Practical advice for grads & their post-university existential crisis

Tuesday, August 08, 2017 09:00

Katherine Hockley by Katherine Hockley

University brings with it a sense of purpose as well as independence and routine. Once you’ve graduated, the chances are you’re going to be moving back in with your parents and looking for work.

This can be a difficult time; more difficult than many grads expect. So how can you deal with this transition in the most positive way possible? Here are some tips from someone who has done it (twice).

READ MORE: How to spot the right internship

Self-reflection

Unless you’ve done a course that has a specific job outcome such as dentistry, deciding on a career path can be difficult. A helpful way to decide may be to write down the type of tasks you like doing rather than deciding on an area or an industry. For example, if you enjoy giving presentations and public speaking, do a Google search on what types of jobs include these tasks. You may be surprised by the variety of jobs out there that suit your specific skillset.

In fact, there are jobs out there you will have never heard of, so don’t be put off by a job name. As a journalism graduate, I found that there was a huge array of different areas that I could get into, such as speech writing, sub-editing, digital content editing, marketing, internal comms, and social media management.

You may also realise that you want to continue your education, so looking at postgraduate courses may be something to consider. Alternatively, there are many free online courses that may show employers you are going the extra mile in preparing for a certain area of work.

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Job hunting, job hunting, job hunting

The reality of job hunting can be harsh. You can apply for 5 jobs a day for a month and hear back from precisely zero of them. This is rarely a reflection on you, although it may be an idea to think about spending time tailoring CVs and cover letters rather than sending off generic applications. I only really started hearing back from places when I went all out on my applications; redesigning my CV to reflect different job specifications and making sure my cover letter was tailored, too.

Another important point is to try and structure your job hunt. Set yourself an average of jobs to apply for in a day, and if you find one that really interests you, devote more time to it than you would the rest.

Don’t settle for work you’re not happy with

If you’re working in retail or a bar to make some money after university, make sure you still dedicate time to your job hunt and don’t be put off by the need for instant money. I would strongly suggest working part-time, as I fell into the trap of working full-time in retail for longer than I really wanted to.

READ MORE: 4 reasons you should think about postgraduate study

I once told my job advisor that I didn’t want to apply for a role she had suggested (full-time shift work in a hectic retail chain) and that I wanted to focus on applying for work related to my master’s degree. She implied that I had to or my benefits might get cut off. This clash of interests made me realise that this was not the path I really wanted to be heading down; I had to take a stand and only apply for the things I wanted, not what other people wanted for me. 

The only person in control of your future career is yourself. Don’t lose sight of your dream career and don’t let rejections hold you back.

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Internships and job fairs

I can’t stress enough the importance of applying for internships as a stepping stone into your preferred industry (just make sure they’re paid). In an ideal world, we would all come out of university and land an excellent permanent position, but that’s just not how it works anymore. Building up a portfolio of work experience is what is going to interest employers the most, and an internship may help you get your foot in the door, so don’t overlook them just because they are three months long rather than full-time.

Find a job or internship

Employers are always looking for grads, so research some local job fairs, too. As we found at our last graduate fair, students often come along looking at one employer and leave interested in another instead. Remember, there are roles out there you may not even know exist, and this will help you broaden your horizons work-wise.

Look at the long-term

The only way you’ll see results is through determination and grit. No-one's going to discover you if you don’t put yourself out there. Don’t get sidetracked, and remember you control your future, so stick at it. The post-university existential crisis gets us all so remember, you're not alone and there is light at the end of the tunnel. 


The next London Graduate Fair will be on Tuesday 10 October 2017 | 11am - 6pm Senate House, University of London

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Posted in Fairs and Events, Recruitment