Are you a college student graduating during a pandemic? Let’s talk about the struggle! Upcoming and recent graduates are facing a new reality. What do you do when a global pandemic uproots your future? Rather than being rewarded for hard work, you find yourself smack-dab in the middle of a country-wide recession and a major health crisis. You probably expected some post-grad growing pains, but no one could have anticipated this. So, where do we go from here?
Dreams on Hold
It’s likely that you’ve had to reconsider your post-grad plans in light of the pandemic. Some recent graduates choose to spend time traveling abroad. However, due to travel restrictions, countries have closed their borders and many programs have been canceled or postponed until next year.
Big life changes that seemed exciting pre-pandemic—like moving to a brand new city—have lost their appeal. Renting an apartment the size of a toaster oven was once an acceptable trade-off for experiencing the Big Apple, but what if all you see of NYC is the four walls of your rental?
Remember that your dreams haven’t been dashed, only delayed. We will return to normalcy eventually. Keep the dream alive and someday soon, you can make good on this gift to yourself.
Let’s face it, between unemployment rates and student loans, college graduates have had it hard for a while now. If that wasn’t enough to contend with pre-pandemic, Covid-19 has raised the stakes. Jobs are scarcer than ever and competition is high. Graduating into this mess of a job market, you might feel cheated. The deck is stacked against you, and guess what?
That really sucks.
You are allowed to feel bitter, angry, and scared when the systems-that-be have failed to support you. However, rage is corrosive, and bitterness often turns to hopelessness. Learning to manage anger and fear is very important for your mental health. A therapist can help you release these unhelpful emotions and redirect your time and energy.
Handling Anger and Anxiety
Set aside time for activities that are purely joy-based. Developing a sense of self beyond the rat-race of early adulthood will ease some of the pressure.
Acknowledge negative thoughts as they arise rather than trying to banish them. Try to take on the role of an objective observer, and watch your angry thoughts take hold without judgment. Sometimes admitting the presence of anger and anxiety allows it to pass through you.
Consciously challenge self-defeating narratives. Push back against the voice of doom and gloom and offer yourself alternatives. You know what is going wrong in your life, but what is going right?
No Risk, No Reward
We all develop strategies for self-preservation, and sometimes, this means we play it too safe. Graduating in the midst of so much turmoil and uncertainty might make you more risk-averse. There’s nothing wrong with being practical about your future, but trying to plan your life around potential disasters is a bad idea. Acting on fear rather than joy feeds depression and anxiety, resulting in unhappiness.
Don’t pursue a career in Accounting just because it seems recession-proof. Become an accountant because you love numbers, not because it’s a “safe” bet. You are far more likely to succeed when you are happy, whatever your path might be. When entering the job market, don’t limit yourself to the low-hanging fruit. Apply for the jobs you think you’ll never get, too.
It’s natural to want to insulate yourself from loss when the world at large seems to be losing, but that is no way to live.
Chances are, life after graduation won’t be what you expected. You might choose to live with your parents. Your first job(s) might be uninspiring. You might struggle with feelings of purposelessness and depression because things aren’t going as planned.
When faced with uncertainty, we have to suspend our expectations and practice flexibility. If life isn’t going according to plan, trust that another plan will take its place. Whatever the coming year looks like for you, it is okay. You are doing your best under unprecedented circumstances, and that is more than enough.