How New College Graduates Can Prioritize Mental Health AND Land a Job

June 10, 2021

By Paul Wolfe

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In this article, we explain how college graduates can maintain their mental health during the stressful job search process in today’s labor market.

The last year has been a tough one for most of us. Not only has our physical health been threatened by the coronavirus, but our mental health has also suffered due to social and physical isolation. Stress and anxiety have become more common. For recent college graduates seeking a job, these feelings are compounded. 

The job search process is anxiety-producing even without a global pandemic. Fear of rejection, nervousness brought on by interviewing and an overall feeling of lack of control are all regularly experienced by job seekers. But looking for a job in the current environment is even more stressful because the social network we rely on to relieve stress has been disrupted. For college students embarking on a career path this can seem like an insurmountable task.

According to the results of a recent Indeed study, over half of students graduating this year felt less confident about finding work due to the effects of the coronavirus on the job market. While it’s true the virus has affected employment and you cannot control lots of things, the good news is you can prioritize your own well-being and self-care. What’s more, by focusing on your own mental health, you can actually better navigate the situation and successfully find a job. 

Here are some tips to help prioritize your mental health and reduce stress while searching for a job post-graduation:

1. Focus on what you can control Have a plan, budget your time, and manage your expectations around finding a job. This can be as simple as making sure your resume is in tip-top shape and following up to thank any contacts you make during the process. It’s also important to recognize the little victories along the way and find a positive source of distraction to alleviate worries about things you can’t control – like the length of time it may take for your job application to be reviewed by a prospective employer.

2. Set aspirational goals for yourself and keep expectations realisticWe generally recommend using SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based) to develop career objectives. To help set your goals, informational interviewing can be helpful. Connect with seasoned professionals in your field of interest to gain career advice. Make sure you are being realistic and give yourself grace and space – the average job search for a new graduate can take three to six months.

3. Embrace the advantages of a virtual environment – Become comfortable with virtual interviews, which allow more control than in-person versions. Recent Indeed research shows that 88% of employers now use a virtual interview platform. Set up your interview space and your computer camera shot, including lighting, to present yourself best. Keep notes on your experience along with questions about the job at hand. Practice with a trusted friend to prepare. Create a professional presence on social media and join remote networking groups in your chosen industry(ies) and field to expand your network.

4. Stay connected to your friends and get professional career help if necessary It’s important to avoid isolating yourself and to stay connected with others who can lift your spirits and provide inspiration during the job search process. Take full advantage of the professional support and guidance offered by the career center at your college or university. 

5. Consider a “Plan B” – If you need a job sooner rather than later, consider short-term work or work outside of your area of expertise while you continue to pursue “Plan A.” Entry-level remote or in-person jobs are plentiful such as customer service representatives, warehouse distribution workers or on-demand driving gigs. That way, you can add to your resume experience and show employers you are flexible and creative in the face of challenges. Make sure, however, that a temporary job doesn’t drain you emotionally or take away too much time from your dedicated job search. It may also help to know that the average person works approximately 12 different jobs in their lifetime, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

No matter what you decide to do, acknowledge that the challenges you face in the current job market are ones many people will never experience. Give yourself credit for your accomplishments. Take breaks to participate in leisure activities, including getting outside and enjoying nature, and to socialize with friends and family. Above all, be proud of yourself. 

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