Senior year of college is such an exciting time — but can also get pretty stressful. In between all of the fun and excitement of your last hurrah in college, oftentimes the anxiety of finding a job after graduation creeps in. It can get especially difficult when you see your friends and classmates accepting jobs on LinkedIn and are feeling like you’re the last one without one. This can lead to a dangerous thought spiral: Why has no one responded to your applications yet? Are you behind, or too early? When should college seniors apply for jobs anyway? If you’re feeling overwhelmed with job competition anxiety, you’re not alone.
Simply having an idea of what to do when your anxiety over finding a job starts to take over can help so much. I spoke to career experts to figure out how to deal with senior year job competition anxiety, and what to keep in mind when your post-grad job search feels overwhelming.
Know that you’re not alone.
Most people aren’t going to go around telling everyone how stressed and upset they are that they don’t have a job yet. The feeling that no one else is stressed is completely false — people are just good at hiding it. Keep in mind that Instagram and LinkedIn are highlight reels. You’ll never see the behind-the-scenes stress and countless job rejections someone had to face to get to where they are.
Last semester — which was the fall of my senior year — I was beyond stressed about finding a job. I go to the Fashion Institute of Technology, and a lot of my classmates accepted jobs in executive training programs at big retailers, which made me feel like the clock was ticking. After a devastating internship rejection, it lit a fire in me that led to a spree of job applications. Luckily, I did find and accept a job I am excited to start next year, and you can, too. According to the Washington Post, the average job seeker is rejected 24 times before getting an offer. So if you’re feeling like all the doors are slamming in your face, you might actually be one step closer to a “yes.”
Find out if you might be too early.
When I was stressing out about finding a job, a professor reminded me that only so many jobs are looking to hire that far out from the start date. Depending on the industry you’re going into, it may be too early to even start applying for jobs, so there’s no reason to be stressed. Indeed reports that most companies will begin recruiting in the middle of your final semester, and that you should start applying at the end of that semester. That may feel late to you, but it might be best if they’re expecting you to start right away.
This is the norm for most industries — the jobs you will be applying to are looking to fill the position as soon as possible, meaning it’s just not possible to secure a job months and months out from graduation. If you’re not sure about your specific desired industry and its timeline, talk to your professors and mentors to get a feel for when it is best to start applying for jobs.
Try to enjoy the present.
Senior year only comes once and you should not waste it away stressing about the future. It’s the last time you’ll have so few responsibilities and time with friends, so focus on the present and don’t wish college away. It helped me a lot to just have fun with my friends and try to forget about the job search. You don’t want your last memories of college to be filled with stress and anxiety over the future. When you’re sitting in an office 9 to 5 next year, you’ll be wishing you could go back to relive senior year.
“Many seniors feel this do-or-die pressure to make the right decision on the job they pick after graduation. Don’t worry,” Tim White, the CEO and founder of MilePro, tells Her Campus. “Gone are the days when people would work for the same one or two companies from graduation till retirement.”
Thinking of your next job as simply a job and not the job might ease your stress. Even if you don’t love the first job you get out of school, it will set you on a path to find one you do love.
Stop playing the comparison game.
We’re all guilty of comparing ourselves to our friends and strangers on the internet and wondering why we aren’t as *insert adjective here* as they are. The truth is, everyone is comparing themselves to someone who they perceive as better in some way. No matter how successful you become, you will never truly be happy if you’re always looking at someone else thinking they have it better.
Imposter syndrome may be kicking in here. Imposter syndrome can be described as the feeling that you are somehow a fraud and have difficulty internalizing your successes. According to a 2020 review, 9% to 82% of people experience imposter syndrome. This can manifest in many different ways for different people, including self-doubt, burnout, and even attributing your successes to outside influences.
In her book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, Dr. Valerie Young writes that there are five types of people who suffer from imposter syndrome. If you are stressing out about finding a post-grad job, you are likely “the perfectionist,” who experiences anxiety, doubt, and worry when you set goals you are unable to achieve. To combat this, you have to let go of the idea of perfection and allow yourself to celebrate the small wins just as much as the big ones.
Focus on a side hustle.
If it makes you feel better, focus on a side hustle to build your resume in the meantime. Whether it’s a blog, a t-shirt business, or an internship, work on something that can help build your skills that you can talk about in future interviews.
Anna Latorre, an entrepreneur, teacher, and founder of Anna Spanish, shares, “It is also important to try and maintain a job while in school. For some people this may not be doable, but work experience is key. This can help you to really build your resume and provide concrete examples of why you are a good employee. This will help to alleviate some stress as you will have the experience to back yourself up.”
Build your network.
Another small thing that helped me feel a lot better about the future was making an Excel spreadsheet of people I have networked with over the years. I made columns with the person’s name, email, phone number, where they work, and how I know them. Over the years, I’ve been able to fill the sheet with previous co-workers from internships, guest speakers from classes, and even people I have met in interviews. It makes me feel a lot better to know I have this network I can reach out to if I need to in the future.
Informational interviews can be an amazing source to build your network if you don’t know where to start. Eva Chan, CPRW, a career counselor at Resume Genius and CV Genius, tells Her Campus, “One of my biggest tips for senior year students to boost their confidence and venture into the job or career they want is to complete more informational interviews with other alumni or working professionals either online, by phone, or in person.”
I have set up a few informational interviews myself and have come to learn that working people want to help students. It doesn’t hurt to send someone you admire a message and ask if they’d be willing to meet virtually to chat about their career paths and experiences.
Chan continues, “Often, people will be happy to have a coffee chat with you or a Zoom call if you state that you want to learn more about what they do and how they got there. Just don’t forget to thank them for taking the time out of their schedule to talk with you!”
Remember that it’s okay not to have a job on graduation day.
I know everyone wants to have a perfect job lined up on the day they graduate, but it’s just not realistic. You will have your entire life to work, so it may be a blessing in disguise if you get to enjoy a few more months to yourself before entering the workforce full time.
“While it might be daunting to not have a job lined up by graduation, it’s not that big of a deal,” Andre Kazimierski, CEO of Improovy, tells Her Campus. “Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and remember that you have your whole life to work from 8 to 6 every day. What’s a few extra months?”
Talk to someone.
If the anxiety is eating you alive, talk to a trusted friend or family member and confide in them how you’re feeling. Sai Blackbyrn, CEO of Coach Foundation, recommends talking to your college advisor. “They have a lot of contacts in the industry and can help you find a good job. Additionally, they provide you with a safe space to voice out your concerns and fears,” Blackbyrn tells Her Campus.
He also recommends you talk with friends who are in the same boat as you. “Hang out with your friends and talk to them. They’re all seniors, just like you. And, even though everyone has a different story, you’re all alike in one way or another. Chances are that your friends are also going through the same troubles as you.”
Sometimes all it takes is honesty and communication to make you feel better. If that doesn’t help, you can look into counseling services at your school and talk to a professional who can offer advice for how to manage your stress. There are also hotlines you can call if you just want to anonymously talk to someone.
As a fellow college senior, trust me, I know how you’re feeling. This year can be such a roller coaster of excitement mixed with fear of the unknown. I promise you everything will work out in the end, so take a deep breath and take it day by day. College may be coming to an end, but your career journey is just getting started.