I’m Yasmin, I’m 22 and I am in over £20,000 worth of debt.

I want to tell you the story of so many young people – the harsh realities of student debt, unemployment, rejection – and hope. How was being a university student? Well, to quote good old Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I mean, partaaay time was such fun, but the exams and dissertations are definitely the worst. It‘s a time when I was so stressed that when I finally emerged from a mound of books to eat, I found that the only thing left in the fridge was gone off milk and something that used to resemble food. Why did I do it? Because I was under the impression I would walk straight into a well-paid job.

Being a graduate is bliss for a while, you’ve achieved! But then people start asking those dreaded questions – ‘So what are you going to do now? How many jobs have you applied for? Did you get that job?’

I became very aware that as the weeks went by (and the fun times of watching the Olympics got further away) the more those rejection emails started to erode my positive outlook on the world. The truth is I had no idea what job I wanted to do. All my years up until this point had been education stepping stones, you jump onto one and then aim for the next one. I graduated last summer; there are no more stepping stones. It’s just you, on that very expensive stone, surrounded by deep water.

For a few months I worked full time at Sainsbury’s, the part time job I had had since I was 16. The first few weeks weren’t that bad; it felt like I was just on holiday from university. Then the reality that I was not a student anymore slaps you in the face! I was living back home. I was no longer surrounded by my friends and I had no money… At this point the negativity started to stick to me. It was as if the past three years hadn’t happened. I decided I needed a change. Luckily my friend said there was a short temp job going in the admin department at The University of East London. I let go of my Sainsbury’s security blanket, and moved to my Uncle’s sofabed in London. I met new people, gained experience of a different work environment and learnt all the short cuts on excel. But I was living out of a suitcase on my dear old Uncle’s sofabed. I was grateful of course but I wanted more. Seven weeks flew by and a seed of the London way of life had been sewn. I was now applying for jobs in the big City.

When searching for a full time job I became very good at finding things I didn’t want to do. I thought about going into nursing or maybe teaching. Then I spotted an O2 Think Big Business Admin Apprentice position. The reason I applied to be an apprentice is because I would be training whilst receiving a wage. I would be working with young people to better their lives. It ticked all the boxes. It sounded like something I could become passionate about. Nailed the interview by just being myself and demonstrating my commitment to help other young people realise their potential. It’s been just over two weeks since I started my job working alongside O2 to help deliver their message “Think Big” and every day I am finding out more exciting details about my role.

I was expecting to like it, but I was not expecting to love it. I mean, it’s been two weeks and (I don’t want to become one of those people who brag about how amazing their jobs are… oh no wait… I do) I’ve been to a promotional event and spoken youth workers and young people about the O2 Think Big programme. I am speaking with young people about their project ideas and their passion and determination to make a difference. I have worked in the O2 Think Big Schools programme; this was an amazing hands-on experience where I got to interact with the young people and help them develop their ideas for a business into something bigger.. I am learning every day. It is astonishing.

When I explain to people what I now do for a job they look just as shocked as I still feel. I am in London and I feel part of the team already. And as my new roommate said not one day ago “so your job is making other people’s dreams come true?” And although I camembert to write something so cheesy, this job of mine is pretty gouda!

I feel very lucky as I know that jobs for people of my age are not in plentiful supply – so to everyone still looking….keep going. It is tough – but by taking positive action to pursue your goals, good things can happen.

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