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Like everything (good and bad), it will eventually come to an end. When I left university I felt relieved but I also had a sense of dread not knowing exactly what to do next as a psychology graduate.

When I accepted my unconditional offer on UCAS, I wasn’t aware of the uncertainty that I was going to face a couple of years later when it came to securing a job that I was qualified for and felt satisfied with. Life after graduation is a major life change, yet people joke about it. You’re now prepared to boil water for pasta. Ha ha, that’s funny. Not. It’s not something to joke about.

When my degree certificate came in the post, I freaked out. “What do I do now?” I asked myself. At the time, I was working part-time in a stationary store and had the burning desire to leave as soon as possible. I would sit in my car during my lunch break and say to myself, “Damn, what am I doing in this car right now? I didn’t pull all-nighters for this. I was meant to have a fulfilling and well-paid job by now. I was meant to be working in a big city. Instead, it’s the complete opposite and I’m sat in my car wallowing.” I felt alone.

I was falling out of love with my hobby, painting. I felt guilty for picking up a paintbrush instead of looking for jobs. A couple of months ago you would find me at my parents’ house slowly losing the will to live at my desk. For hours on end I would constantly be applying for all sorts of jobs related to psychology. It was repetitive. I would research companies, tailor cover letters, fill in my details on application forms over and over again for every single job. And then with all of the applications came all of the rejections (if I was lucky to even get a response). I had never been rejected so much in my entire life. What was I doing wrong? What was I doing right, even?

A couple of months ago you would find me at my parents’ house slowly losing the will to live at my desk.

I started to question if I was a fraud, applying to jobs that were too good for me. I got into this mind-set that was all, “Oh, I’m not going to apply to this job, if I did anyway, they wouldn’t accept me.” I was getting increasingly frustrated, resentful, embarrassed, and hopeless as each day went by. I would swear, cry into my pillow as quietly as I could, drive around aimlessly, limit my interaction with others, and then act like everything was okay – Behaviours that were not normal for me. You learn to act like you’re fine when you’re really not. I was getting to a point where I would question the purpose of life. It wasn’t healthy for me, but I kept all of these feelings to myself. I didn’t want to bother my siblings, my parents, nor my girlfriend who had enough on their plates already. A 21 year old guy should know how to sort his own life out, right?

One day, I decided to sign up for LinkedIn to explore more job opportunities, only to find other people from my university smashing it. It seemed like everyone else around me had a good job, got their dream car, were homeowners, wore the nicest clothes, went on the most expensive holidays, and had enough time to travel. It seemed like their lives were mint. All these comparisons would be on my mind. How did he get so many connections? How did she get that opportunity? How did he join all of these societies? How did she get a good job so soon? I put in years of hard work too, why am I not successful like these people? I also felt similar feelings around my siblings. Around the dinner table they had good and exciting things to share to our parents. However when it came to me, I had nothing of interest to share. It was an ideal opportunity for my parents to compare me to my siblings. Everything is not what it seems to be.

It seemed like their lives were mint. All these comparisons would be on my mind.

Several months have passed since I graduated and within that timeframe I’ve learned to look at things from a different perspective. I’ve changed my mind-set. Firstly, I’ve picked up my paintbrush again. Painting helps me to chill out and take my mind off a lot of stuff. I am trying to enjoy my life for what it is now. Secondly, I think that gratitude has helped me a lot. I am in a fortunate position to have a degree and that I am able to make choices with what I do with my life. I have it a lot better than other people. Thirdly, I’ve stopped applying for jobs endlessly because it makes me unhappy. Instead, I’ve signed up for job alerts, so if I see something that I’d like to do, I apply for it then. What you’d like to do might even change. I’m trying to work smarter, not harder, at job applications. Applying for jobs is not a total waste of time because it’s helping me to get used to rejection, which is something that many young people do not have the chance to experience.

Everything is in place when you’re in school, all of your classes are sorted, you’re familiar with your teachers, and you’ve got a clear goal which is to work towards your qualifications. You know what’s coming next. And then, when you get to university, you’re in charge of yourself. Just you. No one else. You have to accept that you’re going through a major life change. There is uncertainty. You don’t know what’s coming next. Considering this uncertainty, you have to put certainty back into your life. I’ve done this by making goals for myself so that I have something to work towards, whether they are big or small, easy or difficult, personal or professional. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and keeps me occupied.

Considering this uncertainty, you have to put certainty back into your life.

I think that universities don’t pay enough attention to students’ mental health both during and after their time at university. Why is that though? It’s a stressful time in a person’s life, especially if that person feels pressure to perform their best, so it’s only right to assume that they need support, whether they explicitly ask for it or not. Don’t just hand students their degree at the end of their course and then forget that they ever existed. Follow them up, make sure they’re okay, and ask them how they’re feeling. Be able to provide them with help and support accordingly. Provide more than a handful of opportunities for students to be able to build up the courage to say, “Yeah, maybe I’m not okay.”

If you are feeling low, please contact your GP, or seek advice from your university wellbeing service. They're there for YOU.

1 Comment

Aug 15, 2023

I feel u frfr

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