far even if I’ve made small mistakes which knocked my confidence. Overall I know I’m still very new to the marketing world and have so much more to learn, but I feel I have found a true passion and am excited to see what the future holds for me.

In the closing speech of graduation the Chancellor of The University of Winchester, Alan Titchmarsh, shared some final inspirational advice with all the graduates which I will take with me into the future:

You’re about to leave this ceremony as new graduates ready to embrace your futures but what you shouldn’t do is simply follow the straight path ahead because you think it’s the only option or the right option. Don’t forget to keep looking both sides and see all the opportunities that are being thrown at you because if you don’t give them a chance you’ll never know what you might have missed out on.”

Find out more

Read our SME guide to attracting graduates 

Read more about why you should consider starting your graduate career with an SME

If you think you’re ready to support young talent why not collaborate with a university?

See why work experience is so valuable to university students

About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.