What Is Post-University Blues?
What I describe as ‘Post-University Blues’ is not necessarily just associated with missing university life, but can also include worries or stress as to what you are going to do next. As mentioned in a 2017 Metro article, this is not something that has been properly discussed or investigated.
Whether you’re aware of this or not, there is a high chance that your dream graduate scheme may not select you as places are limited. But without a job secured it can leave you with few options but to go down to the local job centre and sign on. Of course, students will do anything to avoid this outcome in order to prove to themselves and others that their degree was not a waste of time. That’s why, if you ask a masters’ applicant why they want to continue education, the common answer is to put off the working world — which is a comical but legitimate reason to go into postgraduate study.
I myself am guilty of this too. However, I have become more job-focused in trying to gain work experience in journalism, which is where my masters will benefit me — as well as help put off the real world for another year …
A Possible Link to Depression
No matter what the individual’s thoughts towards their time at university are, everyone experiences the same thing towards the end. You are suddenly thrust into the big, wide world of work — or as many fear: unemployment.
You live in a bubble for three years and then suddenly you’re in a hat and gown and this bubble has been popped, and you are automatically expected to have a full life plan. University life though is a stark contrast to the outside world and many people can and do falter in their adaptation to it.
In 2016, YouGov stated that 1 in 4 of all students suffered with mental health problems through stress and anxiety over exams, assessments, and general day-to-day life such as payments and relationship drama. There are no readily available statistics on mental health issues when it comes to graduate students, so it is hard to get an overall view of how they cope post-university. However, a 2018 study on postgraduates in Science Magazine has taken a large sample of mainly PhD students involved in biological and physical sciences, revealing that a whopping 40 per cent of them have admitted to periods of moderate-to-severe anxiety or depression.
Is There Too Much Graduate Competition?
Understandably, many people can feel lost and sometimes hopeless as regards their future after the many rejection letters, saying: ‘More experience required’ or ‘You are not quite right for this role’. This is what I would describe as the post-university blues phase. Something that is definitely not helped by having to constantly answer the dreaded: ‘so, what are you doing now?’ question, which always gets thrown your way in polite conversation with extended family and friends.
Because you only ever hear when one of your peers is successful in getting a graduate job (usually a science student) or their masters place, you can feel like you are the only one who has not secured anything yet. With the Telegraph reporting in 2014 that there are on average 39 people applying per graduate position, and with an increase in students going to university, the competition can only have gotten fiercer — stretching to 1 in 100 odds, if the Independent is to be believed.
There is a real cause for concern here. The NHS revealed in 2015 that there is great association between unemployment and job insecurity when it comes to risk of suicide. Their study found that:
‘between 2000 and 2011 … 1 in 5 of an estimated 233,000 annual suicides were linked to unemployment’.
These findings suggest that postgraduates are potentially a very vulnerable group who ought to receive greater support than they currently do.
My advice to sufferers of post-university blues when applying for jobs is to be positive, productive, and open-minded when it comes to the application process. This is especially so with those that are particularly long- winded. The Independent gives tips to help with applications, so any help like this would be worth considering before making a start. If in doubt as to what to do, think of some of your passions and try and find a possible career path related to that. Also, get some experience! (voluntary or paid). It’s your life, so take the reins and crack the whip.