‘Forget Halloween, I’ve got career fear’ – a response

By Durham University Careers Service

We were relieved to see many common career concerns acknowledged and tackled with refreshingly sage advice in ’s article about the fear, anxiety and pressures associated with career planning and decision-making. We hope, in writing a response piece, that we can further ‘normalise’ the varied concerns that we encounter, and we’d particularly love to erase any fear of accessing careers support.

You’ve just cracked the Durham code, from JCRs to Freps, to then face spring weeks, placements, internships, vac schemes, speculative approaches, psychometric tests and more. Getting to grips with careers terminology, recruitment cycles and the broad-ranging opportunities available to support your career development can be extremely daunting. Our relatively late opening Michaelmas Term can generate an overwhelming sense of urgency and an intense fear of missing out on early advertised work experience and graduate progression opportunities.

One of the most common causes of overwhelm, shared within the confines of our guidance appointments, is the myriad of career options when ‘everyone else is (seemingly) so on it’. My housemates all know what they’re doing. Everyone’s got a plan. They’ve done so many applications. They’ve secured internships. They’ve got interviews already. They’ve applied for Master’s courses. They’ve got their grad scheme in the bag. I don’t know where to start. Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

The pressures of being at a Russell Group University are wide-ranging, from perceived peer pressure to family or societal expectations to a self-imposed and heavily weighted fear of ‘failure’. Whether you followed a linear path to university, or you’re a mature student changing career direction, we often hear that the journey thus far was relatively ‘mapped out’, therefore looking beyond the Durham bubble naturally presents a degree of apprehension.

Plans change. Work experience may validate or adjust your goals. Internships and graduate schemes don’t exist in all sectors. It’s your career journey; a series of steps, not a destination, and you’re absolutely ‘on it’.

2020 was the strangest of years and 2021 continues in the same vein. Many work experience and development opportunities cancelled, the world still in limbo. Whether you’re wondering how to develop your employability and experience, anxious about the impact of Covid-19 on graduate prospects or filled with dread at the thought of navigating online events and recruitment activities, you are not alone. We understand, as do employers and recruiters. They know your experiences will be different this year, but they’re still looking for capable individuals and Durham students from all backgrounds are filled with potential. We see this every day and recruiters see it too.

Most sectors are actively open for business, recruiting to graduate roles and student experiences and looking forward to a less restricted future, alongside offering virtual insights. Economists predict that in spite of the challenges presented, recovery from coronavirus will be relatively swift. The digital shift in 2020 has resulted in an explosion of globally accessible online learning and development opportunities. The sectors suffering the most (hospitality, performance, events, culture) have been re-inventing how they operate and are preparing for a more positive future.

So, use our support and guidance to explore options, make applications and access development opportunities. Reach out to people in sectors you’re interested in – it’s never been easier to secure an online chat with someone in a field or a job role which might excite you. We advertised nearly 500 career and employer events in Michaelmas 2020, ranging from recruitment spotlights to insight forums and panel debates. Your early career years can be just as much about exploration as securing a focused progression route.

Learn more about Careers and Enterprise support at www.durham.ac.uk/careers. You’ll find wide-ranging information resources to support you throughout your career journey. Log into our Student Services Portal to browse events, vacancies, book appointments and submit careers questions to our team. It’s okay not to have a plan and it’s okay to seek support. We hear your career fears and we’re here to help.

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