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How to cope with job searching as a recent graduate

We all know that searching for jobs can feel hopeless at times, and this feeling is perhaps no more palpable than for those who have just completed higher education.

You leave university with an optimistic outlook on your future. With an entire degree under your belt, you know how much time and effort you have dedicated towards your specialist subject, and all the skills you have learned along the way. You quickly start to realise, however, that there may not be a list of potential jobs in your chosen field that are just waiting for you to apply. There may not even be a list of jobs outside of your chosen field that you can consider, either. With a myriad of personal concerns and preferences to factor in, job searching is no easy feat, and it requires a great deal of resilience.

With this in mind, here are a few helpful points to consider as a recent graduate continuing your job search:

1. You are still a homeworker

Whilst you may not be in full or part-time employment right now, you are still occupying the headspace of someone who is deeply invested in their future career, and you are dedicating a lot of time to online research. Why not treat yourself with respect during the process? By valuing your efforts now, you are even more likely to value them when you officially start work, which is good news for you, and your employer. Be careful not to beat yourself up if and when you get rejected – you are trying your best, and making the effort to apply in the first place.

It is good to take care of your environment, as this most likely doubles as your living and ‘work’ space. Letting fresh air circulate can help to prevent fatigue [1]. Moving from your bed to working at a table [2] can help reaffirm that your efforts and aspirations are worth being taken seriously. Working to normalise your sleep pattern can also help to alleviate some of the strain your worried mind may be experiencing [3]. If you have only recently finished the last minute dash to complete your masters dissertation, then it is no wonder that you might need some time to adjust to ‘regular’ hours again. Rest, exercise and nutritious food can all help you to feel better if you think you may be experiencing symptoms of ‘burnout’ [4].

2. Your feelings are valid

The pandemic has disrupted the way we approach daily life. Everything from our navigation of social media to public spaces has been altered, and it is useful to reflect on how the person you were pre-pandemic compares to the person you are now [5]. Were you once a social butterfly who now finds leaving the house to be more of a challenge? It is good to make yourself aware of how these changes shape your needs when it comes to work. Tuning in and asking what you really want can be incredibly useful. Maybe the job you thought you wanted at the start of your degree doesn’t align with the one you want today [6]. You might need more support than you used to. After all, being resilient during your job search is, as St George’s University of London states:

[…] not about pushing through difficulties and ignoring your mental health. It’s about adapting, which includes seeking assistance when you need it.” [7]

It can be useful to express any frustrations or feelings you may have in some form. Journaling can help us to understand our emotions, and has been proven to increase optimism [8], whilst talking about your feelings with another person is a great way of validating your experiences [9].

3. Learning can help

Is your CV a little bare outside of your academic achievements in your specialist subject? Do you miss studying? There are countless free online courses which can teach you about a wide range of subjects. Why not check out sites like FutureLearn[10] or OpenLearn [11] which offer a variety of courses? Not only will that IT training course look great on your resume, but it is also a wonderful way of keeping your mind active, and of reminding yourself of all you are capable of achieving.

Elana Lyn Gross recommends working on a ‘passion project,’ such as a blog or a newsletter, which can help highlight the skills you already have. Gross also recommends writing out a list of all your strengths, in order to better determine the hard and soft skills you possess that could prove useful in certain industries [12]. Joining an online group which meets to discuss a topic you are interested in is another great way to stay creative and social without breaking the bank.

4. You hold the power

You applied and got the job? Congratulations! Even if this isn’t the role you always thought you wanted, hopefully there will be interesting aspects to the work, and room for progress. At the very least, this position will most likely teach you a number of transferrable skills which you can take with you into your next role [13]. However, if you find yourself unhappy in your work, it is important to remember that you have the power to change things. There are certain aspects of every job that will not suit us, but it is up to you to decide what does and does not work for you.

Whilst this article has spoken directly about the graduate experience, the same advice can be applied to those experiencing job loss or a change in income amidst the pandemic. It can be hard to leave a job when money is tight, and not everyone will have the luxury to do so. If this is the case for you, just know that your work is only a fraction of who you are and what you do. The joy that you get from investing time and energy into your hobbies and relationships proves that there is life beyond the job search. Know that you are not alone, and that there will always be opportunities for community within what can sometimes feel like an isolating experience. You have so much to offer, both in the ‘workplace’ and beyond – don’t lose hope.


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