It’s summertime, which means it’s time to sip fruity concoctions by the pool, right? Or you might be one of many recent college graduates who are still looking for jobs, so maybe summer fun is the last thing on your mind.
Erica Curtis, a licensed marriage and family therapist, said in an email that many college graduates might falsely believe they will get a job right away because reports show the unemployment rate has been dropping.
In reality, many of the available jobs are low paying and not what graduates are necessarily looking for. Also, there is competition against college graduates from prior years who still don’t have good jobs.
Even if you take this into consideration, it can still feel a little depressing when an opportunity doesn’t pop up right away, but don’t fret just yet.
Curtis said that it might be helpful to cut yourself a little slack by understanding that many other people are in the same situation. So even though you’re not getting hired right away, that doesn’t mean you’re not qualified or capable enough.
“When you are in a situation that feels out of your hands, it is important to identify what you do have control over,” she said. “You have control over your daily routine, how much you network, perhaps even volunteering. When you feel like you have the power to effect change, you will feel less stress.”
Curtis added that it’s important to pay attention to your frame of mind, because it could also affect your stress levels.
“Research shows that those who are mindful of their own thoughts and emotions experience less stress,” she said. “Being mindful simply means noticing thoughts and feels without judgment, and knowing that they are just that, passing thoughts and feelings. Your thoughts and feelings come and go; they are not you.”
Other ways to relieve unemployment-related stress include:
- Having a creative or general outlet like dancing, singing, drawing or exercising
- Keeping in contact with friends and family
- Volunteering or being kind to others;
- Thanking others and being grateful for what you have
- Making sure to keep your mind in the present and free of worry about past/futures issues that you don’t have control over.
Although stress is a normal part of life, Curtis said that sometimes it can get to the point of being unhealthy. That is when it can be beneficial to seek professional help.
“We can begin to ruminate on negative, unhelpful self talk,” she said. “People can start to feel depressed, [lose] sleep, have change of appetite, and so forth. Stress can decrease our productivity and our sense that we can achieve our goals. Stress can also trigger other mental health issues such as depression.”
Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and psychology professor, said in an email that recent graduates need to make sure to take care of their health during the job search.
Durvasula recommended decreasing alcohol intake, sleeping well and adjusting to regular working-adult hours (not student hours like staying up until 2 a.m.). Taking care of health allows for more coping abilities.
“Be organized, and follow through,” she suggested. “Turn some corner of your life into mission central. There are lots of organizational tools out there to keep all of this straight - use them.”
“Continue taking classes, explore internships, volunteer, write, do what you can to keep yourself relevant and connected,” she added.
Kathleen Brady, certified career coach and author of “GET A JOB! 10 Steps to Career Success,” said in an email that a lot of stress for recent graduates could come from not knowing how to do a successful job search.
Besides reading job search books, she suggested going to your college career services office and asking for assistance from other graduates or acquaintances who are currently employed.
“Once you get a sense of the process, you can take action,” Brady said. “Action allows you to feel in control, which reduces stress.”
She said it’s beneficial to focus more on opportunities instead of obstacles. And keep in mind that it requires more creativity and effort to get a job now versus 10 years ago.
“Instead of thinking ‘I can't get a job because ...’ shift your thinking to ‘how can I get the job ...’" she said. “That subtle shift in thinking is empowering.”
Make sure to also still live a balanced life. After spending four to six hours on your job search daily, it is best to use the rest of your time to exercise, socialize, volunteer and do inexpensive activities that bring you happiness.
Curtis, Erica. Email interview. June 5, 2013.
Durvasula, Ramani. Email interview. June 4, 2013.
Brady, Kathleen. Email interview. June 4, 2013.
Reviewed June 6, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith