From graduate to young professional - 4 things to help you minimise the leaving university limbo

So you’re leaving university…

It is finally time to leave the amazing bubble that is university and join the rest of the world in work, family expectations and your own personal aspirations of success.

You are about to enter an almost life limbo where you are caught between leaving education and starting the next chapter of your life as a “young professional”. Some people delay this further by travelling (which has some amazing merits and I would encourage everyone to do) but if you have decided to go straight into a career and making it in the world then this blog is for you.

How many people do you know that go to university for 3-5 years, have an amazing time but never maximise their potential when they leave and almost sink back into normality, gaining nothing from their education except for 20k's worth of debt and a few cool stories to tell? We all know this person……right?

That person that never really got started after education and end up kind of wandering around wondering what to do next, never really acquiring a career and just never really getting out of second gear.

Well I don’t think this is a choice those people have made. I believe in today’s economic and employment climate this could happen to anyone! Our educational system does not really set us up well for joining today’s workforce and there are some clear pitfalls people fall into that takes them away from their intended path.

I believe this because this is the exact same issue I faced when I first left education and over the last few years I have seen a clear difference between those people who have been successful after university and those who have not. Here are 4 things that you can do to make sure you hit the ground running when you leave university and give yourself the best physical and mental tools to help you quickly close that ambiguous gap between leaving university and starting a career as a young professional.

Set yourself a structure

One of the things you will almost feel immediately after leaving education is….what do I do now??

For the very first time you have complete freedom of your decisions and nothing to guide you or give you purpose. Think about it, from the moment you started education you have had a structure to work to whether that be going to school, A-levels or university. It has come one after the other and each part you knocked off in order to get to the next challenge.

A beautiful way to describe this is by Alan Watts in which he describes the chase for success:

This is the part where most people falter first as having nothing to do after a while breeds a mentality of doing anything becomes a chore – like your first week back after the summer break.

So my advice is first of all set yourself a routine or structure to live through until your career gives you one.

This is things such as:

  • Getting out of bed every day at a set time

  • Going to the Gym daily (healthy body, healthy mind really is true!)

  • Job searching or interview prep

  • Making plans to reunite with friends & family

These don’t all have to be work orientated but make sure every day has a purpose and set yourself small goals to achieve each week. This may sound obvious but trust me you will see the difference almost immediately of the people who set a routine and the people who do the opposite to the short list above. This will also keep you mentally sharp and motivated which will pour through when you start to interview for the roles you want. As an interviewer you can tell the difference between someone who has been proactive leaving education and someone who has not in their response times, examples and general hunger to be selected.

Continue to develop yourself

One of the great things about graduates are they are used to having to study and learn new things every day.

You would be surprised how many people just stop doing this after leaving education and almost reject self-development. I firmly believe growth is not only key to success in the workplace but also the key to happiness in your life!

Whatever you decide to do next you are going to have to learn again whether that be the a business (culture, processes, policies and day-to-day role skills) or working for yourself (finance, business plans, the market you operate in) either way you are going to have to take the generalist knowledge you have taken from university and make it role specific.

Have you ever been really good at something, taken a year off and then gone back to it?

It can be frustrating and demoralising as you realise you’re not as good at is as you remember. Unfortunately this is the same with learning in general and can often put people off developing themselves.

This will also give you additional credibility to stand out during interview stages and employers look for self-motivated people who will drive their own development.

This does not need to be business specific but it will give you an edge over your competition when it comes to graduate or fast track programs.

Keep in the loop with your market place

One of the great things about studying for a degree is that you study one area in-depth and then create hypothesis and analytics based on that. Essentially that is what employers hire graduates for and that’s what your degree does for you is prove you have that ability.

In doing this for 3-5 years you end up being very knowledgeable about your chosen field so you are at peak performance straight out of university.

The problem we all know is that jobs do not just land on your lap and it can take 6 months to a year to find a suitable career and begin work (longer in my case!) Any field you choose to operate in will change quiet substantially over a year especially if you chose to go into the private sector in business.

If you do not take the time to keep up to date with what is going on in your market of choice you will fall behind and at interview stage or even when talking to people who may be able to help your cause. I have seen many a person get an introduction to a great job because they had a chat over a coffee or at a public place with someone connected to the role they want and are completely unaware at the time.

Any business I have worked in has encouraged me to read and keep up to date with the market and surrounding markets to be as effective as possible so if you do this before you have a job it will make you stand apart from being a young professional and someone who has just left education.

Find something you are passionate about and do a little bit everyday

When you first leave university and trying to find a career it is easy to get caught up in the monotony of applying for different roles and attending different interviews.

That combined with the financial pressures of either trying to pay rent to stay in the city you went to Uni in or having to go home and live under somebody else’s roof again can demotivate people very quickly. This can become a vicious cycle that I see a lot of at the moment where people are tired of going through the same process day in day out looking for work but that lack of motivation caused by the repetition gets carried into each interview and causes people to not find work.

To combat this make sure you find something non work related that you have a passion for and can touch daily to rejuvenate yourself from the daily grind. This again will also help at interview stages and once you acquire a career because doing something you are passionate about will renew your resilience and reduce your stress levels which in turn will keep you relaxed and focused when the pressure is on.

So that’s it that’s my 4 tips to move you from graduate to young professional and skip the limbo stage that halts most graduates in their tracks.

Each one of these points alone will not make you a young professional but If you put them all together daily you will give yourself the best competitive edge against your competitors who do not have a plan/structure, a sharp mind, is fully up to date with today’s market place and knows how to stay fresh and focused over prolonged periods of time.

Good luck my fellow graduates!

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