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We believe exceptional people can make a huge impact. Speak to us today about how we can place the right person for your team.

We seek roles as individual as you are. Speak to us today about finding your next opportunity.

Whether you’re looking to make a hire for your team or seeking an exciting new opportunity, we’re here to answer your questions.

Considering a career in recruitment? Join one of our growing Perm or Contract teams today. 

Facing the post-university job scramble

5 min read

You’ve finished university but before you’ve had a chance to celebrate graduation, the reality check has hit and you’re left wondering, now what? The uncertainty of your next steps into the real world can be very scary, but not to fear, this is a short guide on how to combat this post-university limbo and get the most out of it. 

Firstly, what are post-university blues?

Moving away from university after graduating, and carrying the uncertainty of your next steps, you might be feeling a bit lost in life. This is especially true if you are leaving a university life of living independently, working hard (i.e., pulling all-nighters, because you may, or may not have left it all till the last minute) and having friends constantly nearby for impromptu ‘Gavin and Stacey’ dress up night (surely everyone did this?).

A few months down the line, and the post-graduation freedom has worn a bit thin, you want a job but not just any job, something to get you on the career ladder. Your friends' updates and LinkedIn feed might be full of news about the graduate schemes they’re on, internships they landed or the post graduate studies they enrolled onto (did someone say panic masters??) but, you’re still here wondering, why you didn’t do your own ‘Gavin and Stacey on a dime’ themed night.

Let’s face it, it’s no secret that after finishing university we are all faced with questions like: What do I want to do? What job is right for me? Do I even have it in me to work 5 days a week? Will I have to work doing something I hate, just to have a job? In short, it’s draining.

These feelings are very normal, and you are not alone. The City Mental Health Alliance found 49% of students felt at a low point after graduating (half of the graduate population).

It’s easy to get down about this and let rejections get the better of you, but I can promise you that yes, you will be able to pay off your overdraft, have a career (and enjoy it) and perhaps your degree wasn’t the most practical when it comes to a job search, but it was not a waste of time and money. 

Why do we feel low after university?

I’ll get to the solutions to this problem in a minute. But first, I want to validate your feelings and explore the reasons we feel like this.

1. You’ve been let loose into the world: From ages 4 to 21, your life schedule has been decided for you by the education system. From your GCSEs to your A-levels to your degree, everything has been a given. But now you have 24 hours of freedom, 7 days a week to think of your next step, you are now an adult, congratulations.

2. You have some regrets: You’ve been let loose into the world and you’re now dealing with the consequences of your decisions. Whether you spent all summer working, landed an internship you didn’t *love*, began to question your degree, or laboured the shoulda-woulda-couda's. We all have regrets and wonder ‘what if’, it’s normal. Every decision begins to feel like a regret when you over analyse it.

 3. You catastrophise: Now that you begin to scrutinise your decisions and experiences in order to write your CV, you may assume that your lack of real-work experience will scupper your chance of getting into a job you like (I mean, why is every graduate job asking for 2 years' experience...?).

4. You feel alone: You might think that nobody else feels the same way as you, but we are all slaves to comparison: be it friends, family or social media. This is called upwards comparison. You look at someone who is seemingly living their best life, with everything together, but not the reality behind their smiles. At some point, they too would have felt/ or are feeling the same way as you. It might explain why so many of your friends have jumped into graduate schemes without taking a second to think, ‘what do I actually want to do?’ We are all creatures of structure and habit but making a quick decision in a panic doesn’t usually lead to the best outcomes. 

5. You’re unsure about what you want to do: “I’m scared, some people struggle to land their dream job, but I don’t even know what my dream job is!". As more and more family members start to ask, ‘so what’s next’, the pressure mounts. It’s easy to crumble.

6. Rejections: Rejection hurts. You spent ages writing the CV, applying to the job, and preparing for the interview, only to find out that you ‘haven’t been selected for the next stage’. Rejections can be a big knock to your confidence and terrible for casting self-doubt. But try and take it as a sign that it wasn’t the right step for you, right now. With a little bit of growth and perseverance (aka experience and up-skilling) there’s no saying that that job couldn’t be perfect for you later down the line. 

So how can I combat these feelings?

So now you know why you feel the way you do, how do you take charge of the situation?

Work: You’ve established that you need some work-experience, because one thing employers value, is experience. Maybe you know what you want to do, and have a specific job in mind, but you don’t know how to get it.  A good place to start is to consider a steppingstone role. You might want to think about starting out working as an administrator, barista, tutor or in retail. Not only does this bulk out your CV, but it gives you some much needed money and (a term they love to hear) transferable skills. The job doesn’t have to be perfect- remember it's not forever. But, if you go in with a can-do attitude and ready to add some value, then when you find yourself sitting in front of an employer for the entry-level job you want, you’ll have plenty of experience and *transferable skills* to talk about. The job doesn’t have align perfectly with what you want to do, but quite frankly, having good past work experience shows to a potential employer that you are employable. Hey- you can make the wrong decision and move forward, it's not a life sentence. Think about the small steps to get to the bigger ones, every step is just as important as the last. Remember, going into the industry at a lower level or doing any job to get experience and upskill will never be a bad thing. Either way, experience is always valued. 

Volunteer/intern: Right, I know that this isn’t necessarily do-able for everyone. Free labour and unpaid internships aren’t fair and seldom justifiable. But, if you happen to know someone who could offer you work-experience, an internship or industry insight, this could be your foot in the door. And if you prove yourself to be of value, that internship could lead to full time employment... crazier things have happened. Doing a good job during your work experience by showing willingness and enthusiasm will also leave you with glowing references, ready to impress HR. 

Take a course: Use this strange limbo period after graduation to prepare. What we mean by this is to try not to get stuck in the routine of waking up at noon, wasting away the morning and making one application in the evening. If you treat applying to jobs as a full-time job, you will see results. Aim to make applications in the morning and in the afternoon complete a Coursera course. This shows potential employers that you are proactive in getting the job you want. The course could be training in a software you know is useful for your desired line of work, or for a skill useful in pretty much every business, excel. Others include time management, day planning or managing conflict. 

Try to enjoy it: Being back at home can get lonely when you have too much time on your hands. All your friends are either far away in other places, working all day or in the same boat as you. But don’t isolate yourself, keep up with your friends and reach out to them to plan things to do when you’re all free. Take some time for yourself in between applications, courses and work. You’ve done an amazing thing, you’ve graduated. That is most definitely a cause for celebration. 

And at last, some final words of wisdom

This might feel like a tough transitional period right now but acknowledging that you’re unhappy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s a sign that something needs to change. Life is full of challenges that once experienced and conquered make us stronger, more confident and ready to take on the next problem (which will inevitably come).

Nothing lasts forever and ‘that’ decision that feels so important right now A) will eventually lead you down the right path even if it’s the wrong decision, and B) isn’t permanent.

Recent statistics from the New College of the Humanities found that 19 out of 20 graduates switched jobs within three years. No one is expecting you to have the right answer and make the right decision the first time, like most things it’s trial and error. So, try not to take things too seriously and enjoy your freedom before full-time employment!