Most of you will know your results by now or will soon hear about them. Congratulations to all on your efforts and perseverance during your time at university. And for those of you who are completing your degree – congratulations on your achievement.
Finishing university is a significant milestone to achieve. As much as you look forward to your next step, it also means saying goodbye to your life as a student and saying goodbye to friends. As you review your time at university, you may experience mixed emotions as it is the end of what has become a familiar environment and routine.
Managing the transition phase – when ending something and starting something new – requires trusting our capacity to deal with the uncertainty of new situations. We need to prepare to meet new people and establish new relationships, and whenever going through change, it is essential to develop new routines that support our health and wellbeing (Bridges, 2004).
You are likely to be thinking about your next steps. Perhaps you already are planning to apply for jobs, or you may be taking time to consider your options. Not everyone is sure of what they would like to do after university, and particularly now, there is so much uncertainty due to the pandemic.
You may be wondering what will happen next, and you may be hoping that a good job opportunity or the option for further study in your chosen field become a reality. It is stimulating to explore options and expand your wings in a new environment.
Managing the transition to life after university
Acknowledge feelings: It is normal to feel mixed feelings as you say goodbye to friends and the lifestyle you created while at university. It is a time of anticipation, wondering about how things will unfold and a bit of apprehension as you move into unfamiliar territory.
As human beings, we do not like change as it brings uncertainty, and many would like to have some idea of what to expect to plan. So, if we are not sure, we can keep this in mind to remind us that what we are feeling is part of the transition process.
Reflecting on your experiences and giving space to thoughts and feelings will help to deal with setbacks. A helpful strategy is to look at all the variety of different ideas that may come to mind.
Keep an open mind: Imagine the road ahead that goes around a curve, like a path through a garden. At the starting point, we are not sure where the road will take us, but we have a general sense of direction.
We can start walking, trusting our ability to manage the obstacles and new situations we encounter on our way along the path. Then, as we get around the corner, we will be able to see beyond. We can gather new information from our observations and experience to decide the next steps.
Create a structure to your day: During your degree, you developed a lifestyle as a student that became familiar. As you move to a new situation, you are finding out what you are interested in and exploring what activities you would like to do, so it may take a bit of time to work out how best to spend your time. It can be a bit unsettling.
It is essential to create a structure for the day to manage your energy level and have a sense of purpose. For example, you may decide to write job applications or take a course online to learn new skills. Once you identify what you want to do, you can develop a plan and have some goals that will help to focus your mind and efforts.
Thinking about what works best for you: Explore what interests you, the type of activities you would like to do in a job. Perhaps you like being outdoors, being in contact with people, or maybe you prefer to be in a quiet space and do research, or maybe you like to work using technology or media, etc. It is helpful to reflect on the things that you enjoyed when you were in school and during your degree.
Identify what motivates you: Although you may not know yet what you would like to do or are unsure about what type of work you would like to apply for, keep in mind that as you work on your applications, go to interviews, spend time learning new skills so that when opportunities appear you are prepared.
It is helpful to reflect and make notes of things that you care about. For example, what things matter most to you? What kind of things inspire you, that you know you can put the effort in for the long term?
The workplace is changing, and we need to be willing and interested in life long learning to be prepared to deal with changes.
Learn from setbacks: The job application process can be challenging, particularly when receiving rejection letters or no responses. It is understandable to feel disappointed, frustrated or concerned about the chances of having a positive response soon.
Acknowledging our disappointment and frustration helps to reduce tension. Reframe the situation and keep in mind that it does not mean that you do not have an opportunity if nothing is coming up yet. Often, it is because there are many applying for similar jobs.
Avoid comparisons: Everyone is on a different path, have different preferences and different circumstances. So, when your friends or other students say they have a job, it does not mean that you are falling behind.
Many factors are influencing the job application process. Maintain your focus on what you are learning and what you can do next to make progress.
It is essential to redefine the word success and focus instead on what matters to you. You can think about it as “I’m learning something, I’m achieving something. I’m moving forward and making progress. I’m going in the direction of the things that are interesting matter most to me.”
Look after yourself: Acknowledging that we are humans and need time to recover energy and create mental space to think. Take time away from screens and spend time reflecting on what matters to you. Self-care is essential for our wellbeing, so maintain healthy habits to restore your energy as it is vital to be well, be creative and problem-solve effectively.
Become your best friend. Learning to support your effort can make a significant difference to your motivation and health. It reduces stress, and it helps to manage worry thoughts.
Seek support: Get more information to expand your resources, as well as discuss ideas and options.
Whenever possible, contact the organisations to get feedback to learn what you can do differently next time. Contact the Careers service to discuss your applications or prepare for an interview. You can also access online resources to support you through the application process.
Connect with others and discuss your ideas to get a different perspective. Also, spend time with people you trust and provide support to manage this stage. Keep in mind this is a journey and every step is a learning opportunity.
All the best for the future.
Bridges, W. (2004) Transitions. Making sense of life´s changes. Massachusetts: Da Capo Press.