March 3, 2021, by Abigail Rowse
Dealing with Difficult Emotions During the Careers Process: My Top Five Tips
By Bryony Adshead, final year English student and Student Ambassador for the Careers and Employability Service website
Human emotions are tricky things. Our brains are built for survival, not happiness. While that has the obvious benefit of allowing the species to exist for so long, it can make life a bit harder. The careers process, whether that be researching potential careers, applying to vacancies, or anything in between, is often accompanied by imposter syndrome, fear of failure, and feeling overwhelmed (and that’s when we’re not in a pandemic).
Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for such feelings. But, after 21 long years of getting impressively stressed, overwhelmed and worried about seemingly everything, I’ve found a few things that help me. I hope that at least one of these might help you too.
1. Take the time to organise your time.
It can be hard to find time to prioritise and plan. However, this is essential to reduce stress and make sure you don’t forget something important. The point of this isn’t to pressure yourself to do too much in a day – it’s to get all your responsibilities and tasks out of your head so you can focus on one thing at a time.
2. Build in ‘buffer time’.
Planning your time is great, but our time rarely goes to plan. Try to leave yourself some ‘buffer time’ each week to catch up on anything you didn’t get done.
3. Note and name your feelings.
When you’re stressed, worried, or overwhelmed it can be a bit, well, overwhelming. A technique to deal with this is to distance yourself from what you’re feeling. For example, instead of saying ‘I’m so stressed’, try saying ‘Right now I am experiencing stress’. It’s a tiny change, but sometimes recognising what you’re experiencing and emphasising that it is temporary can make it easier to deal with.
4. Write down your strengths.
Humans have an innate tendency to focus on the negatives but it is definitely worth working to overcome this. After all, writing a list of your strengths, skills and past achievements can help you to say goodbye to imposter syndrome and fear of failure. How can you feel you’re not good enough for a careers opportunity if you’re looking at a list of all the times you proved yourself worthy in the past, or all the skills you have that mean you would shine in this role? And if this just makes you feel down by reminding you of the strengths you don’t currently possess (we do focus on the negatives, after all), remember that if you’re not as skilled at something as you’d like to be, you could gently challenge yourself to research and practice it.
5. Ask for help when you need it.
As this blog is specifically about the careers process, you could consider booking an appointment with your Careers team or your personal tutor to discuss your next steps. However, if your imposter syndrome, fear of failure or sense of being overwhelmed is getting too much, don’t be afraid to reach out to mental health professionals for extra support. Everyone deserves good mental health so please consider booking an appointment with your GP or enquiring with the University Counselling Service. While it’s unsustainable to be happy all the time, it’s important to know when things aren’t right and to try to take steps to make it better.
Even if you don’t get the vacancy you applied for or the grad scheme you set your heart on is cancelled, time spent on the careers process is never wasted. Every minute spent crafting your CV means your next application will be stronger, and any feedback from interviews or assessments can provide that last bit of fine-tuning that will help next time round. All that effort will eventually be rewarded – who wouldn’t want to hire someone who is clearly willing to put in the work?
Thursday, 4 March 2021 is University Mental Health Day. Alongside Bryony’s fantastic blog, the University is celebrating by hosting a selection of diverse events. If you are trying to work out what to do after you graduate, take a look at our choosing your career webpages. If you need additional support, consider booking an appointment with your Careers team.