Beating those post-finals blues


The year after your finals can often be an incredibly depressing experience for which nothing has prepared you. So what can you do to keep your chin up during those dark days? Emma John and Catherine Courtney lift the lid on post-finals blues

Putting off the time-consuming chore of job hunting while you’re knuckling down to the serious business of revision seems perfectly rational and many students do it. However, the potency of that student mantra, ‘the world is my oyster’, means it can come as a shock when the best job offer you get is a week of photocopying from a temping agency. Five weeks later, when you’ve climbed to data entry clerk, you start to wonder if the degree was really worth it.

This condition is called the post-finals blues. It often goes unrecognised by sufferers themselves, especially when success stories of contemporaries make them yet more convinced they are the only one who have failed. Some find solace in the company of other ‘sad grads’, and small communities emerge, sharing tip-offs of vacancies at HMV or Somerfield.

Don’t panic
Awareness of the post-finals blues phenomenon is important. Most graduates without a job or a postgraduate course lined up take around six to 12 months to take that first career step. If you acknowledge this from the start then you can think strategically about how to use that time in the best way.

If you are fortunate enough to have parents prepared to put up with you for a bit, living at home (rent-free if you can!) will give you a great deal of financial flexibility. Hopefully this will outweigh the inevitable frustration of living back with people who still call you Pookie and make you eat muesli instead of chips.

Be flexible
You can turn anything you do into a CV plus. For instance, if you’re doing secretarial work nine to five, followed by a few weekend shifts down the pub, you’re proving your ability to work with all kinds of people in pressured environments. If you’re supervising a team of shop assistants and babysitting the neighbour’s kids in the evenings you’re showing you can be trusted in positions of responsibility.

Obviously, the more appropriate the work experience the better, but be humble enough to work at whatever comes along. Employers will be much happier to see you’ve swallowed some of that college-kid pride and knuckled down to some dish-washing than signed on.

And while you’re waiting for that big career blast-off, fill your spare time with useful pro bono projects. Do some community work, write for a local weekly, develop a new or underused skill (a foreign language, perhaps, or a musical instrument).

Consider this: many people go through a fallow period after graduating. Using your initiative and proving you can use your time wisely and profitably is therefore a huge bonus in the eyes of potential employers. Travelling is great if you can afford it, and can be evidence of a brave and active mind. Meanwhile working abroad in a voluntary capacity is a worthier undertaking and will develop your adaptability and cultural understanding.

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