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Post-Graduation Panic: 4 Ways to Cope (List)

Careers AdviceGraduate JobsTips and Advice

Finishing university can often leave you feeling like a product at the end of a 17 year long assembly line. Some of your friends have been snapped up and sent to their graduate schemes, but you're faced with a jump into the unknown. Laura Ash deals out 4 ways to cope with post-graduation panic...

If you’re anything like me - slightly deranged and illogical at times - you might have thought that you wouldn’t make it to your graduation. You believed the concept of ending university and having an actual well-paid adult job was a fate you would never see. You would meet your death first.

How could you possibly graduate? How would you ever find a job? When would life ever start to be some (grown-up) version of 'stable'? These are the questions I still ask myself now. I have finished my exams. I have my results. But, I have no job. And it's that last bit that worries me:


It is quite easy to be flippant with the trajectory of your life when you’re younger. As students for over 15 years, we’ve never really had to make a decision that means as much as the answer to the dreaded question:

“So what do you want to do with your life now?”

Argh! If, like many others, you’ve found yourself standing in the blinding rays of the not-so-comforting light at the end of the education tunnel, without a job or any kind of career path apart from a desperate desire to forget about it all, buy yourself more time to think and head off to a beach in Hawaii. If this is you, or near enough – perhaps you’re thinking the Maldives instead - then I might be able to calm you down. Knowing that many other graduates like you don’t have jobs doesn’t make you miraculously bag one for yourself, but it does assure you that you’re not doing it all wrong. Don’t let the post-graduation panic get a hold. Follow these steps to help you find peace of mind in your job-searching and perhaps a career whilst you’re at it.

1. Pause

Student learning coffee

Now at first this little piece of advice doesn’t seem to make sense. I can’t afford to waste time here. I don’t know if you heard me, but I don’t have a job? Now, hold on just a minute. A scrambled brain isn’t going to get you anywhere. What you need to enter the job-seeking process is a calmed and open mind. Take some time to fully commit to this task. Just like yoga practice, take all distractions from your mind. For a moment, just try not to focus on what you need to do. Remind yourself of how far you have come and what you have achieved. This can really help you to have a good sense of yourself and more confidence when you are applying. You must have faith in your abilities before you can start telling anyone else why they should have faith in you.

Write a list of all your qualifications and skills (like a CV, but more of a 'brilliance mind map'). From there you will be able to see everything that you have done and where your skills lie. This will also help to de-clutter your mind and will be the first step of organisation that will lead the way forward in successful job hunting.

2. Hold On to Your Dreams

One thing I found particularly stressful after graduating was how to hold onto my dreams without sounding like a fool. Whilst you’re in school, you can dream about being anything. Astronauts would definitely be up there on the list of over-populated jobs if Year 5s were sent out into the world of work. As you go through education, you find yourself refining your skill set, and having more specific dreams. And it’s these dreams that you want to hold on to, no matter how daunting it may seem to actually make them a reality.

Passion is such a key part of the job specification and if there are things that you are passionate about then try to do your all to make that happen.

But, how?!

This is where you can start unpacking your dream. Why does it appeal to you so much? What are the factors that you’re looking for in your dream job? Are there things that you are willing to compromise on? Write these down and it may spark other ways of getting to your ultimate goal.

It’s also worth remembering that your dream may not be totally career-based. If travelling is your dream, write down why and where you want to go. You can then start deciding how you can fit this into your next few years' or months’ plan. (More on this in the next section).

3. Assess Your Options

Once you’ve unpacked your dreams, you may begin to understand your motivations. Your next step is to assess your options. How can you make your dream a reality?

If it’s travelling, you will find that there are many ways of travelling that don’t involve spending your entire life savings and hiding in a phone box in Thailand ringing your parents for more money. Teaching English abroad is one of the ways. So is: doing a ski season, becoming a diving instructor, exchange programs, joining a scheme that pays a stipend for work abroad, fruit picking and farm work …

Don’t just take my word for it. Search for yourself!

If your current goal is more career-orientated, then you also have a load of other options. Try internships (paid or unpaid), voluntary or freelance work to gain experience or simply have a go at hitting the world with your graduated self. Making calculated risks is definitely something that can take you a long way. That’s not to say that you should make unwise decisions, but with your motivations and dreams in sight, you should be able to come up with a plan that allows you to achieve these – if not straightaway, then through progression.

4. Draw Up a Timeline

graduate notebook

An invaluable tip in nearly every walk of your life is: be organised. When things seem overwhelming, it can be hard to find any kind of inkling to chase after the things that you’ve worked so hard for. Draw yourself a timeline and set daily or weekly goals for yourself. An example of your goals could be:

  • Aiming to complete 3 job applications a week
  • Finding a freelance position that will aid your job
  • Researching internships and deciding whether this is the path for you

Your timeline could be something like this: “In August, I will start X and by September, I would like to have done Y.” These goals will not only help you but will also help your loved ones understand what your time scale is for yourself and how you’re planning to achieve it.

Next Steps...

Next, you must test how willing you are to jump. No, not a naked bungee dive into the sea in Magaluf, but a fully armed, confident stride into Australia’s Coral Sea and have a paddle round the Great Barrier of Relief! You’ve done it! You’re on track! And whilst you may not have your dream job yet, because you’re so much more in the know and assured of what you want, you finally have hope. And things can only go up from here!


About the Author: Laura Ash is a recent English and Spanish graduate from the University of Southampton. She has published for Barefoot Vegan magazine, The Costa Rica News and the Wessex Scene as well as on her blog; Plane Ride Stitches. She won the Year Abroad Blogging Scholarship in 2015-16 for her university and wrote about her experiences as a cricket coach in Argentina.


laura ash grb author

Laura Ash is a recent English and Spanish graduate from the University of Southampton. She has published for Barefoot Vegan magazine, The Costa Rica News and the Wessex Scene as well as on her blog; Plane Ride Stitches. She won the Year Abroad Blogging Scholarship in 2015-16 for her university and wrote about her experiences as a cricket coach in Argentina.

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