Graduation ceremonies are a celebratory occasion. A pivotal life event where your friends and family come together to celebrate your achievements over the past 3-4 years. It is a day which is often remembered for a lifetime. But what comes after that?
It is the first time in many young people’s lives where there is no designated ‘next step’. Most of us will have been in education for 17-18 years and we always knew what was coming next. From SATs to GCSEs, GCSEs to A-Levels and so on. But now you’re given complete freedom and your peers are all off doing different things: travelling, volunteering, on a grad scheme, pursuing their own business, working part time & getting high etc. But the immediate thought for most grads is to get a graduate job, preferably a grad scheme. But when many of us do finish, we are confronted with the realities of the job market, and so this period of waiting to figure out what’s the next step in life can often result in the grad blues.
Going from having a tangible goal you’re working towards and all of your friends in a 15 minute radius from you to sitting at home each day without a real schedule or purpose is hard, especially when all you have to do is put hours into job applications only to receive a load of emails beginning with “Unfortunately…” and “We regret to inform you…”.
- Many experience a subsequent loss of identity as when asked “what are you up to?” there was always the response of “I’m a _________ student at ____________ uni”…
- There is also the financial strains of not having that maintenance loan coming in every few months to support you….
- And there is the pure anxiety of thinking you’re not where you are supposed to be in life. That everyone else is off pursuing their careers and living there best lives while you’re sitting at home watching the days go by.
Statistics state that 1 in 4 students suffers from depression during their studies, but no official figures exist for graduates in the post-university transition. But considering what a massive life change this is for millions each year, why aren’t we talking about it? Vicki Hays, director of Counselling and Psychological Services at the University of Michigan, says graduation depression is more common than think. “I think it’s much harder actually leaving college than it is coming to college,” she says. “Leaving is something completely new. For most people, they have not been without the structure of organized education ever in their lives.”
Important things to remember:
- You are not alone: Last year, data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) showed that more than 18,000 graduates were unemployed six months after finishing their course and according to a February 2014 survey conducted by the graduate recruitment website Totaljobs.com, nearly 40% of graduates were still job hunting six months after graduating.
- The job market is crap: we currently have the highest numbers of graduates ever and not enough grad jobs to accommodate these numbers. It is not that your degree is useless or that you are not good enough, it is simply that the economy is bad right now. The phrase “job titles are dead” have recently been batted around in commentary in the professional world, and what is meant by this is that people are rarely just doing the job that was written on their job description. We are working across departments and a recent study revealed that Londoners are doing approximately 9.6 hours of over time each week because employers are trying to get the most work out of the least amount of people in order to do well in.
- You will find something: Like all things in life ‘this too will pass’. We are never stuck in one situation forever (positive or negative) so it is important to remain optimistic and proactive.
- Make full use of your time: “if you can’t beat them, join them” – this is the mentality more of us need to be taking when we can’t find a job straight after uni. You are unlikely to get another period of having nothing to do again in life so may as well take this time to invest in your own passions, interests, and business ventures. Get a part time job to support you while pursuing your interests, volunteering a couple days a week for a few months to gain additional experience, pursue freelance work.
Going from clubbing twice a week, having a goal you are continuously working towards, friends all around you and money in your pocket to being broke and at home can be a hard hitting experience, but it’s important to remain positive and proactive. Life is full of highs, lows, and periods which seem like nothing is happening, but it is often in those period of perceived stagnation which define our success in the long run.