Life After College | What Do I Do Now?
At GroundWork Counseling in Maitland, we understand that graduating from college is one of life’s big accomplishments. Most recent graduates or those about to graduate from college, think that this will automatically mean moving to a new exciting city to begin an amazing, fulfilling career, live in a wonderful apartment and find the perfect romantic partner.
Yet for most, it doesn’t come quite that easily. This is a time of tremendous transition, and the years following graduation can be one of the most stressful times of one’s life. Many young people feel a great deal of anxiety about entering the “real world” and they are terrified of not knowing what will come next. Gone are the days of routine and consistency, of having papers due, of hanging out with friends, and having fun on the weekends. Suddenly you don’t know what to do and you have no idea where you’ll be or what you’ll be doing next week, next month or next year. You are floundering, lost at sea and you tell yourself “I should have this all figured out”. To make matters worse, well-meaning people give you unoriginal advice like “Follow your dreams” or “You can be anything”, and “Do what you love”, which when you’re feeling completely lost, isn’t helpful at all.
All transitions and life changes can challenge our coping skills, cause anxiety and depression and test our resilience as we face the unknown. It’s important to take comfort in the fact that nearly everyone who graduates from college faces a period of feeling adrift and uncertain. Here are some helpful tips for dealing with the anxiety that graduating from college can bring:
- Accept that this is a natural time of change and uncertainty. Once you accept that the anxiety you are experiencing is a natural part of life, you can become less afraid of those anxious feelings and use this time of transition as a period of growth and learning about yourself.
- Don’t expect that you’ll find the perfect job right away. Job-hunting is a long, sometimes painful process and certain majors are more likely to lead to a job. Keep in mind that most recent graduates have an unrealistic expectation of their job prospects and probably will not start out in their dream job. You may even have to do a stretch at Starbucks or work at the mall while you look for a better job and continue to network. Research forecasts that you will change jobs at least four times during the first decade after college graduation, so it’s likely that you won’t be a barista forever.
- Don’t take rejection personally. When job hunting, rejection is almost inevitable. Being refused, denied and dismissed, especially when we’ve put forth our best effort, never feels like a good thing. It’s important to keep in mind that there are probably many other people applying for the position that were also confident in their skills and talents, set their goals high and presented their best self. The job market is tough, especially for new college grads, and unfortunately, it is impossible that you’ll be guaranteed every position for which you’ve applied.
- Be flexible. Don’t be rigid in your approach to this life transition. Even though you imagined yourself living in a certain city and working at a meaningful career in your major, don’t give up. Grab every opportunity that presents itself and be open to new experiences. Many successful, happy individuals have not followed a completely straight path in their professional and personal lives. Keep in mind that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all cookie cutter prescription to life and career. Expect change so that you can take it in stride and develop flexibility.
- Accept your emotions. It’s okay to be anxious and scared. It’s also okay to be sad that a chapter of your life is closing and to be uncertain about what is ahead. Negative emotions are okay as long as our emotional response is healthy and rational. This helps us to change what can realistically be changed and to constructively accept what we cannot change.
At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, our counselors and therapists are experts at helping you navigate life’s inevitable transitions. By applying research-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, we can help you to identify the negative thoughts and help you to change the strong negative emotions associated with anxiety and depression surrounding life transitions. Overcoming barriers in life is inevitable and it will make you a more resilient person. At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, we can help you to learn that although there will always be challenges in life, accepting and facing these challenges will make you stronger.
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