Recent graduate? How are you really doing?.
6:30am. You’re up and ready for the day, heading to the gym for a quick session before you get on a busy train full of people with coffee cups in hand and headphones in. I’m guessing this is something like what your typical daily commute looks like. If you’re a graduate like me, I’m also guessing that this picture looks nothing at all like how you spent most mornings during your 3-4 years at university.
Personally, whilst I had 9am lectures to attend on some days, my week often consisted of working late into the evening, instead of having an early morning start, or taking an afternoon off unexpectedly when my workload was light. As a student, the time in between my classes and essay deadlines was mine to do as I pleased with, to work as much or as little as necessary to reach a level of success that I was happy with. Whilst it turns out I much prefer the structure and routine of my new working week as a graduate, the adjustment I experienced is undeniable.
Whether your time at university was the best three (or four, or five) years of your life so far, or something you just couldn’t wait to leave behind you, this self-motivated world of timetables and coursework stands in stark contrast to the 9am—5.30pm working day.
Whilst it turns out I much prefer the structure and routine of my new working week as a graduate, the adjustment I experienced is undeniable.
The transformation goes beyond schedules too. If you’re a student who headed straight into a full-time job in a field you have little experience or expertise in, you’ll relate to that daunting feeling of just not really knowing what you’re doing. After the elation of graduating and securing your first job, the reality of starting something new kicks in. It can feel like going back to square one in terms of your knowledge and experience levels.
Add to that a potential relocation across the country (or even the world) to find your perfect role, the struggles of managing your monthly pay, and the pressure to impress new, often older and more experienced colleagues…you can see why I’m saying that graduate life presents challenges we shouldn’t underestimate.
Measuring mental health
Interestingly, studies highlight 16-24 year olds as a group particularly vulnerable to mental health issues, as 75% of mental health problems are established by the age of 25.
We often hear about student mental health in the headlines, particularly the difficulties around accessing mental health services and the worrying rate of suicides among students. Since 2000/01, the number of suicides in the student population has increased by 52%.[i] But, when we leave our university bubble behind us and join the working world as graduates, are we any less prone to mental health difficulties than we were as students?
Interestingly, studies highlight 16-24 year olds as a group particularly vulnerable to mental health issues, as 75% of mental health problems are established by the age of 25.[ii] Most graduates fall within this age bracket, suggesting that our attention to student mental wellbeing needs to extend well beyond the end of university and firmly into the early years of graduate life.
So, how can you maintain good mental wellbeing when the transition from student life into the working world can be so challenging? With a little help from some of my brilliant uni and work friends, I’ve gathered personal thoughts and advice for dealing with the biggest concerns graduates face when starting work. Hopefully you’ll relate to some of these sentiments – I know I do…
1. Moving on from uni life
“I think I actually found it hardest before I started work. I felt worried about finishing uni and moving on, but once I actually started at work it went fairly smoothly!” – Rachel, 23, studied Maths
2. Feeling inadequate and inexperienced
“I think a bit of imposter syndrome kicked in when I first started work. This was partly to do with the fact that I felt I had to prove I was worth hiring and partly to do with my mental health at the time. There was less guidance compared to uni – I had to fully trust and believe in my decisions. But, like many challenging things in life, a positive can be found. This builds resilience, gives you a sense of achievement after completing a piece of work, and shows you that you can achieve much more than you thought you could. When the next time comes around, there’s a confidence there you didn’t have before.” – Ella, 23, studied Industrial Design
3. Balancing work with life
“When I first moved to London, I was so bogged down in work, I never saw my friends and ultimately wasn’t happy. I have now learned that you can do both by managing time better and making the most of every day.” – Ariadne, 25, studied Business
4. Embracing the 9-5
“I actually find the workplace better than final year at uni for my mental health. At work you can go home, switch off, and there is a separation that doesn’t exist at uni. My top tip would definitely be work your hours, try your hardest and take that lunch break like you mean it!” – Ella, 23, studied Industrial Design
5. Making friends at work
“You have to actively engage with people when you start work – unlike uni, you’re not all in the same boat. At work, you join an existing team of people and you must integrate yourself into this. It can be quite tricky, but the best advice I have is to make sure you go to the social events that are on offer – go to the pub, or a quiz, or eat lunch with others.” – Ryan, 25, studied Pharmacology
World Mental Health Day 2019 - Thursday 10th October
This is what sparked my blog post. At Aiimi, some of us were thinking about how we could support our team and offer a valuable opportunity to learn, or talk, or just think about an aspect of mental well being on World Mental Health Day 2019. That’s why we’re running a workshop at lunchtime on Thursday 10th October for our (many!) graduates to openly talk about their experiences and challenges with mental health. Then, we’ll write about what our grads discuss in another blog post, and maybe it will help one of you reading this today.
Is there anything you could do differently? Could you ask a friend or colleague for help to make things easier?
If you’re a graduate who’s just started work, or you know someone who is, why not stop for a moment today to consider how things are going. How are you dealing with the challenges of graduate life? Is there anything you could do differently? Could you ask a friend or colleague for help to make things easier?
Finally, it’s important to reiterate that the issues we’ve highlighted above don’t just apply to those of us who are graduates or aged 16-24 – they can affect anyone, at any time in their life or career.
If you’re looking for mental health resources, you might like to check out some of the following options:
- Mind – www.mind.org.uk
- Samaritans – www.samaritans.org
- Time to Change – www.time-to-change.org.uk
- For Aiimi staff, don’t forget you can make use of our free, confidential Health Assured service for resources, advice and counselling
[ii] Kessler, R.C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., Jin, R., Merikangas, K.R. and Walters, E.E., 2005, ‘Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication’, Archives of general psychiatry, 62(6), pp.593-602.
Aiimi Insights, delivered to you.
Discover the latest data and AI insights, opinions, and news from our experts. Subscribe now to get Aiimi Insights delivered direct to your inbox each month.
Enjoyed this insight? Share the post with your network.