This was the response in a recent careers appointment when I asked a student how I could help him. The situation we find ourselves in had left him feeling unmotivated, compounded by not knowing what he wanted to do, or even where to begin. If this experience resonates with you, I hope this blog can offer you some reassurance and positivity.
Let me start by saying career consultants really empathise – the job market is competitive at the best of times. But job seeking in a pandemic, particularly if you do not even know what career to choose, can be a frustrating and challenging experience. I completely understand why you might want to just hope things work out, or even feel like just giving up on the job search.
Some context… are graduate opportunities still available?
Scanning some of the popular graduate careers websites will reassure you that employers are still hiring. The Institute of Student employers have also stated that ‘student recruitment is bouncing back’ in their most recent survey of graduate recruiters. Undoubtedly it may be more competitive, but the recruitment of graduates is business critical for the top recruiters which should help to convince you that your degree is a great investment.
Its all very well being told there are jobs still available but what if you are struggling to motivate yourself? Good applications require a lot of research and preparation and if you are unmotivated this may feel like a real challenge. The current situation has been very demanding for lots of students and remaining positive and focused has been difficult.
Getting motivated… create an initial, realistic goal.
Set yourself a timescale, perhaps a week and focus on a specific target. It could be for example making an application, or connecting with an alumni on LinkedIn, or thinking about what your ideal career could look like. Start with a small step, when you have completed it you will have a sense of accomplishment which is an important factor in rebuilding motivation Realising how many exciting, engaging types of work are realistic options for you as a graduate may also help to motivate you.
Staying motivated, find a mentor
Mentors can be a such an important influence to help you fulfil your potential. They can inspire you, reassure you and their energy can help you to be resilient when you are struggling to stay motivated. They can challenge you and help you monitor and review the targets you have set for yourself. One very potentially effective way of developing mentoring relationships is by connecting with alumni on Linked In. Warwick students can also register for the e-mentoring service
Finding career direction
Which brings me to the other contributory factor in the apathy of the student I referred to earlier, not having a career aim. Not having a sense of direction can add to a sense of drift, compounding the feelings of demotivation. Previous blog posts have alluded to the importance of increasing self-awareness as the first step in developing a career plan. Reflect on your skills, values and interests, for example. Ask yourself what you want from a career. This could be an effective first step, you can then research the potential career options to see if anything feels like a match. Do not underestimate the importance of taking that first step towards making a career decision – however small or insignificant it feels. Completing it and setting the next target will start to motivate you.
Of course, not every graduate has a career plan. You can be very successful embracing uncertainty and seeing where your degree and the experiences you have gained could take you. ‘Chaos theory’ is a particularly topical approach given the current uncertainty of the job market. For some job seekers taking what may be perceived as risks can be exciting, leading to unplanned opportunities.
Sometimes students are reluctant to apply for graduate jobs, fearing they will make a wrong decision or become stuck in an unsuitable role. But take away that pressure, it’s liberating. Adopt the mindset that this is first step in your career. If it doesn’t ultimately suit you it will have been a valuable learning experience and will inform your future career choices.
A lack of motivation is frustrating – you want to find a graduate job but do not have the energy to go through the recruitment process. So break it down, set yourself that first target. Your interest and motivation will start to grow. What are you waiting for?