If you feeling apprehensive about life beyond graduation, you are not alone. Making a decision about your future may feel like a daunting prospect and you may not even be sure where to begin. How can you put things in perspective so that you can feel more positive?
At the Careers & Skills Service we often meet final year students who describe finishing their degree as an anti-climax. This experience may be more acute for those finalists who have not found a graduate job or applied for postgraduate study – you may be feeling even more anxious if you have no idea what you are going to do next.
What can you do to stay motivated?
- Be kind to yourself. Choosing a career can be a challenging and even frustrating process. For some people it is quite instinctive but for others it requires a lot of research and reflection. You may find that ideal career straight away but it many not happen until a second or third job or a career change.
- Recognise your achievement. It may have been a struggle at times but that will only serve to highlight your determination, ability to overcome a challenge and resilience – all qualities valued by employers. Whatever your degree classification you should be proud of yourself.
- Don’t compare yourself to other people. Yes your friends may have already found employment or further study but making decisions and planning your career is a personal journey. Don’t have regrets or be overly self-critical if you haven’t taken the steps that you feel with hindsight could have made a difference. You can be very successful without a career plan – you may be someone who enjoys the flexibility this can bring. It can be exciting not knowing how your career may develop and evolve
- A long term approach to making your career decision may work. You may have no idea now but that’s not to say things can and will change. It’s not as though employers will only consider you for their graduate schemes for this year. A period of volunteering, part time work or work shadowing, for example, may help to increase your self-awareness. Understanding yourself in terms of what you want from a career will help you to make good career choices.
- Take a risk. Careers consultants interview a variety of students who are are concerned that they will get stuck in a role that is not for them. This isn’t the case however, you can always change direction. If that first job isn’t quite what you expected and doesn’t provide any job satisfaction, look for another job. The experience and skills gained (even in a role that ultimately wasn’t enjoyable) are still very important. Understanding and reflecting on why a job role and industry wasn’t suitable may help you to understand what could be a good fit.
- Have you researched a variety of job roles? If you haven’t felt motivated enough to make an application, ask yourself what your ideal job description would look like. If you could write your own person specification for a graduate role what would it say? That might help you to clarify what a career would need to look like to excite you. It may help to give you a steer when you start your job search again.
- There are still lots of graduate vacancies out there . You could lower your expectations and accept that your first job may not be the perfect job. But it could be a stepping stone to what will be an ideal fit.
- A placement or a graduate internship could provide valuable experience. It will give you some insight into the world of work. You may start to learn how to apply your skills and subject knowledge in a practical way. Organisations such as the Step and GTP organise graduate internships and placements, generally with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)
- If you are considering further study, what are your objectives and expectations? Are you applying for a postgraduate course because you are unsure what to do next? Or are you assuming that a career plan will emerge during another year of study? Ask yourself if this is a realistic basis for undertaking what will be an intensive, academically challenging course.
- If making a career decision feels overwhelming, take away the pressure of trying to develop a specific career aim. Think of it in small steps, what would the first one look like? Set yourself a realistic deadline for completing it so that you feel like you are you making progress and taking action.
Remember that support from your university careers service will be available after you have completed your degree (University of Warwick graduates can use their Careers Service for up to 3 years after graduation). The opportunity to reflect on your career decision with an adviser (who will be completely objective) may provide the insight to help you feel reassured and more confident.