It’s very common for the transition out of University to have its challenges – how big or difficult these are will be different to each of us. But we all know what it’s like to feel drained and overwhelmed and these are common feelings final year students report to us when they are thinking about next steps – you’re not on your own.
Our Class of 2020 students will be facing an uncertain time too when it comes to moving into the graduate labour market. Covid-19 and the impact that might have on the job market does not have to determine our experience – we can choose what to make of it and how to respond.
Here are 5 simple actions that you can take that will have a positive impact on maintaining your wellbeing whilst planning your next steps. These steps link to York’s Your Career Journey, they are simple and applicable to those without clear plans, as well as those who are maybe clearer on where they want to be. You might choose to explore 1, or more, but certainly don’t feel pressured to try all 5!
1. Tune into yourself
It’s not unusual to hear people asking each other: ‘What have you learnt about yourself during lockdown?’, ‘What would you do more of?’, ‘What will you stop doing?’. Tuning in and taking notice of your answers to these questions, how you are feeling and what you are doing is the essence of being mindful. This is the easiest place to start when you are thinking about your career.
Thinking more deeply about what makes you tick and what’s important to you will reveal something about your values. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
What difference you want to make and who you want to work for are also indicative of your values. This is a strong basis for applications – the compelling reason why you want to work for a particular sector or employer is something an employer will want you to address at every stage in an application process.
So listen to that voice and pay attention – ‘I’m noticing how I am, what’s important to me, what values are being tested right now and through the different experiences I have had’.
Focusing on your strengths – the things you are good at and love to do – is another excellent place to start. Research shows that when we understand and play to our strengths we feel more confident and resilient (even in times of significant uncertainty). We feel able to articulate the positive characteristics we have to offer within a task, team, or to an employer, and are in a stronger position to respond to change, take opportunities and make better decisions for the future. Go to the York Strengths pages and try the new interactive York Strengths Online. This online course enables you to discover (and review) your strengths from the comfort of an armchair. Open to all undergraduates and taught postgraduate students in Summer 2020.
Connecting with yourself and the people around you is associated with increased mental health and wellbeing. Each person you meet is a doorway into another world. Building solid and varied social connections in your life can increase your feelings of happiness and self-worth.
Think of your friends, family, fellow students and work colleagues, if you have them, as the cornerstones of your life; they enrich you everyday and give you a sense of purpose.
Building wider connections linked to things that matter to you, your interests and any career ideas you have can also provide a rich source of support and advice. Try connecting with people using platforms like York Profiles & Mentors, LinkedIn and other online forums which will give you access to a broader range of people who will be at different stages in their career. Join conversations, ask questions, comment and share your work or your perspective.
Not only will you feel more in control of your life, before you know it, you are actively developing a network of people who can provide a positive space for you to draw from.
3. Keep learning & find time to do the things you love
Although there’s no pressure to do so, time spent at home can be a fantastic time to learn or try something new – take notice of what you chose and why. What gives you pleasure and comes more easily to you can also indicate a personal strength; and what you chose to learn or try might tell you something important about your values and your interests.
Learning new things can develop new skills, help to build your confidence, give you something to talk about to others including employers (as well as being fun!).
Take a look at our latest careers information relating to work experience, volunteering, virtual internships, online courses and much more.
Employers love to hear about how you have been developing yourself personally and professionally – it gives them a sense of who you are, that you are self motivated and can lead your own learning.
Giving your time to help others or volunteering is not simply a way to gain experience, but it creates connections with people, brings happiness and improves our mental wellbeing and community. All of which can open up new possibilities.
Seeing yourself, and your happiness, as linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you. It’s easy to feel helpless when you are unclear about your next steps, however each of you will have a lot of value you can bring to those around you.
There are many ways you can bring value and develop connections. Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Just giving a minute of your time will give a boost.
Now could be the time to invest in yourself and others. Support your friends and peers, others who are looking for jobs. You could share useful resources to help each other with your job searches and support them to reflect. Give feedback on what you think are their key skills and characteristics that they bring to a team or project. What do you value about them?
Keep your mind open to new opportunities, and get involved with a community group. The Student Volunteering team can help or you can look at your local volunteer centre to see what is out there. This is a great way to learn something new and keep building experience and connections. Take a look at our volunteering pages.
Giving your time and staying proactive will also show employers that you are open to developing yourself in a range of ways and settings.
5. Write stuff down
Writing things down is a powerful habit which can have all sorts of benefits on your wellbeing as well as your career planning. It can help free your mind, organise your thoughts and foster a sense of achievement or progress.
Capturing your experiences in one place somewhere like a CV or LinkedIn profile means you have a record that you might have otherwise forgotten.
A clear record of your responsibilities, achievements and the impact you made will also help to build your confidence in using a language which employers will recognise.
Writing down your thoughts linked to big questions will also enable a higher level of thinking – what makes me tick? how do I define career success? – and what that tells you about your career values or motivators are great places to start. These will become an anchor or a base point for thinking about what’s important for you.
Writing our goals and ambitions down makes it significantly more likely that we’ll commit to them and achieve them.
Reading back through whatever record you chose to document is not just fascinating—it also provides a valuable insight into your thought process and emotional life. You can savour moments that you could have potentially forgotten and increase your levels of gratitude.
Why not try starting or updating a CV and LinkedIn profile. We have lots of tips on our Applications pages as well as a link to CareerSet – a tool that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to offer feedback on your CV.
So don’t forget, Careers and Placements are here to support your next steps, whatever they may be. Use the resources available to you – our webpages or York’s Your Career Journey can direct you to what you need; and if you are unsure or want to explore further, get in touch with the team.
Faculty Employability Manager (Social Sciences) for Careers and Placements at York.
Credit: Based on the NHS ‘Five steps to mental wellbeing’