‘I interviewed my 20-year-old self a decade after graduating’

‘Be kind, be honest and be ambitious and you’ll do fine’

Paul Gratrick is the Careers Manager at the University of Manchester. He also graduated 10 years ago this June. He decided to conduct an interview with his 20-year-old self, to tell him things he wish he’d have known back then.

30 year old Paul: Paul! Great to see you again, and at 70 per cent of the age I am at now. How are you?

20 year old Paul: Good thanks, just up from a nap. You still have the same hair cut I see. Nice.

I’ll die with this haircut. I thought it would be good to interview you, just to see what you think is going to happen in the next ten years, and how you’re finding life right now. What job do you think I do for a living at the moment?

Honestly? I’ve no idea, although I would definitely say NOT a full-time Philosopher.

Haha yes your philosophy days are somewhat over, but you’ve kept all your textbooks to keep up the illusion! I work at the University of Manchester in the Careers Service which basically means helping students find and achieve their career goals. That wasn’t my first job though, what do you think that was?

First job after Uni? Well I’m currently applying for a lot of marketing and recruitment types roles in London, so one of those… I hope! Otherwise these applications are for nothing.

Your first job was ‘International Management Trainee’ at a company called Meltwater. You landed this after countless applications and three failed interviews in London. It was a heavily targeted sales role, which you turned out to be quite good at! Lots of sourcing of leads, cold calling, meetings, selling, negotiation, client relationship management. On reflection it was your competitive nature that helped you succeed at it. It’s the kind of job that a lot of graduates did straight out of University and it can be a sink or swim role – you swam for a bit!

For a bit?

The sales role was fun and good for straight out of uni, but the relentless target culture was something that became too repetitive and you wanted something more stable, and more to do with people development as you enjoyed this a lot once you’d progressed to be a manager at Meltwater. The sales and client management skills you developed are still in use now though, so it was by no means wasted years.

So what comes next?

You started working for the University of Manchester at their Business School, working with MBA students. It was rather fortuitous as they wanted someone to advise students around the tech sector, and you had worked in tech/software in your sales roles. It just seemed to all fall into place at that time with no real planning, which was good as you were recently married.


Yes – to your current girlfriend. And you also have two kids now – a boy and a girl.

What… the…

And it’s great. You owe a lot to her.

Paul then and now

Okay cool. I feel like we’re all ready to leave university but not ready to start a career!

To be honest you adapt pretty quickly – you’ve no other choice! Your first job doesn’t start until August and so that leaves a few weeks after graduation to travel and generally chill out. Working 9-5 is tough at first but your weekends just become golden time! What are you worried about at the moment?

My dissertation to be honest. Most of it’s there; I just need to write it all up. A couple of people I live with have jobs already sorted and that’s stressing me out a bit.

It’s still like that these days. Juggling final year deadlines and finding a job is tough. Like I say, you end up starting a job in August and that’s common for a lot of graduates. The number of vacancies advertised shoots up after Easter and ahead of graduation. There’s a lot of choice, especially with such a non-vocational degree like Philosophy, and there are a lot of graduate jobs out there still.

What should I do between now and August, if you’re saying I start a job then.

Keep doing what you’re doing. Get a decent grade for the dissertation; you aren’t getting near a first mate, keep applying for jobs that interest you because you will see plenty out there. And lastly just enjoy it, no one tells you these are the good old days whilst you’re in them, and on reflection the three years at university were some of the best in my life – defining in fact – as you meet your future wife and best friends and it opens up doors that you wouldn’t otherwise have been at. A lot of things will happen by chance though, so there is little point in worrying too much about it. Be kind, be honest and be ambitious and you’ll do fine.

Is it all worth it? Going to university?

Gut reaction – yes. But I’m still only ten years into what will probably be at least a forty year career, so what do I know? The people you see coasting at university tend to coast afterwards for a bit as well, so you definitely get out what you put in. It’s a time I look back on with many happy memories, and you will never again have so much free time so enjoy that whilst it’s here.

Okay, well this has been super weird but useful too. Thanks, future me!

No worries. Laters.

Paul’s idea behind this was to remind everyone that we don’t have to be dead-set on our future. We’ve still got time to figure it out.

University of Manchester students, any subject and year group, can contact the Careers Service with any queries either on 0161 275 2828, in person at the Atrium 1st Floor University Place, or at the careers website, whether you have something in mind or no idea what to do, they can help.