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Alumni words of wisdom for our recent graduates

Alumni words of wisdom

6 August 2014

We recently asked alumni what advice they would give to students graduating this July. Years of accumulated experience, wisdom and expertise flooded in, so we've highlighted a few of them here. We hope it will guide and inspire anyone who studied at Bristol, from the newly-graduated, to those who are thinking about the next step in their career.

Professor Paul Robinson (BSc 1962) said: ‘Follow your heart and go for what you really enjoy doing and that gives you the greatest professional satisfaction! When having to make a decision, whether small or large always be true to yourself and your honest beliefs.’

Simon Tutt (BSc 1982) said: ‘Set personal and work goals (what and by when), then you're more likely to achieve them. Secondly, start a regimen of saving money automatically from pay checks into retirement funds, preferably tax deferred. Never allow yourself to stop or cut the saving rate, only allow it to be increased no matter what happens.’

Emma McLaughlin (BA 2006) said: ‘After working so hard to earn your degree and being constantly told how good you must be to be one of only a select group of students who managed to get on your course, you're going to think you're pretty hot stuff. You're going to think you're top of the pile. You have, quite rightly, developed a certain sense of self-entitlement because you worked hard (and spent a lot of money) to become a graduate. Don't be disheartened, therefore, to discover that in the Real World, you are now back at the bottom of the pecking order again.

'Be ready to start at the bottom and don't think anything is beneath you: photocopying, coffee runs, being called the wrong name by everyone in the office for six months...suck it up. Cry yourself to sleep. Tell yourself this is not what you worked so hard and spent so much money to become a graduate for. Try not to walk out of too many menial jobs with idiot bosses. Because the thing is, you are bright and you are brilliant but you are NOT entitled to anything. You need to grit your teeth and do the hard work so that when you finally are given a chance to show your real worth, you can understand and empathise with those below you; you know what has gone into getting that position and it will be far more enjoyable when you get it. All of those rubbish jobs, all of those frustrated nights wondering how you ended up being unemployed/underemployed, all of those times you changed the printer toners because everyone else thinks they're too good to do it - they're all experience. This is life. This is what it's about.’

Phil Shingler (BSc 1970) said: ‘I went west to San Diego, California to live on the beach and go surfing, never looked back. My advice is "life's a beach, and the rest is detail"! Nowadays I would head to Australia or New Zealand and do the same!’

Philip Walton (BSc 2000) said: ‘Don't expect much from the job market even though you have your degree or higher. Be realistic, have a Plan B or even a Plan C as the job market is always very competitive. Travel, do voluntary work if you can’t find your chosen path as at least you can gain experience. If none of the above applies, then well done!’

Former 2003 Bristol graduate said: ‘Congratulations on this huge achievement. A new door is opening after your graduation. Some of you will get into a job quickly. Some will be much longer... Life is all about surprises. Keep looking; keep knocking and a career will be at your feet before you know it.'

Thank you to all of our alumni who took part, and if you have any words of wisdom for next year's graduates then please do get in touch with us.