Mannequin on a string

February 19, 2021, by Abigail Rowse

Under Pressure: How To Cope With Others’ Opinions When Career Planning

The Career Wellbeing blog series. We know that thinking about your career, applying for jobs, and moving into the workplace can be exciting, but we also know that sometimes it can present challenges and might be a source of stress or anxiety. That’s why, in this blog series, we will explore some of the things that might cause you concern and provide helpful insight and advice, alongside ideas and inspiration for your future career wellbeing.

By Sarah Hinds, Counsellor and Outreach Co-ordinator, The University of Nottingham Counselling Service

As you approach the end of your course you may have mixed feelings about what kind of job or career to aim for and when to start applying. It is not uncommon to find that other people have a lot to say about which jobs you should aim for and how quickly you should progress in your career. Studies show that around half of students’ career choices are influenced by their parents. Other people’s ideas can sometimes be helpful but they can also make you feel pressured.

Notice where the pressure is coming from and how it is affecting you

It can be useful to notice whether your career decisions are being affected by those around you.

Do parents or other family members have particular ideas about what kind of career gives you success, wealth or status?

Are there expectations in your subject area to pursue a particular route and within a certain timescale in order to succeed?

Are you feeling pressure from people telling you it’s hard to find a job or that the competition is impossibly high for the roles you are aiming for?

Are there financial pressures to find a job soon?

Are you putting pressure on yourself to meet different expectations?

Step 1 – notice what the pressures are and how you are feeling about them

It can be helpful to draw a mind map, diagram or list of the different pressures you are feeling and note down how you feel about them. If people are making judgements about your decisions it can be useful to write these down. This can help you decide whether you agree with them, and also identify whether you have been internalising others’ opinions. Some influences might feel inspiring or motivating while others might result in fear, confusion or overwhelm. If the pressure feels too much, it’s ok to ask for help and talk it through with a friend, family member or university support services.

Step 2 – notice the differences between the pressures

Take a look at the different opinions and decide how important they are to you, and whether your values and the lifestyle you want are in the mix. For example, you might realistically need to get some kind of job quite soon for financial reasons but may not want to join the family business.

You can split these into realities you may need to accept, and those which you have some choice in or power over.

Step 3 – decide what to do about the pressures

You might find that you need to respond to the pressures, for example by changing the way you talk to yourself. Ask yourself if you are reinforcing others’ judgements or expectations by repeating them to yourself. Experiment with talking with yourself in a more compassionate way.

A conversation may be needed with a friend or family member. Sometimes a conversation with family can clear up assumptions you have about what they are expecting of you. It can also give you a chance to talk to them about what you need and want for your future.

If you’re feeling confused it can be useful to draw a picture or write about your dream job. It doesn’t have to be realistic in the near future – it could be anything from a CEO to a trapeze artist. Where would you really like to be in 10 years’ time? If you let yourself be creative, you can then pull back towards realistic possibilities rather than feeling pressured by other people’s expectations of you.

Remember that you are not alone when it comes to careers decisions and applications. It’s ok to feel unsure what you want to do next, to take time to think things through and to change your mind. Check out our web resources on choosing your career for independent advice. You could also talk to someone about your career concerns by booking an appointment with our Careers team. 

The next post in our Career Wellbeing blog series focuses on dealing with rejection when you aren’t offered the job. It will be available on Friday, 19 March 2021.

Posted in Career wellbeingChoosing Your Career