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We Need to Talk About Post-Graduation Depression

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Sitting in a doctor’s office on a cold, grim day in January 2015, I remember trying to keep it together as I explained how completely miserable and lost I felt. It had been months since I graduated, and, despite having several job interviews, I was getting nowhere. Again and again, I’d been told I didn’t have enough experience or that I was too shy.

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“I feel like a failure,” I told the doctor – a common symptom of depression. It didn’t help that I felt like a burden on my Dad for continuing to live at home – I helped around the house to earn my keep but other than that couldn’t afford to pay rent.

I was never formally diagnosed with depression, but some of the symptoms were definitely affecting me, especially in the long winter months I spent jobless, lonely and skint. It didn’t help that my boyfriend was abroad at the time, traveling for several months in Canada and the US. I missed him and would have loved to have joined him but simply couldn’t afford to. Instead, I was stuck, needing a job and struggling to get one, despite the fact I graduated from a good UK university with an impressive degree.

The difficulties of life after graduation

Adjusting to life after university can be tough. In my case, I was very sad to leave Aberystwyth, my home for three years, and when September came around, I had to accept I wasn’t going back to uni. While this is more manageable if you already have a graduate job lined up, there will be plenty of people reading this who weren’t able to secure a job for immediately after graduation. In this position, it’s easy to feel daunted, like you’re back to square one. For the first 20 years or so of your life, everything’s been mapped out, from school to university, but what now?

This uncertainty can be one of the biggest causes of post-graduation depression. You start beating yourself up for not visiting your university careers office sooner (if at all) while you were at university. You feel lost and confused, and wake up every day feeling like there’s no purpose to your life and that you’ll never get anywhere.

Maybe you have an idea of what you enjoy doing and what you want from a career, but can’t understand how to translate this into a graduate job. You start job searching, and realize that you apparently need five years’ experience for an entry-level job in the field you’re interested in. So, you apply for seemingly hundreds of jobs, knowing full well that these roles are competitive, and you take the hit every time you get a rejection. You’re increasingly frustrated by how you seem to need experience to get experience.

As the setbacks mount, you distract yourself by watching TV instead of job searching, but then you beat yourself up for not making enough effort or getting up early enough to crack on with job applications. It doesn’t help that you’ve moved back in with your parents, and feel as though you’re regressing after spending three or four years living independently away from home.

If this is how you’re feeling, I know exactly how you feel. But it’s important to remember that this won’t last forever…

Beating post-graduate blues

How, then, do you pick yourself up and get yourself out of the post-graduation slump? In my experience, I had to push away thoughts like “there’s no point applying for this, I have no chance”, and “they’ll probably just reject me” as this defeatist attitude wasn’t going to get me anywhere.

I realized that having a large gap between university and a graduate job wasn’t going to look great on my CV so I took part in some work experience at a local newspaper and wrote articles for free for different websites. Also, while it was always frustrating traveling all the way to London for a job interview only to be rejected (I still cringe when thinking about the time I got a rejection email literally the second I came out of an interview…yep, that wasn’t a good one) it did at least make me a veteran in job interviews. I’m shy and get very nervous before them, so it was good to have this experience.

It meant that in July 2015 when I interviewed for my current job and a few others, I was a bit surer of myself, more skilled at answering the usual job interview questions, and a little less nervous. I ended up getting two offers, one for a full-time internship, the other for a full-time job here at TopUniversities.com. The rest, they say, is history…

So, if you’re feeling like you’re stuck in a slump, here are some tips to help you overcome post-graduation depression:

  • Remember you’re not alone. Loads of graduates are in the same boat, probably including some of your friends.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others, and consider avoiding social media. If you start feeling like everyone you know has got a graduate job except you, you’ll only feel worse. Besides, everyone’s lives have different timelines, and just because you haven’t yet found your graduate job, it doesn’t make you a failure.
  • Accept that life doesn’t always go to plan – you might have a graduate career path in mind, but things may not work out how you expected them to. Remember it’s okay to not have an exact idea of what you want to do with your life – you’ll get there.
  • Recognize improvements you need to make in your job applications and job interview answers, but don’t agonize over them. Try and stay positive – when you get rejected, recognize what you could have done differently, use that information for next time, and pick yourself up.
  • Seek help from your university’s careers service – it’s in their best interests to ensure that graduates are getting jobs. If you got a disappointing result compared to what you were hoping for, try not to be disheartened – highlight your strengths to employers to show that you have the skills they’re looking for.
  • Talk to someone about how you’re feeling, whether it’s a counselor, family member or a close friend.
  • Know that this won’t last forever: if my shy, inexperienced graduate self from 2015 can get a job, so can you! Don’t give up.

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Written by Sabrina Collier
Sabrina is a content writer for TopUniversities.com, providing guidance on a wide range of topics. A graduate of Aberystwyth University, Sabrina is originally from the West Midlands but now lives in London. 
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