Religious Studies graduate Luke Simpson recalls the dilemma of what to do after university, and the difficulties of graduating during the financial crisis of the late 2000s.
|Year of graduation
At the moment
I’m 33 years old, just over ten years into my career. I married nearly three years a go and have a two year old son. I live in London and managed to get on the property ladder a few years back. I’m also currently studying for an MBA, and I'm feeling positive about the future.
Your time at the University
A family friend and next-door neighbour recommended the University of Edinburgh and the Religious Studies degree to me. I had developed my own interest in the philosophy of religion and biblical studies/theology at school and it was a subject I was very interested in which seemed to relate to the big questions of life. Once I visited Edinburgh I fell in love with the charming city, the Scottish culture and the student lifestyle of books and socialising.
My classes were mostly at New College so I have fond memories of the tight-knit community there, the beautiful Rainy Hall dining room, the library with its green ‘banker’s lamps’ and stained-glass windows. And down at Buccleuch Place I remember intellectually engaging classes on Indian religion and philosophy and Buddhism, which I studied for three years.
Then around the corner to the main library which was excellently stocked and a good place to get some serious study done.
For the first year I was in Pollock Halls and I remember Boris Johnson came to the bar there when he was campaigning to be rector of the University. Unfortunately someone poured a pint over his head as soon as he walked in the door!
I recall that the final year was the toughest academically and student life became that touch more serious as we approached finals and the dissertation. Looking back now I realise it was 2008/2009 and we were undergoing a global financial crisis – but it didn’t really resonate with me then.
Your experiences since leaving the University
I had worked during summer breaks and also did some Saturday/evening jobs whilst studying, but to be honest I was thoroughly unprepared for life after university. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and I was completely unprepared for the graduate admissions processes such as psychometric testing, verbal and maths reasoning skills etc.
I tried to cram a few things from the Careers Service in the final few weeks or maybe months but it was too late by then. I thought I wanted to be a chartered accountant or work at one of the big investment banks but I was totally unprepared – I don’t think I even knew really what these jobs were about! Furthermore it was the beginning of a financial crisis so hiring was not exactly booming.
I ended up working for a bank as a temp through a recruitment agency (the one I had worked for during summer breaks). There were a handful of recent graduates also working with me. The pay was reasonable but the job was basic so I’ve had to work hard in order to find my way and move up the ranks. After working my way up a little bit I managed to convince the company to pay for at least a couple of (expensive) qualifications which have furthered my career.
I'm now at the same bank specialising in syndicated lending across the UK, European and US loan markets. I earn reasonably well and do interesting work so I think I’m doing alright.
If you have graduated from the University of Edinburgh you have received a world-class education. If nothing else, your education will enhance your appreciation of life and understanding of the world.
My advice is to spend time establishing your ‘life principles’. What is a meaningful, well-lived life to you? What principles will you live by in your career? If you define this and refer back to it often, you will have a much better idea of whether you are on track to living the life you want to live.