Life after education. An exciting, scary or confusing new chapter in your life?

After a hectic week I’ve had a lovely morning sitting in the garden, drinking coffee and reflecting on the last few weeks.  There definitely seems to have been a theme to many of the conversations I’ve had, and many of the pictures I’ve seen recently – The School Prom.  Its such a massive event in the lives of so many young people and, whilst it is symbolic of them moving onto a new chapter in their lives, you can’t get away from the excitement of the night itself – and of course all the beautiful dresses!!

It occurred to me that, over the next few months, there will be huge changes in the lives of many, many families. There is the build up to final exams; the wait for the much anticipated results; proms and graduations; the preparations to move into new schools, colleges or universities; plans to be made for them to move away from home for the first time; the move from education into the world of work – or indeed, to the excitement of a Gap Year.  Whatever it is, it’s the start of a new chapter – not only for the young people but also for their parents.

Whatever the change I’m sure everyone involved will be experiencing a huge range of emotions.

I guess one of the biggest impacts right now is for those who have finished education and are moving into the world of work.  Whilst it is a really exciting time it can also bring with it a huge range of other emotions.  Lots of people find they feel lost, uncertain, confused, scared -and so the list could go on.  The thing to remember is that this is perfectly normal.

But why do we feel like this?

Firstly, it is a huge step into the unknown!  From the age of about 4 or 5 you will have been a pupil or student – and suddenly you will be in a totally different environment with different expectations and responsibilities. Perhaps some of those expectations come from your boss – but many others will be those that you have of yourself!  Perhaps you’ve always been a top student and suddenly you are in a place of work where everything is new and you realise there is lots you don’t know – and thats fine.  Any new job will be a huge learning curve.

For others, you may have finished college or university with a clear idea of what you want to do next – but perhaps taking that next step is not as easy as you’d hoped.  Whist some are lucky enough to ‘walk’ into their dream job, most people will find they go through a great number of applications, interviews and assessment centres before they are finally successful. The truth is that, for every job there will be dozens (if not hundreds) of applicants.

Or maybe you have left college or university and have realised that you really don’t know what you want to do next!!  Or that what you thought you wanted to do no longer seems right. Again, this is very common.  Perhaps you have been really focused on getting a great Degree – so you worked hard to pass your exams in school, college and finally at university.  The Degree may have been your focus the past 6 or 7 years.  And now you’ve achieved it – and thats fantastic.  You’ve achieved your goal.  But to move forwards you now need to set yourself another goal – one that is equally compelling.

So whats important right now ….

  • Be realistic with yourself.  You aren’t going to know everything – and no-one will expect you to.
  • Keep focus on what you want – but know that to get there you may have to take a different route to the one you envisaged.  Perhaps you can get into the industry or company you want, but in a different role initially.  Or perhaps you take the right job but need to move to a new location.
  • Set yourself a clear goal – and review it often.  Each day ask yourself “what did I do yesterday towards achieving my goal?  And what am I going to do today?”
  • One step at a time – if you aren’t getting the jobs you want right now find out why.  Is it that you are missing out to more experienced candidates?  Perhaps you are not ‘selling’ yourself clearly in interviews?  Once you identify any common themes then you can do something about it – one step at a time.
  • Don’t try to do it alone.  Talk things through with someone you trust who can help keep you on track – a parent, tutor, mentor or coach.  Ideally this should be someone who can look at what you are doing objectively – and who can give you either a hand to hold or a some rocket fuel whenever you need them!!
  • Give yourself time – things don’t happen overnight.  But if you are realistic, keep focused and have a clear goal they will happen.  Remember, all good things are worth waiting for!

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