Graduate mental health: finding a workplace that’s right for you

Career Advice
04 March 2020 | Career Advice | Guest Author

Graduating from university can be one of the exciting moments of your life, but it can also lead to some of the most stressful. If you’ve studied a vocational subject like medicine, law or veterinary science, you might be lucky enough to walk straight out of your gown and into a predetermined career, but many of us struggle. Even after three years of specialised study it can be difficult and daunting deciding what you’re going to do for the next few decades of your life.

These days, it seems like mental health problems are a real obstacle for almost everybody – but the truth is they always have been. It’s just that we’ve only recently begun to talk about it. On top of the everyday struggles we all face, for many people the weeks and months immediately after graduation are among the most challenging they’ve ever faced. Not only are you dealing with the immense pressure of decisions that will shape your life and career, but unemployment and the financial worry that it brings constantly loom large on the horizon.

You’re also coming back down to earth after three (or more) of the most exciting, transformative and memorable years of your life – and whatever your circumstances, that can be tough. More and more people move back in with their parents after university, and the sense of disappointment that you didn’t immediately walk into your dream career can further fuel feelings of depression and inadequacy.

Maintaining mental health after graduation

A university degree is meant to prepare you for the world of work. In many ways, it does – but mostly by equipping you with a very specific set of skills for a particular career path. University life is unavoidably lived in a bubble, and no matter how in touch with the rest of the world you might stay throughout your undergraduate years, it’s highly likely that you’ll feel like a fish out of water when you’ve finished.

It’s important to remember that this feeling won’t last forever. Nor will it last for very long. You’ve become attached to the place where you studied, and leaving it can be emotional – but you’re at the very beginning of an even more exciting journey. Whether you’re moving to a new city, staying in the same one or going back home, try to make sure that you don’t focus exclusively on the job hunt. Pursue new hobbies, reconnect with new and old friends and keep an eye on the future – not just the stresses of the present.

Even if you’ve had to take on unfulfilling work while you await the right job, it’s crucial not to get too bogged down in what might be a newfound mundanity. You went to university not just to have a great experience but to create plenty more great experiences for yourself in the future – and those experiences are waiting. Maintaining the attitude that the right job will find you will help you feel more positive and confident during each and every recruitment process you go through.

Finding a job that supports your mental health

Mental health is barely differentiated from general health today – many employers are finally appreciating the close links between mental and physical wellbeing and treating people accordingly. This means that many companies offer benefits specifically designed to be good for mental health.

These can include flexible working hours, the option of working from home, free healthy breakfasts, free treatments and therapists, generous annual leave schemes, sabbaticals and even office pets. Measures like these are proven to have an impact on not only the mental wellbeing of a workforce but productivity too – so everyone benefits.

That’s not to say that every company is so progressive. Some employers still take a rigid and traditional approach to working hours and structures, punishing employees who struggle or have to take sick days because of their mental health. If you find yourself working for an employer who does not take mental health seriously, not only are there ways to handle it but you may be able to challenge them on grounds of discrimination.

Remember that if you’re struggling with your mental health because of the stresses of job hunting, simply finding a job won’t  solve the problem. It needs to be the right job for the right employer, and one that will bring you far more benefits than a pay packet. Don’t just live to work – find an employer who helps you live life to the full, and you can look forward to a truly fulfilling career.

-Matt Foster

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