Forget Halloween, I’ve got career fear

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What are your plans for the future? This one daunting question casts a permanent shadow on students’ time at university. Whether you’re a law student stuck in the fierce competition for an internship, a finance student aiming for the Big Four, or even an overwhelmed first year English Literature student like me, we’ve all felt this surging sense of anxiety as to what our future holds and wondered what we need to be doing to ensure that we get on the right path. In these isolating times, spending all day glued to a desk, this is especially true.

It is difficult to know what you want to be or where you want to work so early on. More often than not, even those who have mapped out their ten-year career plan end up working in sectors they would not have expected. That isn’t to say that we should abandon planning altogether; rather, remember to retain an open-minded approach as we attempt to navigate the fog of the future.

The behemoth task of ‘figuring out your life’ is a learning experience we all undergo

The only way to soothe our fears for the future is to stop avoiding them. Our minds are cluttered by all the different goals we want to achieve. Excitement is replaced by angst and fear of failure: 79% of university students worry about getting a job, while 72% worry about debt. This anxiety manifests itself in two polarised responses: students either want to throw themselves into extracurriculars and any online skill courses that have the potential to ‘look good on a CV’, or we are frozen into a state of inaction and choose to ignore the looming responsibilities ahead.

While stress has become a permanent fixture of the university experience, there are a few ways we can combat it. Before aimlessly scrolling through internships and job opportunity pages, we need to seriously reflect on what it is we could envisage ourselves doing. Taking an hour or two from your weekend to write down your strengths, weaknesses and inspirations is a great first step. Setting short-term goals along with the practical steps to achieve them allows you to feel that sense of gratification without getting lost in the bigger picture. Ask yourself what your priorities are in a job. Do you need something that pays well?

What type of work environment do you prefer? Do you want something creative? Once you can see your thoughts in writing it is easier to incorporate a few career-oriented tasks into your weekly agenda without feeling overwhelmed.

Plans for the future cast a permanent shadow

These tasks are dependent on what year you’re in or what discipline you’re aiming for. Starting points like setting up a LinkedIn
profile or taking a look at online sample CVs gives you the confidence to seek out more opportunities. Taking advantage of the university’s career service, talking to people who work in your dream career field, engaging in networking events and mentorship schemes all help you to refine your interests and plant a seed of excitement for the future rather than fear.

In this productivity-crazed age we need to be conscious that we do not have to join everything under the sun to be successful in the future. The behemoth task of ‘figuring out your life’ is not something that will be resolved by a simple career test or to do list: it is a learning experience we all undergo. The social and economic bleakness of current times means that it is important for us to remain optimistic and support each other.

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