Olivia’s Manchester Life: student vs graduate

Aerial view of Manchester city centre

Manchester is regularly found on lists of the best cities to live in the UK, so it’s no surprise that 3-4 years in the city is not enough for many of our grads. Many large organisations have offices in the region, while the city plays host to countless SMEs across a range of sectors, from retail and hospitality to STEM and finance, from government and law, to media and charity. 

But studying at University in the city, compared to living and working here can be very different. To help you prepare for a post-uni life in Manchester, we asked some of our recent graduates how they navigated the Capital of the North as a working professional.

We caught up with Olivia Meisl, who graduated in 2018 with a degree in Politics and Spanish. Olivia worked for the Students’ Union after graduating, before moving on to a public affairs company. She now works in communications and policy for an MP in Greater Manchester. 

On staying in Manchester after graduation:

I’ve lived in several cities around the world and I’m very glad to have stayed in Manchester. Although I hadn’t intended to stay here after uni, one of the only jobs I was offered, was here and I only really wanted to work in London or Manchester.

Going for job interviews in London was a bit depressing – people are not as nice and friendly as up here and no one smiles at you or chats with you! As a southerner it unnerved me during my first year at uni here, but now I love it and wouldn’t change it for the world.

The benefits of working in the same city that you studied in:

It’s been good to live in the city as a student and as someone with a full-time job – both are different experiences. Living in the same city has allowed me to focus on job hunting and a new job, knowing that I have a safety net and I’m familiar with the city. Although job options in my experience have been more limited and London-centric, it is a really good city to cut your teeth in a variety of careers. I was lucky to meet a great flatmate through coincidence on SpareRoom and have lived in different parts of Manchester.

On work-life balance:

Work-life balance is great, and commutes tend to be shorter. Many of my friends did go to London and it has been a bit harder to stay in touch, but the train connections are great to visit. Often my friends in London complain that they can’t save, their flats aren’t that nice, and they don’t have much disposable income or really have to think before they do anything (no spontaneous brunches!). This is often quite the opposite for my friends and I in Manchester. It’s easier for me to travel and go on holiday and can afford to live in a slightly nicer place than if I had gone to London.

On accessibility in the city:

I like that everything is close to me – parks, shops, Peak District, cinema, lots of great restaurants, doctors/hospital etc. Transport is good enough for what I need but isn’t without its issues. It’s nice that I can do all the things in this city (especially eating out!) that I wanted to do as a student but couldn’t afford to.

On making friends as a recent graduate:

It can be harder to make friends as a graduate, there’s less opportunity but outside of friends I made at uni that stayed, I have friends through community sports clubs, work, flat mates from Spareroom.com etc. I’m also looking to volunteer either as a mentor for secondary school pupils or on a board of governors (once lockdown has eased a bit) so I’m sure I’ll meet more people through that too.

Advice for students and graduates wanting to work in Manchester after graduating:

Really try and integrate into your community. You’re not a student anymore, you’re part of the community and part of the city and it’s great to get to know your neighbours. Also consider living in the less ‘fashionable’ parts of the city. I’ve found it to be a lot better experience than some of the trendier areas which feels like being a student again with (generally) bad quality housing as an expensive extra!

To help you get started, check out our guide on finding work in Manchester, and Manchester Graduate Talent. Remember, you can continue to use CareersLink (and all our services) for up to two years after finishing your studies. Find out how to search for Manchester vacancies on CareersLink via our short tutorial.

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