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Post-Uni Stress: Life in Limbo?

As the end of education looms large for many final year students, a sense of unease dominates feelings about what is next.

By Lucy Siers, Migration and Mobility Studies (MSc)

The Croft Magazine // As the end of education looms large for many final year students, a sense of unease dominates feelings about what is next.

For many people without a set post-university plan, it may feel like life has transitioned from one that is fast-paced, structured by lectures, deadlines and social events, to a life in limbo and lacking a sense of purpose.

These anxieties and stresses can take many forms: getting ‘the perfect job’, moving back home, concerns about money and worries of loneliness.

The potentially anti-climactic ending to university can intensify this feeling. Adrenaline and pressure carry you through your last deadlines and exams, all leading up to the eventual achievement of ‘The Degree’. Then suddenly, after years of hard work, its finished and you’re leaving university.

With the last 18 or so years being focussed on education, the achievement of ‘The Degree’ the goal for many, the end can be daunting and has the potential to leave you feeling uncertain.

One of the most common stresses can be the pressure of finding ‘the perfect job’ to launch into immediately, getting your foot firmly onto that ‘career ladder’ before the claws of unemployment can even touch you.

University can feel like existing inside an echo chamber.

The pressure to find your dream job straight away is intensified and reinforced to the point where it is accepted that leaving university without a respectable job offer will damage your prospects of ever succeeding.

Coming to the end of my undergraduate degree last year, I felt this pressure infiltrating nearly every interaction I had with my course mates, so much so that I actively distanced myself from any engagement with career-talk. This worked for me as it allowed me to really think about what I wanted to do next.

Taking a gap year/s to gain perspective and experience before stepping into a fulltime job is a respectable option.  Considering most of our lives will be spent working there should be no rush to get going.

The period after graduating can be the best opportunity to do other, more personal things.

Employers should not consider taking a gap year to fulfil other interests as irresponsible, nor should it be considered a cop-out for those that lack direction. The myth that you should launch yourself straight onto the ‘career ladder’ otherwise you will be a lost cause is just that, it’s a myth.

However, if you are someone who feels they want to start a ‘proper’ job straight away then it is important to remember that careers are not so one dimensional anymore. If the first job you find yourself in after university isn’t making you happy then transitioning between jobs, and even entire professions, is quite normal.

For many, including myself, just the fact of not knowing what job you want is pressure enough. I will no longer be able to hide behind my ‘student’ status to justify my uncertainty to friends and family.

There is a fear of appearing unmotivated or boring if your only plan is to move back home and find a temporary job.
It is vital to remember that taking time to gain perspective to help decide your next step is okay. No two people will take the same path nor move at the same pace.

Considering we have spent most of our lives navigating the education system, often we do not want to settle for a job that will make us unhappy. This is the first time that our next step is totally our choice, which can be simultaneously exciting and terrifying.

Moving back home can be a key point of stress for numerous reasons: moving back in with family, feeling isolated both geographically and socially and the lack of access to societies.

Moving back home can feel like you’re regressing, like you’re trying to fit your graduate self back into the mould of who you were at 18. It might be challenging to maintain your autonomy and could put pressures on your mental health.

The statistics look daunting, Student Minds and City Mental Health Alliance spoke to 300 recent graduates and 49 per cent said their mental health declined after leaving university and 40 per cent felt socially isolated.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that learning to live at home again, even if only temporary, will be different and could be quite difficult. Give yourself time to adapt. Try to anticipate what you may find most difficult in the transition period and what adjustments you can implement when moving home.

Maintaining things that made you happy at university, which could include hobbies or activities, at home, may allow you some stability and continuity. Treating your family like they’re your housemates, doing your own meals/washing, could prevent the feeling of loss of independence.

It will be important to be kind to yourself, give yourself enough time to consider your next steps and adjust to your new life away from university. Self-pressure can be crushing, try not to force yourself down a path that you do not think is right for you.

Most importantly, you must accept that everyone will take alternative routes and each route (graduate job/travelling/chilling) is valid as long as it works for you. Move at the pace you feel comfortable and try not to let the limbo period be disheartening.

Featured image: Epigram

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