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Graduation and New Life Stage

By SONNY WONG - April 17 2019

Managing the 3-Worrisome-F’s of “Adulting”

By Sonny KH Wong (MEd, RP) & John Sendim (MPS candidate, RP(Q)

“Many adults now go back full time to change careers given our ever changing job market,  so they are just like youth looking for their first job in their field of study.  Sonny and John’s article is a big help for adults and youth in this Graduation and New Life Stage.”

Graduation is a reality that many students in colleges/universities will be experiencing soon enough. And with each generation of graduating students, they have all been asked, “Times are tough…what are you going to do about a job?” The excitement of completing an education, perhaps being the first in your family to do so, is characterized with nervousness especially while answering the question – what is next for me?  Moreover, the responsibilities that come with “adulting” can be overwhelming.  The combination of nervousness and the reality of adulting can overshadows these new grads’ major life accomplishment.  The article is written by two professionals, at two different major universities, and from two different perspectives.  By taking a mindfulness and a positive psychotherapeutic approach, we hope to help new grads embrace their next life-stage. It is very common that new grads want to learn how to manage their worrisome Fs, such as: failure, fear, and frustrations. For the youth population, they recognize that managing their worrisome Fs will result in a smoother transition to adulting.

Failure: Many new grads have a strong desire to contribute to society.  Many believe that they have much to offer and need the right opportunities to flourish.   After some job search attempts without success, their frustrations result in self-doubt.  Such doubts can be: I am not good enough, someone else is better, I am not qualified enough, I need to do more, and so forth. This internalization is something that needs to be addressed because there are a lot of students that succeed despite struggles/setbacks.  How can you quiet down those thoughts filled with self-doubt? Viewing job search as a learning opportunity is better than evaluating yourself as a pass/fail.  We encourage you to explore your identity beyond your academic training, interests and skill sets, so that you can find your total self while you are job searching.  Rethink your “personal brand” without self-objectification.  You are more than your degree/diploma and you are more than the accolades you have received.  Try to connect with what made you choose your discipline.  If no particular courses stand out, try to remember what lectures, assignments and/or class discussions you enjoyed over your course of study. What kept you interested during your educational training can be clues to re-clarifying your job search goals. Sometimes, a little shift in how your look at your past thoughts/behaviors can lead you to a more positive job search experience.

Fear: Students believe that their educational training will dictate their career path.  If they do not work directly in their field they are fearful of never living up to their academic aspirations.  Some discovered that their ideal jobs are not quite within their reach just yet – which can provoke FEAR.  This emotion makes new grads question, and at times, devalues their self-concept and emerging career identity.  They have spent money and time on their education to secure a future for themselves and now in a new life stage – they are not living up to their own hopes and dreams. FEAR can have two meanings: the first being False Evidence Appearing Real, and second as, Face Everything And Rise. Students who are in college/professional programs may have internship opportunities making it advantageous for them to gain more skills/experiences to compete for their first “real job”. Let us ask you…how does focusing on what you don’t have help you find out what you do have and move a bit forward? When you are job searching and you find a job posting where you may have the requirements and qualifications, expect the “minimum X years of experience” – what do you do? You may query – How does one get the years experience if no one is giving you a chance? Better question is how did those other new grads get those years of experience so that they can obtain their ideal position in the workforce?  We have worked with clients to formulate attitude and behavioral goals in order to obtain professional success.  Sometimes success is measured with taking smaller steps rather than getting that “ideal job” right after graduation. To combat your fear and other underlying emotions, working with a registered professional can help with alleviating your fears. 

Frustrations: Graduates are spending their time on different job boards in hopes of finding the “perfect” career only to apply to jobs and be left in the dark. They have excellent tailored cover letters/resumes to apply for those ideal positions. But in return, they do not receive any acknowledgement, they just see the “application confirmation” text, and that’s it.  Hence, many new job seekers have expressed to us that searching for jobs is not only frustrating but it is also dehumanizing, impersonal, and hopeless. Some have chosen to stay with their student-survival-jobs and convert those positions into full time jobs, to take a break from their frustrations only to find themselves stuck.  Others get stuck with blaming their education, financial conditions, and/or lack of support – unable to move into other avenues for finding employment.  But for those who continue to job search online over and over again without the successes of a telephone interview or a live meeting – we asked them what keeps them doing it?  We discovered with those clients, that the reality is that they don’t like “networking” they feel uncomfortable with the process of going to career fairs and talking about themselves to employers – even though they have witnessed the benefits of networking with their peers. We have worked with new grads to explore the different types of networking arenas which they can strive in thereby conducting a more customized job search.  It is those same new grads who reported back to us – “I should have learned how to network and overcome my nervousness much earlier”.  

Every generation has been asked “how will you get a job with that degree/major?” Not only does this question build frustration and fear of failure, but this question is coupled with the comment that once they are out of school, finding work will be hard.   No one ever tells you that unemployment is a temporary identity.  In other words, tough times don’t last, tough people do.  The struggle of finding work is the path, and it is this path that allows us to find what is meaningful and purposeful to us. For new grads, we leave you with one final thought. Adulting isn’t easy but it doesn’t have to be difficult, if you have the right supports around you.

Sonny KH Wong (MEd, RP) is a Registered Psychotherapist who specializes in healthy career identity development.

John Sendim (MPS candidate, RP(Q)) is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) who specializes in careers and spirituality.

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