Surviving post-graduation blues
There’s a little-known feeling that comes over you once you graduate. At the beginning there’s elation, which is what everyone expects and prepares for. You enjoy the pats on the back from classmates and congratulations cards sent from distant Aunts and Uncles. The day of graduation is a whirlwind of celebration and it’s all great. As it should be. But what follows the initial wave of positivity is the crash back to Earth as you realise this is it and your real life has begun.
There are a few factors that can mean you hit a bit of a roadblock after graduation. Moving back into your parent’s house is never going to feel great, particularly if they put you straight back on the chores rota alongside your 14-year-old brother. The other stumbling block that causes some graduates to wish themselves back into student life is the process of applying to graduate jobs. It can feel a little like swimming against a current, trying to get noticed by graduate schemes in the summer months after leaving university. The sudden lack of structure and deadlines combined with career pressure either from family or your own motivation to do well can start to have a negative effect on your mental health.
Depression among students still at university is well documented due, in part, to the extensive services that universities offer to any students that are struggling. Graduates don’t have the same kind of counselling and support on tap, and therefore the extent to which depression and anxiety affects them is not as well-known. This can lead to individuals feeling the added weight of loneliness on top of any other stressors. While there is a fixed support system in place for students feeling overwhelmed by work, there is almost no structure put in place for their exit into the real world.
Surviving the distressing period of ‘post-graduation blues’ takes an ability to be resilient and focus on the situation as a temporary rocky period. It may seem as though all your friends are being snapped up by big-name brands while you struggle to get an interview, but the reality is not so clear-cut. Comparing yourself to others is a sure-fire way to feeling worse, so the best way to start is by acknowledging that finding a job is not a race against others, but a personal endeavour that will take as long as it takes.
There are a few actions that can help you manage the strange floating period in-between graduation and the working world and it’s up to you to decide which work for you.
The first is seeking ways to boost your CV whilst keeping busy. Having a part-time job is only one way that you can improve your credentials during your main job search. Volunteering is equally valuable at getting you out of the house and doing something productive. Even if you are only doing one afternoon a week in a local charity shop, you will still be filling a gap in your CV and showing a potential employer that you aren’t content to sit idly. Summer volunteering abroad is fun, and a good way to shake off the monotony of your hometown – or to earn a bit of money you could consider programmes like TEFL and teach English to schoolchildren.
Other ways to combat low feelings is through practising techniques such as meditation and mindfulness. Headspace is a great app for anyone looking to start meditating on a regular basis because it provides all the tools and explanations that you might be after if you are a newbie.
Keep an eye on your physical health as well as your mental health, because one affects the other. As you find yourself putting together a new daily structure for your graduate life you may tend towards unhealthier habits, so just be aware that you shouldn’t drop your gym routine just because you moved back home. Stay off the junk food too, as it has a proven association with depression.
Work with a recruiter to aid your job search. We might be a bit biased on this point, but having someone who knows the jobs market and is on your side can be a real boost for anyone feeling anxious. A good recruiter will talk you through where your skills and experience match real world roles and work with you from interview to offer letter. Coming out of university, lots of graduates have never had a professional interview before, or know what an ‘account executive’ does. A recruiter can help you to navigate around online job adverts, coach you before your interviews and possibly even give you first dibs on any new roles that come in.
Stop panicking about the future. The future is the future, it will always be there waiting for you, so stop stressing about everything little thing that can or might happen. Nobody is supposed to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives when they are in their early twenties – imagine how boring it would be if you did! Be open to trying a few things, and feeling a bit lost and unsure before finding your feet, because this is totally normal.