Maintaining motivation when trying to find a graduate job/career after university

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Thousands of students across the UK have just finished their final year exams, and attention may now be turning to the next step…the graduate job hunt or even beyond this, thinking about which career path to pursue.

Graduation is a time of excitement. But with no more lectures to attend, finals to revise for, and the regularity of university life fading into the distance, for students who may not yet have found their first career step following graduation (and by the way if this is you then it’s ok, not all graduates jump straight into a graduate scheme after university), the thought of spending days job hunting or career planning, can be overwhelming. Especially if you have no definite idea about what you want to do within your career.

For those of you about to graduate, the following suggestions may come in handy over the coming months to help keep you going, and to stop de-motivation from taking hold. They come tried and tested over the years by myself, former colleagues and other people in my wider network. Use them in isolation, or alongside each other, it’s what works for different people.

1. Mix up the way you search for job/career opportunities

Visit one or many online job boards, graduate recruitment websites or company careers webpages. Scroll through jobs. Get frustrated. Repeat. Every day. Job boards are a great way of accessing a range of companies and job vacancies, especially if you find a number of roles that interest you, and for which you want to apply. However, it can be frustrating and extremely de-motivating if you spend your days looking through a long list of jobs and nothing seems suitable or stands out.

It has long been accepted that many job roles are never advertised, and many career routes may not be instantly accessible to graduates through job boards. Reach out to your own network of fellow graduates, colleagues, friends and family. May be someone you know (a distant relative or friend of a friend of as friend) works in a career of interest to you. Could you try and arrange for a chat to at least understand more about what they do and how they got into this line of work?

Try recruitment agencies, join the professional body that may be linked to your degree area. See if they run any careers events, talks or other events where you could go along to meet other professionals. Search for local professional networking coffee meetings in your local area. May be you’ve found a company of interest but they’re not advertising any jobs. Send a targeted speculative CV and cover letter. See if you could speak with someone at the company about their work. Ask if you could shadow or observe for a day.

Carry on searching the job boards, but mixing up the way you approach finding a job/suitable career could help keep things interesting and you may find out about career routes you never knew existed, and which are not readily accessible via conventional means.

2. Look for ways to grow and develop alongside your job/career search

It’s not always possible for you to jump from university into your perfect career. Necessity or responsibilities may mean you need to work in a casual job to bring in some money. Do some voluntary work around something you are passionate about. Complete a short online course to develop your IT skills. Learn coding, learn a language or read newspapers or books around subjects that may interest you. Doing constructive things around career planning and job searching may keep you engaged, stop boredom and frustration taking hold, and you may actually be doing things that can build your confidence and develop a skillset for your future workplace.

3. Don’t spend all-day-every-day searching for a job or that perfect career

This is linked to no. 2 in the list. Like continuous intense study at university without a break can be counter-productive, so too can a job or career hunt. We are not machines, and sometimes it is healthy to give our mind a break from doing something on a constant basis. Schedule time for job searching and career planning, but see friends and family, play some sport, commune with nature, or do some volunteering. Clear your head.

4. Remove the pressure… it’s not about deciding on the perfect career right now

Rarely does someone wake up and decide all of a sudden what they want to do as a career for the rest of their life, look online, find the perfect job, hit “apply” and the rest is history. For many new graduates, the process of pursuing a meaningful career comes about over time through gaining different experiences, trial and error, gaining new qualifications and learning about interests and what they are good at. Chances are, if you are hoping for a lightbulb moment, this can contribute to feelings of frustration and de-motivation. Take positive things from your experiences and try and enjoy the journey.

5. Try to spend time around positive and supportive people

Whilst having your best interests at heart, some people may choose to tell you what they think about your current situation and what you should or should not be doing when trying to find your first steps on the career ladder. Again, this can be disheartening and can make you question what you are doing, and can affect your levels of motivation. Try to spend time around other supportive and positive people. Friends, family members, self-development books and personal development blogs can all provide a supportive network. Or get out of the house, volunteer and find new people to meet that can give you a new perspective on things.

6. Get some careers advice

Just because you may be graduating, it doesn’t mean you can no longer access your university careers service. Many universities still offer graduates the chance to access a range of services i.e. careers appointments, events, job postings, typically for up to 1-3 years, or in the case of some universities, for much longer following graduation. Check with your own university how this process works. Some universities may now hold careers workshops over the summer months aimed at recent graduates, and focused on anything from career options through to practical advice for CVs, application forms and interview preparation. Even if you are no longer located in your university town or city, many of the services can be accessed from a distance via websites, or in the case of careers appointments, via telephone or Skype.

For those graduating this summer and are still facing what seems to be the long and daunting process of leaving university and finding a job/career/meaningful route in life, bear with the process, and consider integrating some of these steps to help keep you motivated.

This article was originally posted on by Sarah Warburton, Careers Consultant.

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