Graduating from college is an exciting and overwhelming time. On the one hand, you are graduating from college after three-four years of intense, grueling schedules and lectures and are excited at the prospect of entering the real world.
At the same time, most students are petrified about entering this new world. Clearly, when you enter the real world, there are no tour guides, and you are left to figure out the transition from being a college student to a working professional on your own.
As we mark National Careers Week from March 7-12 this year, it is important to understand the anxiety of graduated students transitioning into their new life. National Careers Week aims to provide students with free career guidance and educational resources.
An underrated aspect of career guidance for college students is the ability to shift to the professional world. The whole process of making this shift can cause intense feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, and uncertainty. When students move away from the carefully structured academic world to the somewhat shaky professional world, they often struggle to cope with the demands and expectations of this life.
National Careers Week is an excellent opportunity to reflect on how this loss of familiarity and overwhelming pressure to perform can take a toll on the mental health of new graduates.
To celebrate National Careers Week 2023, here are our best mental health tips for college students venturing into the professional world for the first time.
1. Accept that things are going to change.
Accepting that your life will be different is important at the very first step. You will eventually get used to getting up early, commuting to work, and not going out on random Wednesday outings every now and then. This loosely means that your social life will not be that feisty and fun, on Weekdays at least. You might also have to move cities or homes to live closer to your workplace, which means the place you call home will change too. While accepting this change can be daunting, seeing this as an opportunity for growth and learning rather than something negative is important.
2. Believe in yourself to be able to navigate these changes.
The next step after accepting the changes in your life is believing that you will eventually adjust to them. Always remember that you have managed unsettling changes like these before and come out of them as a better version of yourself. Think of the time when you started going to college for the first time. Even though everything about your life changed, you still adjusted to it.
In the same way, you will also be able to adjust to the changes you see currently. You are definitely more adaptive than you give yourself credit for. Just try to draw some courage from your past experiences, and trust us when we say you will be alright, pal.
3. Create a sense of structure in your life that suits you.
The change from college to career can be challenging. This is because college comes with the safety net of normalcy. The syllabus is defined, and the goals for each semester are clearly laid out. You have professors, counselors, and, of course, long breaks looking out for you. The only thing standing between your syllabus and success is the question of whether you end up completing this assignment or not.
But when you are out in the professional world, you have to craft each part of your life yourself, and we understand it can get pretty overwhelming. Therefore, begin your work-life by crafting a sense of structure that appeals to you. Lay out some reachable and realistic goals for your personal and professional growth. This will help you understand what you need to gain through your job and life as a whole.
4. Set realistic expectations.
We have all been super-perfectionists in our academic life. The pursuit of A+ grades and the dopamine rush of perfect scores was exciting. We are trained in our college life that there are always perfect answers. We are prepared to always reach for the best; anything less than that is shameful.
But here’s the hard truth – this perfection will become a boulder in your growth in your professional life.
It is not necessary to hit 99% in everything you do.
Now if you are a brain surgeon, sure, please go ahead. But if you are planning a marketing campaign, even 80% of results mean a good job done. This is why setting realistic and grounded expectations in your professional life is important.
5. Don’t be a stranger (with yourself and other people).
It is important to always build meaningful relationships with people you spend much of your day with. Recognize that relationship building is a big deal of your work life, so always invest your time building them.
‘Networking’ as a term strikes pretty self-serving to us. We instead refer to it as community building. Build a community of like-minded friends, thinkers, creatives, and more.
This community will genuinely help you in your life. This is because when you invest yourself into building meaningful relationships, you gain a solid group of individuals who truly care for and support you in your personal and professional endeavors.
Finally, try to treat yourself as a friend too. Be compassionate with yourself on the days the voices in your head get louder than usual. Try to understand that this transition is a process. We try to make it pass as quickly as a montage in a feature film. But it is change, pal, and it takes time. So give this phase and yourself the required time. Trust us that it is going to be okay eventually. It really is going to be okay!
National Careers Week is celebrated to provide free career guidance to college students. It is also the perfect reminder to focus on the mental health of graduates burdened by the sudden shift to work life. We hope having this small guide will work positively in your favor as you enter uncharted territories.
In the end, all we want to say is, in the words of Monica Geller from Friends, “Welcome to the real world.” Yes, it can get overwhelming at times, but you learn to navigate through changes and maybe even learn to love them through this process.
Another aspect of work-life that needs attention this National Careers Week is learning to avoid burnout at workplace. To learn more about this, click here.
To continue learning about mental health daily, subscribe to Your Mental Health Pal.