Finishing undergraduate college can be a truly overwhelming experience. Suddenly you’re on your own. No dorms, cafeteria food and dining funds, professors giving you advice, and learning simply put in front of you. Everything takes effort and intentional work now – including earning money based upon your degree.
I can personally attest to feeling adrift and lost for the whole year after I graduated in December 2013. My story may be different from yours since my brain has dealt with depression since high school, but the post-university blues are a real and documented thing.
I went back to one of my college part-time jobs after graduation to “take a break” from the stress of senior semester (for example, I couldn’t read a single book or learn anything academic). Soon after, I felt stuck, stressed, and lost. I knew I needed more internship experience, but I needed money to pay for my wedding and didn’t have time besides. I didn’t even know how to look for jobs in my field, and worst yet, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I’m still figuring it all out!
Most importantly, I know I am not alone. For more information on on awareness of college graduates and depression, read these articles from The Guardian, The Independent, and the National Institute of Mental Health.
Take a deep breath and remember that you’re not the only one. Here are some ideas to keep in mind and do as you go through this time.
1. Renew your perspective.
Going through college gives you expectations that may be actually unrealistic! You’re only in your twenties. Talk to people. Many of them didn’t get a job they loved (or in their field, etc.) until they were much older and much further out of college. Try to view your life from another person’s shoes, and you may be surprised to see how blessed you still are. And don’t forget to admire your degree a little!
2. Re-think your expectations.
Like I stated above, our college minds are taught about the “real world” in terms of expectations for us. In turn, we develop ideas. When we don’t meet those ideas, we may not have made a Plan B and thus fall into negative thinking. Making smaller goals (like making a list of places to apply or attending a resume workshop) can be an easy first step in heading in a more realistic direction. Then you can realistically expect to be in your field, say, five years from now. Don’t go overboard too soon!
3. Narrow down your strengths (and weaknesses).
Unsure of what you want to do? Write down your interests and then separate the hobbies from the things you could do as a career (this benefited me greatly!). Research your field and find out what you may be a perfect fit for. Write down your strengths for interviews, and also decide on what your weaknesses are should you need to work on those (public speaking, interviewing well, etc). College was spent learning about so many subjects that you may have skipped learning about yourself professionally.
4. Find out how to prepare.
Maybe you were that student who listened to your college’s career center and practiced interviewing, resume-writing, and job searching, but I wasn’t. I barely had time for homework much less preparing for what I would do afterward. If you feel “stuck” in your current job situation, go back to your strengths and weaknesses and figure out what you could work on. Research actual jobs in your field, ask questions, and do the small things that are helping you become more learned in the area of the real world rather than maybe what you studied. Sometimes this is the best thing you can do while you wait for that call back or interview.
5. Don’t be afraid to try new things.
Yes, we’re all taught that we should use the degree we got all those student loans for. But honestly, maybe you decided on that major as a junior or senior in high school and were too afraid or far along in college to explore other options (also known as me). Perhaps you want to deviate a little because you found an amazing organization or a line of work you never knew existed. Explore! Take a class now and then if something interests you. Volunteer one night a week or month. Or maybe you might find you love being an Esty-shop owner, barista, or waiter/waitress – that’s perfectly okay! More job experience is more life experience, and all these things can make you well-rounded and wiser.
6. Explore your world.
As an autobiographical writer, I know I’m probably not going to get something big published while I’m young. It just makes sense that I would need to live a little longer and more. For that reason, I know it is important for me to travel and discover new places, and what’s great for my budget is that they might be just down the road. If you can’t afford to fly somewhere, read your state’s magazine and discover all the gems the locals talk about (Minnesota Monthly and Mpls St. Paul Magazine are my favorites for Minnesotans). If it’s not intimidating, meet new people around you and learn their story. In a small way you are broadening your perspective and becoming more learned in the ways of the world. Don’t underestimate your life and experiences.
7. Enjoy your friends and family.
It’s true – you may not have the same community of professors and students you had at college. But now that you don’t have the same “busy with finals” excuse, you can use an allotted time each week to reconnect with friends and family you don’t want to lose touch with. Isolation is the worst for depression (as tempting as it is, I would not recommend binge-watching Netflix, at least not for months at a time). Talking to people and being encouraged by them is one of the healthiest things you can do.
8. Get help if you need it.
Lastly, seek professional help if your depression simply isn’t letting up. It’s nothing to be ashamed of by any means, but it can be hard to find someone without the free services of college right there. Though your college’s counseling center isn’t able to directly help you, they’re usually more than willing to give you a list of services in your area. If that’s not up your alley, then seek out a mentor through your church or perhaps a past professor who would be willing to listen and encourage you.
Are you or did you battle with the post-graduate blues? What are your ideas for battling depression and feeling lost in the job-searching world?