Blog by SiMS for Students Volunteer Project member Steven Wilson

Graduating from university or college and going out into the world of work is a big step in anyone's life. Many of us remain in education from a time when lessons consist of learning the alphabet, finger painting, and eating choc ices, all the way to achieving a degree in early adulthood. It can be exciting to finally leave behind studying and exams but this can also be a time of uncertainty.

Here’s some tips to help you after you graduate:


Don't panic

Unless you are super relaxed, graduating, and the uncertainty of what comes after, can make you feel a bit panicked. The plan you thought you had in place isn’t really working out or maybe you didn’t have a plan at all. Maybe you’ve applied to lots of jobs and you haven’t had any interviews; or even any replies. It might suddenly seem like all that time you spent studying was a waste because you can’t seem to get a job anyway. Then you are like many other graduates!

Stay calm. Think through your options. If you really want a particular job, for instance, in the field you studied in, then don’t give up on this. If you’re struggling to get anything you can try other avenues such as volunteering or taking a lower level position. It can be a great start just to place your foot in the door of any job and build from there.


Take your time

This is another way of saying don’t panic. There is often a cultural pressure to achieve instant results nowadays. This can come from your own thoughts as well as the people around you, such as parents placing pressure on you to land a job straight away. This pressure to achieve instant results can put doubts in your mind. You might begin to consider giving up on the work you really want to do, and instead begin considering other jobs that you really don’t want to do, all because you feel pressured into it.

In reality, very few people will achieve their dream job instantly or without setbacks. It is not always possible to get there within the year that you graduate. It might take years of small successes and even some failures. But if you give yourself the time to get there then chances are you will eventually. It can therefore be useful to see your chosen career as a long-term goal. Looking long-term can relieve some of the pressure and help you to not give up on the work you really want to do.


Work on yourself in the meantime

Whilst we are studying, there isn’t a lot of time to work on our habits. If you have just graduated and you have a bit more time, think about how you can improve the little things you do every day. Achieving what you want to achieve isn’t just about how you do academically. If you can make small improvements in all departments of your life this will feed into your overall career goals.

For example, if you’re a fan of self-help YouTube channels or books then you’ve likely heard some sort of iteration of the 1% rule (a great book example is Atomic Habits by James Clear). The simple idea is that you make the tiniest, most manageable changes to your habits and eventually you will reap the benefits of a sort of compound interest of results. Think about how you can make even a tiny positive change in departments like exercise, mindfulness, and reading. You might not notice the results for a while, however these decisions will benefit you in the long run and most likely leave you feeling more confident and finding it easier to work on the things that will help your chosen career.

If you find it difficult to remember to do new habits, even really easy ones, try habit stacking. This is a great trick that involves attaching a desired new habit to an existing one. In other words, if you already do something everyday, it is easier to add a new habit to the existing one than it is to start from scratch. Do you have a cup of coffee or tea everyday? Try reading a few pages every time you do or meditate for a few minutes. If you brush your teeth every morning, try considering your small goals for the day while doing so and take a note after.


Don’t compare yourself to others 

We’ve all compared ourselves to other people that may seem to be in a better position than us in their career. This can result in negative thoughts and make you think you aren’t good enough. Again, take things at your own pace, everyone is different.

If you see someone who was on your course or someone you know who has the job that you want, consider reaching out to them. You might find that they offer help with applications and give you advice on what experience you should try to gain. You might even find that their experience isn’t much different to yours. Sometimes it is just luck!