Fresh graduate? Here is how to handle the job search pressure
By Alex Shteingardt, Managing Director – Hays Russia
It’s been several months since you graduated, and you still haven’t found a job. At first, having a break from the pressure of university coursework and exam grades was a welcome change. But now you’re left with no routine, no stability, and no income and you’re facing a different kind of pressure entirely – the pressure to find your first graduate job.
What’s worse is that everyone around you seems to be getting work, so why haven’t you? It’s not like you haven’t been trying. After all you’ve read plenty of job searching tips, and you have put the time and effort into your applications – but still nothing. To make matters worse – you aren’t sure how long you will be in this limbo period for. Needless to say, it’s an emotionally taxing time!
But whilst finding a job is important, it’s equally crucial that you don’t let this pressure get to you too much. Otherwise, not only could this damage your wellbeing, but you could end up taking the first role you are offered – even if it’s not suitable. The question is, how can you alleviate some of this pressure, approach your search in a more level-headed way, all the while achieving the results that you want to?
1. Stop comparing your job search to everyone else’s
I can imagine that right now, it seems that every time you log into LinkedIn, Facebook or check your WhatsApp groups – another friend from university is celebrating a job offer. But remember, people only share what they want you to see. For all you know, these very same people may want to leave their new jobs soon because they took the first one that came along. And what about all the people who are struggling to even find work?
Instead of feeling resentful or down on yourself, why don’t you turn the situation around and reach out to the people who are telling the world about their new job? As you congratulate them, ask them to share any of their tips. I’m sure they will be flattered, especially if you say you feel inspired by their success, and that you would like to learn from them.
And if you happen to know that some of your other graduate peers haven’t found a job yet – why don’t you reach out to them too? You could provide one another with emotional support because no doubt they’re feeling the pressure too. You could set up a WhatsApp group or meet for coffee once a week where you share your experiences and when one of you gets a job – the secrets of your success!
Of course, as you reach out to your peers, bear in mind that everyone’s route to getting their first graduate job will be unique to them. Everyone has different skill sets, levels of experience, and ultimately – job preferences. Therefore some people will apply for more widely available roles and get snapped up right away, others may want something different and have to wait a little bit longer. What’s key is that you stay true to yourself, which takes me to my next point.
2. Take a step back and think about what you really want
The job you eventually do get will comprise a significant part of your life and have a huge impact on your general wellbeing. Therefore it’s important that you take your time and only apply for the jobs you really want, as opposed to succumbing to the pressure to get a job and applying for absolutely everything at once. Recruiters and hiring managers can spot generic applications a mile off and are far more likely to respond to an applicant who has taken their time to tailor their CV and cover letter to the role they are applying for because they really want the job.
You may not have a solid idea of what your long-term career goals are, after all, you’re very junior in your career. And that’s ok, no-one is saying you have to pick one path and stick to it forever! Right now it’s about choosing your next step. How do you want to grow your skills from here, and what kind of paths would you be interested in pursuing? Ask yourself:
a. What did you enjoy doing during your time at university and any work experience?
b. What kind of transferable skills did you pick up at university?
c. What are you passionate about?
d. What would you like to learn more about?
Next, meet with a recruiter who can advise which types of roles match your preferences, and potentially put you forward for jobs that are available. Having a clearer idea of what you want can help ease some of that pressure, and will allow you to feel more focused as opposed to frantic in your job search.
3. Establish a good search/life balance
As I said in the beginning, you have gone from handling academic pressure to handling job search pressure. But what’s tough about job search pressure, is that it is indefinite in two senses of the word. You don’t know how many hours you should spend focusing on your search each day, and you don’t know how much longer you will be searching for.
Let’s tackle the first pressure-point first – your hours. You may feel both pressure to spend every waking minute trying to find a job, and guilt the moment you stop to take a break. This will only result in you exhausting yourself, so instead, treat your job search like full-time work itself. Get up early every weekday, set yourself daily goals and a to-do list. Allow for breaks and use the evening and weekends to unwind. I will also add that exercise is a great stress relief.
Of course, the stress of not knowing how long you will be unemployed for is not to be underestimated either. Uncertainty can be really scary, and for this, I would advise confiding in people who you can trust – be it friends, family or your recruiter. Once you start to open up, you will be surprised at how many people begin to do the same and share their own experiences of unemployment pressure. I also think your situation calls for mindfulness because this practice is all about being present and not focusing too much on the future. It’s also about observing your thoughts, rather than getting caught up in them – which will certainly help you when you start to feel anxious. Essentially, to keep that job-search pressure at bay, you need to create a routine for yourself, one which allows for plenty of self-care.
Being an unemployed graduate can be a very testing time, and I understand the pressure that you must feel. However if you want to find the right role for you, one which you will actually enjoy, then it’s important that you keep a level head, and don’t let the pressure get to you. Your graduate job search isn’t a race or a competition. It’s a journey that is unique to you. And if you go at your pace, focus on your goals, and look after your own wellbeing at the same time, then I am confident that you will find success in the near future.