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Are you having post-grad blues? 8 Tips for finding purpose after college

July 12, 2022 - 16 min read

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What are the post-grad blues?

5 causes for post-grad blues

How to find purpose after college

How to find purpose outside of your work

Work on your patience

How can a coach help you?

I spent 18 years of my life in school. Part of my identity was being a student and following a student's routine. After finishing school, I felt like I had no purpose after my college graduation. I felt lost as soon as I stepped into the real world and started my job hunt. 

I was dealing with something that plenty of other recent college graduates experiences, too: the post-grad blues. It's not uncommon amongst recent grads or really anyone who's graduated college. 

But this experience doesn't have to last forever. With focus, resilience, and sustained effort into your actions, you can develop the skills you need for finding your purpose after college. Since there's no time like the present, let's begin.

 

What are the post-grad blues?

Post-grad blues or post-graduation depression happens when college students graduate. They leave their student days behind them and begin a new chapter of their lives. This new chapter comes with a lot of change. Everything they've known for the past four or so years is gone, and they start feeling depressed.

Graduates have a hard time finding their purpose because the purpose-built into being a student — getting good grades, forming social connections, finishing their degrees — no longer exists.

They can begin to feel lonely, sad, or unsure about what they should now do with their lives. Add in the looming uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, and you can imagine why graduating launches individuals into stress.

Post-grad blues also make people lack motivation because they feel unorganized and confused about what they should do next.

This depression can have varying lengths. For some, it lasts half a year, or until they satisfy their needs themselves. For others, it can last a lot longer if nothing is done to combat it.

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5 causes for post-grad blues

The feeling of having no purpose after graduating college doesn't come out of thin air. Each cause of post-grad blues can impact people differently, but college students can find common ground in that their mental health can change, and not always for the better.

Throughout college, they may have struggled with their mental health, but new things can cause post-grad depression.

Here are five causes to review:

1.  Student loan debt

After school is finished, many graduates are met with the bill they've racked up throughout their education. It's been reported that the student loan debt crisis impacts over 43 million Americans, with Americans owing about $1.75 trillion in federal and private loans combined.

In fact, federal student loan debt negatively impacts the mental health of the 62% of Americans who have it. The stress of not having a full-time job lined up and debt piling up is stressful. Many recent graduates facing debt feel depressed and overwhelmed.

2. Changes in routine

Moving away from their college life can bring a whole new routine to graduates. Their end goal probably isn't to live with their parents for the rest of their lives. Nearly all people with student loans have had to delay key milestones in their lives, like buying a home.

The transition to this new routine and living arrangements can be challenging. It might even involve moving to a new city or back to an old one, which is a major source of stress for most.

3. Losing connections with friends

In college, you could have had many friends living nearby and thriving social life. You felt like your mental health was supported since you had your friends close by. But when everyone moves in different directions, staying in contact with those with who you were so close is difficult.

Graduates could have trouble staying in touch with people or lose relationships they once treasured.

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4. Feeling hopeless about the job market

When you first started school, you might have had an industry in mind that seemed exciting and full of opportunity. That industry might look entirely different now. If you had anchored on that as your answer, you could be feeling a sense of hopelessness when you begin your job search.

Many people put too much emphasis on a "dream job," especially if all their friends and social media contacts talk about dream jobs and dream careers. You have limited experience. You don't yet know all the jobs and situations where you could be happy and where you could discover real passion.

Career goals you initially set out might be out of reach for now, but try not to limit yourself. It isn't selling out. It's realistic and making space for you to learn, grow, and surprise yourself.  With hard work and perseverance, you'll land your first job. And starting a new job is hard, so what then? And when will that be, and how will you feel until then? It’s not as scary as it sounds.

5. Feeling unsure and confused

After you walk across the stage in your cap and gown, the reality could set in. Did you learn enough in college? Are you confident in your abilities? Did you choose the right field? Feeling so unsure and overwhelmed with what you're going to do next can cause people to feel unorganized.

