One thing that no one seems to prepare you for as a student, is how leaving university could make you feel. It’s understandable that it’s a difficult time, suddenly the life-long structure you’ve had set out for you through education is ripped from beneath you and you’re left to make it on your own. But while you’re busy studying in those final months of your degree, this isn’t something that tends to be on your mind.
You can go from feeling a massive high as you graduate and celebrate what you have earned for yourself, to then feeling helpless as you realise you now need to do something with the skills you’ve gained – and finding a fulfilling job in such a crowded space isn’t easy.
Throw in having to move back home to your parents, losing your freedom and independence, no longer living with your best friends and having a thriving social life, and it’s no wonder that leaving university can feel like an anti-climax. Or if you’re a mature student having juggled maintaining your home life with your studies, it can now feel like a great pressure is upon you to put the skills you have gained to work.
You may have sacrificed a lot in pursuit of a new career by attending university, perhaps you left behind a stable job or had to balance your studies with childcare and now you have the fear of the unknown. Take a moment to remember that you did this for a purpose and that it is going to benefit you in the long-term. ‘Starting again’ can be scary, but it can truly pay off too.
If you’re struggling to cope with leaving university, then you’re definitely not alone. In fact, according to a study by the City Mental Health Alliance, a staggering 49% of the students surveyed expressed that they struggled after leaving university. The fear of now having to find a job that will give you back your independence and fulfill you at the same time creeps in and this can be even worse if you’re not 100% sure what it is you wish to do post graduation.
But it’s important to know that feeling a little lost after university really is normal. Up until this point, the next step of your life has seemed so clear, with a perfect structure and now you have so many possibilities it can be overwhelming. As you adjust to a new life outside of university, it can also in many ways feel like a step backward, when before you had a home to call your own, moving freely and independently on your own schedule and now you’re lumped with debt, living in your old bedroom and feeling deflated. This is completely normal, and all you need is to recognise that change isn’t always bad.
Dealing with change
The change that comes with leaving university can feel overwhelming. It seems like a sudden ‘end of an era’, but it’s important to remember that the current state you’re in of ‘what now?’ is certainly temporary and that as you transition from student life to professional life, it’ll become a little easier each day.
Throughout university, students often put pressure on themselves with the belief that their first job out of university must be their dream job, in their dream industry and on their dream salary or they’ll be destined to fail. But unfortunately, this can be unrealistic and it’s important to remember that any step in the right direction is a good step. This positive attitude to life after university should apply to both the job search, employment and your personal/home life.
Dealing with loss of freedom
Having to move back home with your parents after university can feel like an unnatural regression, one that is simply unavoidable due to lack of funds and work. Try to think of this as not a step back, but a stepping-stone for you to be able to utilise the hard work you have put in. Think of it as a bit of support that will enable you to take your time as you pursue what you want for the future. It won’t be long before you’re dealing with financial responsibilities and other practicalities that come with adult life, so viewing this as a short reprieve before this can help you alter your mind state from ‘this is a loss of my independence’ to ‘this is how I’m going to become independent again’.
Dealing with the next steps
The next steps after university can be very daunting. There is so much choice open to you and this can be particularly overwhelming if you’re not 100% certain on the path you wish to take. You might not even have an industry in mind that you wish to work in. The first thing to do is breathe, don’t panic and just try to live in the present. Do what you need to do for yourself right now, without worrying about how this will affect the future.
Whether you decide that you might travel for a little while, to have time to reflect on your studies and determine a career path you might like, or whether you want to get stuck straight into work, keep in mind that no decision is ‘final’. The decision you make now is not your whole life decision, as it so often can seem. Focus on your present and remain calm, this is a process and you can figure out the steps as you go along.
If you’re struggling with life as a graduate and you’re unsure how to proceed, we have a range of support services to help you, come and talk to us today.