This post was written by an external contributor. Sarah Wilson helps relieve some of our fears around graduation and entering the real world (gulp…)
If you know a final year student, next time you see them give them a hug. Trust me, they need it.
If the never-ending drizzle of the winter months weren’t bad enough, students currently in their final year of uni have the nightmarish prospect of finals looming. And beyond that there’s an even bigger fear: the reality of life and work in the real world…
Type one: Headless chickens
In my experience, students under this particular kind of pressure go one of two ways. The first involves career-frenzy; students who diligently attend every job fair under the sun with pre-prepared questions memorised and CVs in hand. They’ll apply to any job that comes their way regardless of how unsuitable it might be, spurred on by panic over potential unemployment.
Type two: Heads in the sand
For others this fear is no less present, it’s just that it sends them the other way. This kind of student, weighed down by the pressure of succeeding academically and landing the perfect job, will choose to stick their head in the sand. Memos from the careers service are swiftly deleted and talk of life after uni strictly avoided.
But is any of this panic actually productive? Whilst firing off hundreds of job applications a week or ignoring the future to focus on exams might feel like the right thing to do at the time, it’s possible that post-graduate pressure might actually be ruining the prospects of soon-to-be graduates.
Pressure comes from all sides
The pressure to have it all figured out is piled on by parents, friends, and university itself. It’s also compounded by social media, which has a knack for making everyone else’s life look so much more successful and glamorous than your own. It leaves even the most level-headed of students spiralling downwards at the dreaded question: “So, what’s the plan after uni?”
When you feel the fear setting in, the best thing to do is get some perspective. Remind yourself that Alan Rickman didn’t make it into film until he was 41, JK Rowling was 32 when the first Harry Potter was published and Amy Poehler didn’t make it onto Saturday Night Live until after she turned 30.
The point is, that whilst it feels as though you’ll miss the boat if you don’t land your dream career straight out of uni, the reality is often far different.
In fact, blindly applying to every grad scheme on offer could lead you down a career path you never actually wanted to take. On the flip side, filling out such a high volumes of applications will only diminish the quality of each individual one – leaving you with nothing to show for all the hours you put in.
What’s more by devoting large chunks of your time to job applications whilst in your final year, you take away time from academic study, risking your final grade and your employability.
Of course, the opposite path can be just as bad; by completely avoiding the prospect of graduation, you’ll find yourself adrift when the day finally arrives.
As with everything in life, moderation is the most sensible policy. By setting aside a couple of hours a week to think about the future or fill out applications, you’ll find yourself far less panicked and guilty when you turn your attention back to uni work and exams.
Consider some time out
There’s nothing wrong with taking a breather. If you really don’t know what you want to do, it’s worth allowing yourself the time to figure it out.
But don’t fall into the trap of simply doing nothing – time out after uni is about recovering and relaxing, sure, but you’ve got to keep one eye on your employability.
Look out for volunteering opportunities or internships and take them if you can. Both are great ways of gaining skills that’ll look good on your CV as well as a means of dipping your toe into the world of work without committing to a contract – perfect for figuring out your next steps.
You’ll get there in the end
Above all, don’t let the pressure get to you. Even if you don’t end up in the job or career you wanted straight away, there are almost always alternative routes in. Take it one step at a time and you’ll be totally fine – and maybe consider an Instagram hiatus…