With so many possibilities, you could begin to spend too much time overanalyzing all that you've accomplished and start to feel sad if you think you’ve missed out on opportunities.

How to find purpose after college

Finding your purpose or your dream career doesn't happen overnight. It's a journey that requires sustained mental fitness, goal setting, a routine, and accountability. Having a lack of purpose after college isn't going to stick with you forever if you put in the effort. It's understandable that it can be hard to put effort into something you don't know how to change.

If you're feeling stuck, here are 8 things you can do to help you find your sense of purpose:

  1. Be curious and explore new career paths 
  2. Surround yourself with positive, encouraging people, even if that's done virtually
  3. Try new things with a growth mindset
  4. Develop a self-care plan for yourself
  5. Take time to write out your goals, values, and passions
  6. Read books and listen to podcasts from people who've overcome similar experiences
  7. Unplug from social media, including professional sites like LinkedIn, to clear your mind and focus on yourself
  8. Be intentional with your actions

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Find someone who will help you stay accountable. BetterUp can provide the accountability you need to stick with your goal of finding purpose after college to live a happy, meaningful life.

How to find purpose outside of your work

Here's something they might not have taught you in college: Your only life purpose isn't always your work. It may have seemed that way in college since you were working for a degree to find a career. But you can find a sense of purpose away from your career. In fact, most people do. 

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A healthy work-life balance is something we should all strive for, so here are five ways you can find purpose outside of your career:

  1. Talk to new people who work in different industries with different perspectives. Everyone has different experiences and strengths. Talking to people can help you feel inspired or open your eyes to new opportunities to bring a sense of purpose into your life.
  2. Never stop learning new things, no matter how big or small they are. Just because you’re done with school doesn’t mean you’re done with learning. You’ll find learning opportunities everywhere, and the more you soak them in, the more insightful you’ll be. 
  3. Write out a statement of purpose for after you finish college to have some kind of plan. You’ve been used to following a set schedule for a while. It kept you on track, so why not keep it up? Writing out a statement of purpose can help you focus and give you an idea of what you’d like to direct your energy towards. You can try time-blocking to make it feel like you’re on a strict schedule.
  4. Listen to feedback from others and what they appreciate about you. Your support system is there to help you. Sometimes they can notice things that you don’t right away, so listening to them can give you some direction. It can also fill you with love and more positive feelings.
  5. Give back to your community. Becoming involved with your surroundings is a way to feel connected to people. Whether you’re volunteering at an animal shelter or helping with an event, it can make a difference for your community and your own well-being.

Work on your patience

You know you're putting in lots of hard work, but sometimes it can seem like it's not paying off. Post-graduation anxiety is overwhelming and can make you feel like you always need to be productive. 

Start with self-compassion. You might feel like you’re supposed to have it all figured out, but no one does. And the world, especially now, is changing fast and can undo even the best-laid plans. Navigating uncertainty is hard.  You want to be focusing on how to flourish rather than worrying about your stress levels.

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But patience is one of the driving forces in our journey toward finding purpose after college. The sustained effort you put into finding your purpose will benefit you in the future — if you can stay patient. Perhaps today's hard work didn't give you many answers or make you feel satisfied. Tomorrow is always a new day.

Being patient will also give you time to take a step back. Pause, and think about all that you've done recently. Your well-being deserves a break, and practicing patience can help you slow down.

How can a coach help you?

Dealing with your depression, the journey of finding your purpose, and handling all this new change isn't something you have to do alone. Everyone can benefit from having a coach to support them through this process.

Finding your passion might lead you to change your career paths to follow new passions. Perhaps you have no idea where to start. A coach can help you plan and act on your new career goals in a way that makes sense for you. 

With BetterUp, you'll receive the guidance and support you need to find your purpose after college. You'll develop the skills you need to take care of your mental health, make a plan, and put in hard work toward your goals.

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Published July 12, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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