Beat the graduate blues: how to prepare for life after university | Education
Around half of students report feeling low after leaving university, according to a recent study which highlighted a lack of support available to recent graduates. “There are lots of reasons why they might experience difficulties with their mental health. Moving on after studying can be both exciting and daunting,” says Stephen Buckley, head of information at Mind. However, there are steps you can take in your final year at university to make the transition easier.
“It is completely normal to have no idea what you want to do after university,” says Buckley. “It’s important to remember that many people take months or even years to work out their next steps.”
Even if it feels like all your friends are sorted, they’re likely to be in a similar position to you. “The hardest thing for me was seeing some people go in to internships or full-time work straight away and the pressure I felt to do the same,” says recent graduate Rosie Chalk. “I knew I wasn’t ready to go on to anything big or drastic like moving to London due to my lack of experience, poor mental health, and lack of money.
“I wasn’t prepared to not see my friends as often which has left me quite lonely since my work clashes with theirs,” she says. Although she isn’t working in London and in her ideal role yet, she adds “it’s not a competition, despite how it can feel”.
Lay the groundwork
There’s pressure among students to find work, which is why Carly-May Kavanagh put the wheels in motion before graduating. “I attended student journalism and radio conferences,” she says. “I also applied for an NCTJ course in Brighton, and for the Journalism Diversity Fund, which I knew would benefit me when it came to job searching.” She’s now a community reporter for The Mid Sussex Times.
You may not be able to walk into the job of your dreams straight away. But if you make contacts and connections during your final year, you could start the process of getting there. “Most of the opportunities I’ve had have come through working closely with those around me,” says Ben Winter, who studied music promotion at Solent University. His time involved with his university’s radio society proved helpful in finding work in the music industry, he says.
Look after your health
Graduate life can get lonely. As Buckley explains, it’s important to stay healthy and get the basics right. He advises a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, keeping fit and not abusing alcohol and drugs.
At a time where there can be quite a lot of upheaval, it’s important to look after your physical and mental health. Recent graduate Lucy Wynne recommends sport. She trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu during her studies and continued after graduating and moving city. “Because I was forced to meet a whole new bunch of people at my new gym it got me settled into [city] life more. The routine of having a sport to do is great for your mental health too.”
Ask your university for support
Graduates may feel isolated, but there is some support available. According to an NUS spokesperson, “your student union and institution may be open over the summer, and often services such as the career service will still be open to you even after graduation.”
Buckley recommends that you “stay in touch with university friends – everyone finds this transition tricky, and hearing from an old friend is reassuring”. If you feel that you need to, you can contact Mind’s Infoline on 0300 123 3393 (Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm), or talk to your GP.