Excitement, liberation, relief, fear, anxiety, uncertainty, concern. These are just a few of emotions you may be experiencing after graduating university, often at the same time. For over 15 years, you’ve lived through the education system and become accustomed to the structure, consistency and familiarity that comes with it. So, what happens when you try to live outside of that system for the very first time?
Trying to fulfil the expectation of being an ambitious young graduate ready to take on everything the adult world has to throw at you can be overwhelming. After years of hard work, making new friends, living away from home and building a life for yourself in a new town or city, your life is suddenly about to change all over again. No matter how prepared you might feel, there’s no guarantee that this transition will be easy.
This is the position I found myself in last year. Having left university all bright eyed and bushy tailed, I soon found myself with no plan, desperately applying to jobs and feeling like a massive failure. Dealing with rejections from employers (or not hearing anything back at all!) is demoralising enough. But add to that a loss of independence from moving back home and the fear and anxiety of an uncertain future, I had never felt so low.
Post-university blues are real. At the time, I felt completely alone. However, since speaking to friends, family and course mates, I’ve realised it’s incredibly common. For some, it is caused by the struggle to find a job and adjusting to life outside of the university bubble. For others, their dream job may not be everything it was cracked up to be and they feel no sense of purpose or direction. In each case, graduating from university marks a massive transitional phase in your life that is understandably going to be difficult.
If this is how you’re feeling right now, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone and things will get better. Here are my top tops for handling your post university blues and adjusting to life as a graduate:
Be kind to yourself. If you’re feeling low, it’s easy to focus on all the negatives and the obstacles that you still have to overcome. Whether you’re struggling to find a job, feeling unsure about what you want to do or feeling unsettled in this new chapter of your life, it’s important to remember that you will not be in this position forever. Try to strike a balance between taking the time to address these issues and spending time doing the things you enjoy; constantly beating yourself up for not being exactly where you want to be isn’t going to help you find a solution.
Don’t compare yourself to other people. Your Instagram feed is probably already inundated with posts from friends and course mates about their exciting new jobs, fancy flats and seemingly picture perfect post-uni lives. Whatever you do, don’t compare your situation now to that of those around you. Everyone is on a different timeline and, what might be the right path for your friend, may be the wrong fit for you. In this social media age, it’s also important to bear in mind that the way people portray their lives online may not necessarily reflect the truth. Focus on yourself and making the right choices for you.
Talk to your friends and family. When I found myself struggling with post-uni blue last year, I felt to embarrassed to talk to anyone about it. I was so worried that my family would think I was just being lazy or dramatic that I decided to stay quiet and let my fears and anxieties eat away at me. Whatever you do, remember that you are not alone. Staying silent is the worst thing you can do and will only exaggerate those feelings of loneliness and low self-worth. Be open with your family or a trusted relative if you are struggling; they’ll be more understanding than you think. And don’t be afraid to reach out to friends or course mates from uni who are, more likely than not, going through a very similar thing.
Be proactive and persevere. Finding the motivation to apply for your tenth job that day can be difficult if you’ve already been faced with rejection. That’s certainly how I felt after writing countless cover letters and applications. But being proactive can help you regain a sense of control and work out what it is you want to do next. Taking the initiative to email employers directly, booking onto a course at your local university to fill a gap in your current skill set or making better use of your time by volunteering (and gaining some more experience) are just some of the ways to do this.
Don’t get caught up in long term plans. In the stress and chaos of life after uni, it’s easy to fixate on where you want to be in 5, 10 or 20 years-time. Whilst there will come a point when you will have to consider a longer-term plan, having already gone through change and upheaval of graduating, remove that pressure and work out what you need to do in the immediate future. Do you need to work in a short-term job for to earn some money for the next step in your career? Do you need some time out to explore different avenues before starting work? Do you need to gain some more experience in a certain area? Think about the here and now, what you want to do and what is realistic in the situation you’re in.
I’ve just come to the end of my first year in a marketing job that I secured 4 months after graduating. During those 4 months, this is somewhere that I never thought I would be. Be kind to yourself, be open and honest and remember that everything will be ok.
Ellie can be contacted via twitter @EllieJerman, and via Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/ellie-jerman-88706b152/
Ellie also has a personal blog: https://forgettheworld1006.wordpress.com/