Stressed about graduating? Here’s what you need to know.
Guest post by Lauren Frost
Four to six years of your life. Thousands of dollars in tuition. Countless cram-sessions and mornings feeling so exhausted you look both ways before crossing Ring Road. This is it. You’re about to hand in your last paper, fill out your last answer sheet, or present your last group project. And yet, just as you’re taking your final steps toward freedom, someone asks:
“What are your plans after you graduate?”
“Do you have a job lined up yet?”
“What exactly are you hoping to do with your degree?”
Let the stress begin again.
If the idea of walking the stage incites a sense of anxiety for you, you’re not alone. There is a lot of pressure put on university students to have it all figured out by the time they graduate—to have a job lined up, an acceptance letter to grad school, or a plane ticket in hand to somewhere new—but the reality is, lots of new grads don’t have it all figured out, and that’s ok!
Speaking as someone who is graduating in June, I understand the pressure to have a plan all too well. But, from my perspective, the two most important things to know about graduating university are:
- The first career decision you make will not be the last.
- There are a ton of supports around to help you make that first decision before and after convocation day.
Like a lot of people, making important decisions gives me a lot of anxiety. When I was in high school, I was so terrified about choosing what to study in university that a beloved teacher of mine had to sit me down and walk me through the decision-making process.
“What if I don’t like it?” I asked.
“Then change it,” she said.
This is the simplest, and probably the most impactful career advice I’ve ever received. There are very few decisions in life that are permanent. Sometimes you just have to make a decision at any given time to get yourself started, knowing that you may make a different decision later down the line.
Thinking about graduation in this way has helped me to feel less anxious. Sure, I might not like what I think I want to do, but that’s ok! I have my whole life ahead of me to make new choices, go back to school, and/or try out different jobs, and so do you.
The other thing that has eased my anxiety about graduating is accessing resources that are in place at UVic to help me make the transition from the classroom to the workplace. The best part is, even if you’re graduating this year, it’s not too late to access them! There are still lots of opportunities to connect with someone for advice and coaching, meet potential employers, and/or get help searching for a job available to you this semester.
Here are a few:
Connect with a career educator
Whether you have an idea of what you want to do or you still don’t have any real work experience, a UVic career educator can help you figure out your next step after walking the stage. Each program area has its own dedicated career educator with specialized knowledge in the field, so they are an excellent resource for aligning your interests, skills, and financial goals with what kind of work is currently in demand.
Career development events
UVic offers a ton of different events that are designed to help students and alumni figure out their next career move. In the last semester, I’ve attended a career fair, employer info sessions, and career panels, and each event was incredibly helpful to me.
This semester, there are lots of similar events happening, like the Hi-Tech Career Fair, the Government of Canada Hiring Fair, and career exploration panels covering various topics. There are also always employer info sessions you can find by looking at the Co-op & Career Portal under “Events and workshops.”
It might seem like a lot to go out to an event in the midst of another jam-packed semester (especially if it’s your last semester!), but taking an hour or two out of your busy schedule might result in a work search lead, a better idea of what your skills are needed for, or a surprising discovery of a new potential career path. At an info session last semester, I learned that I have all the skills needed to be procurement officer—and my degree is in Theatre!
Something I wish I knew earlier in my degree is that it’s hard to know what you want to do if you don’t even know who you are. Counselling has been instrumental for me in many ways. It helped me develop a sense of self, let go of perfectionism, and tackle anxiety and depression, all of which ultimately were relevant to figuring out what I want to do after I graduate.
Because I now understand my needs, natural preferences, and boundaries, I have a better understanding of what kind of jobs and work environments are fulfilling to me.
Because I am able to value my skills instead of criticizing myself at every turn, I can see that I am capable of doing work that I never thought I was talented/skilled/good enough to do.
While I went to a counsellor off-campus, UVic Counselling Services is a great resource for students who are feeling overwhelmed by the thought of graduation. They also offer services specifically to help you explore career paths
If you’re still scared of graduating without a tangible next step (a job offer, an acceptance letter, or a plane ticket), remember that the age old question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” implies that a day will come when you’ve finished growing. Keep growing. Keep changing your mind. Never stop seeking resources, opportunities, and people who are willing to help you. You’ll find your way to where you need to be.
I believe in you.