career decisions / career development

Is graduation making you feel anxious?

Have you just finished your exams and not feeling as good as you had expected? I have been struck by the number of finalists I interview who describe the experience of completing their exams as an anti-climax. Particularly so for those who are still looking for a job or don’t know what to do next. ‘I still don’t know what I want to do and I’m feeling quite anxious about it…’ is a common theme.

Not having a career aim probably didn’t feel like such an important issue in your first year, with the next 3-4 years of a degree stretched out tantalisingly in front of you. Your approach to choosing a career may have consisted of convincing yourself that, ‘I’ll know when I know…it will just happen…something will turn up.’ These thoughts may have occurred to you if you were struggling to identify a future career path and wanted to put making a career decision to the back of your mind. You may now be considering employment for the first time as up to this point, there was a certain inevitability and expectation that you would go to university.

But now reality has hit, you are about to graduate. If making this transition is unsettling and causing unexpected anxiety, consider the following to adopt a more helpful perspective.

Recognise your achievement

Take some time to reflect on your success. You have had to face the challenge of on-line learning during the pandemic. There may have been challenges and setbacks which have required determination to overcome. This resilience is an employability skill highly valued by all employers. You have been awarded a degree from the University of Warwick, an institution with an international reputation ranked 64th out of over 1500 universities in the QS World University rankings. Warwick is also currently the 6th most targeted university by employers in the UK. All of this makes you highly employable

You will develop a new structure

If the lack of lectures and assignments has created a void, you will develop a new working pattern in your career. This may be with a high profile employer where you are on a graduate programme with a work place mentor to guide and coach you. You will develop a new circle of friends, many of whom may also be recent graduates providing mutual support during the early stages of your career. You can also keep in touch with your university peers by registering as an alumni with the University of Warwick.  Linked In  can also be useful in this respect. Alumni can become useful business contacts in the future as well as providing advice to help you develop your career.

The anticipation of starting your career

Finding that first job will be highly motivating. The opportunity to use the skills developed on your degree and perhaps apply your subject knowledge in the workplace will be an exciting challenge. Your learning and intellectual curiosity will not just stop after graduation, just used in a different environment and context.

If you haven’t got a job or decided what to do next, here are some approaches to consider:

  • Take control The variety of choices you have (the majority of graduate employers do not even specify a degree discipline) may feel overwhelming. It may be tempting to sit and wait for something to happen. This strategy could prove to be frustrating and ultimately ineffective though. Far better to take the initiative, be proactive and you will start to feel like you have a sense of direction. However small or insignificant that first step feels, it may be the beginning of formulating your plan. So set some realistic and manageable targets – create that Linked In profile, apply for some volunteering, enrol on a short course to develop a new skill, join a temping agency, for example. If nothing else research career options with your degree , do any of them motivate you? Reflect on your values and motivations to begin matching yourself to the potential opportunities.
  • The first job doesn’t define the rest of your career. Don’t feel under pressure to find that ‘dream’ job immediately. Compromise, be pragmatic and accept that the first step in your career may be an opportunity to learn about yourself and the world of work. Maybe this experience will help you to find that ideal job later in your career as you develop a sense of what really matters to you
  • Could a longer term strategy work for you? Ask yourself if you are ready to commit to your career or would a work placement/graduate internship help you identify where your motivation and passion really lies?
  • Don’t be afraid to take a risk. A creative director in the advertising industry, Paul Arden once said, ‘better to regret what you have done than what you haven’t.’ If the first graduate job isn’t right for you think about how valuable the experience will be in developing your self-awareness. It will also add to your skill set and provide further evidence of your employability to future employers.
  • Seek careers advice Remember that you can use Warwick’s careers service for up to two years after graduation. Impartial careers advice and guidance may help you to make your decision more confidently. To register for graduate access to myAdvantage choose ‘log in as a graduate’ and use the ‘reset your password’ link. Enter your username and a current email address. (contact if you do have any issues logging in)

You are not alone, lots of other finalists are still finding it difficult to choose and find a career. Reflect on what an enjoyable and rewarding experience university has hopefully been. And look forward to the next stage of your career.

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