Graduation anxiety — Betty’s Career Tip

Most of us experience significant milestones in our life such as getting married, purchasing a house or new car, beginning a new job and relocating to a new city. As you read through this list, you probably would agree that they are all positive milestones and a good reason to be happy.

Of course, you can’t overlook graduation because you have spent the last several years working hard to reach this goal. As you get closer to your graduation, you may be asking yourself, “Why am I feeling anxious?” Anxiety is common for any major adult milestones, but people generally don’t acknowledge or talk about it.

So how do you know you are experiencing anxiety? If you do have anxiety, you may experience one the following:

  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Doubting yourself and your goals.
  • Minimizing your skills and abilities.
  • Comparing yourself to others.
  • Seeing yourself as a student and not as a professional.
  • Exhibiting low energy when you talk about your goals.
  • When someone asks about future plans, you have a “deer in the headlights” look.

When I began my first class as a graduate student in professional counseling, I remember thinking to myself, I have another four years before I finish. I questioned my ability and stamina to do so. When I was in my last year, I wondered where all the time had gone?  Several months later my anxiety kicked in. For the last several years leading up to this event, I knew I wanted to pursue counseling with a focus on career development but was questioning my choice.

During my last year of the program, I was a counseling intern in a facility that provided transitional housing for single mothers. After six months, I was offered a position as an employment specialist. In this role, I assisted clients with their employment and career goals. It was during this time I would overhear the counselors discuss the clients’ behavioral issues. I thought their cases sounded interesting and maybe I wanted to pursue mental health instead of career counseling. I was like a ping pong ball going back and forth asking myself if I wanted to pursue mental health or career counseling.

A couple of months before I graduated, I had my answer. I attended the National Career and Development Association annual conference. This is the professional organization for those specializing in career development. As soon as I started attending the workshops, I knew I was home. I had my answer and never regretted my decision to pursue career development. My anxiety was gone.

Here are some helpful tips on how to minimize your anxiety:

  • Feel the fear and do it anyway.
  • Be confident in yourself, your accomplishments and skills.
  • Acknowledge your unique self.
  • Be around like-minded people.
  • Attend local and national conferences (virtual and in-person).
  • Join a professional organization that is in alignment with your interests.
  • Attend the Fulton Schools of Engineering Job Seekers Career Conference (virtual) held on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, 10 a.m.–2:30 pm.

Finally, throw yourself a party and celebrate your graduation. Invite all your family and friends who have supported you through this process.

Congratulations, on a job well done and may you enjoy continued success!

Betty Boza is a career development specialist for the Fulton Schools Career Center. Her primary responsibility is assisting online, graduate and doctoral students with all aspects of career development including resume preparation, professional network expansion, effective job search strategies and mock interviews.