Saturday, February 18, 2012

Take the Edge Off the Post-Grad Slump.

Tips to get past the lack of direction after graduation

It seems few students have any idea of the depression that can hit after graduation. Travel, career, where to live… While the opportunities are endless, it’s hardly an easy choice to make. Despite admitting to myself that I had no idea what I wanted to do in my last year of university, I never realized how depressing a prospect this could be. 

Not everyone hits this wall right after graduation. For me personally, I was fresh off a trip of backpacking Europe.

I worked all summer and lived in parents home to pay for the trip, but after a few weeks back in my city, sodden and gloomy winter in Vancouver, I floundered. I was floating aimlessly, without any clue of what to do next. For other friends of mine, the crash hit after exams, or following a fruitless job search. After stumbling through a couple post-grad years, I’ve learned a few things that I would have loved to know back in that rain soaked November. Whatever your situation, here are a few tips to avoid (or at least mitigate) the post grad slump.

Go easy on yourself.

Having spent the last four years working hard on my BA and paying my way through it, lounging around at home was hardly my definition of productivity, and as a result I was quite disappointed in my lack of direction. 

I now realize that varying degrees of disappointment seem largely universal. If you’re discouraged that you’re working in a job you hate, a 9 to 5 that isn’t at all related to your degree, or are even unemployed, know that this is a phase that will pass. You managed to earn yourself a degree, despite those possibly daunting first few weeks on campus. You can do this too, it’s just a new learning curve.

    What’s more, this could very well be the first large “real life” decision you’ve ever made. Diploma, post-secondary, major… All these choices are expected for many of us and are relatively easy to follow. Knowing what you want out of your life isn’t always straight forward right away.

    Identify your (short-term) goals.

What are you hoping to get out of this hazy, uncertain, but refreshingly free time in your life? Do you yearn to travel? Launch your career? Learn a new passion, new language? Discover a new neighborhood, city or country to live in? Identifying your goals for the next ten months, or even ten weeks, can be a lot less daunting than the next ten years. We tend to underestimate what we can do little by little and overestimate what we can do in the long run.

If you’re still in school, in the middle of midterm season, pay attention to what you find your mind drifting to in those late-night library sessions. Those daydreams (or early morning hour reveries) often clue you in to what you truly want.  

Seek stability.

Such a great deal of change and unknown can be depressing in itself. Look for something to anchor your days around, even if it’s just steaming cappuccinos or volunteering at your local animal shelter. While I loathed to do it, finally resorting to a coffee shop job framed my first few aimless months and gave me less time to ponder (ie less time to fret myself into a frenzy) what I planned to do with my life.  As much as I hate to admit my mother was on to something, routine in your life can give you focus and help you find some direction.

     Search out an internship.

Arts degrees (among other faculties) won’t leave you living in a box or passing your days flipping burgers at you-know-where if you don’t want to (those commerce jingles are still ringing in my ears…) but they’re often insufficient on their own. We’ve all heard it, but unless you’re trained in something specific, an internship can grant you a wealth of new knowledge and skills a degree alone simply cannot provide. Such an opportunity could help you network within a company or desired field, earn you experience, or simply give you something to work toward. Living in an environment of growth is a great contributor to happiness.  Try visiting these sites for tips on landing yourself an internship, or check out my post Tips to Land an Internship

How to Get an Internship

Canadian Careers: Internships