Overcoming career anxiety

If you are feeling anxious about career planning or future job prospects, we’re here to help.

At the Careers Service, we understand the importance of seeking support.

We’re here to help you navigate a sometimes daunting path, and help you build confidence in your own decision-making. We know that everyone is different.

Sometimes just talking through your worries can help but we can also recommend some practical tips, and suggestions and set some next steps which can make all the difference.

First things first – feeling anxious at times is perfectly normal! For many students and graduates, there can be a feeling of being lost. However, if you are struggling with anxiety for any reason, we would always recommend you request well-being support by contacting the University’s Wellbeing Service. This is free and open to all undergraduate and postgraduate students.

We are going to talk through some common concerns we encounter that can create career anxiety and helpful strategies to overcome them.

‘My friends all have a plan and I have no idea!’

We meet so many students who tell us they feel inadequate or ‘left behind’ because they are comparing themselves to friends who may have already secured a graduate role before the end of uni.

Being proactive can help.

Online reading can help spark ideas, and starting your process of exploration can help create a feeling of control.  The scope of your options as a graduate can potentially be overwhelming, but you will be able to cut through the noise with the right tools.

For example, mycareer, our careers platform, is a great place to begin your research. Have a look at our Career Ready Courses – three bite-sized online courses, tailor-made for whatever stage you are in your career.  For example, if you’re unsure what interests you, have a go at our Explore pathway to discover information on different sectors and use tools to understand more about what motivates you.

Take Time.

Remember that for some people having the time to develop career ideas is crucial and exploring your options whilst reflecting on your own skills and interests does not need to be rushed. In fact, you’re more likely to settle on something that’s a good fit for you if you take the time to do some research, consider your options carefully, and make an informed decision.

a crossroads with a signpost that says "this way? that way?"

I don’t have a dream job’

This is a common worry. Some students think they should have a burning desire to do something very specific and this can pile on the pressure.  So, start by aiming to achieve job satisfaction by building on something that interests you and plays into your strengths. Over time, this may give you a stronger sense of what you like and don’t like so that you can carve out a career that you find rewarding.

‘I must make the perfect, ‘forever’ choice’

The nature of work and the concept of a ‘career’ is changing. These days, career paths tend to meander rather than follow in a straight line from A to B. Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis describe the changing shape of work in their best-selling book, The Squiggly Career. Why not pop into the Careers Service on Tyndall Avenue to borrow a copy of the book and learn more?

A flowchart of what people think a graduate career looks like ( linear) vs what it can be like.
What can a graduate career look like?

‘I should do what my family/friends expect’

Managing others’ expectations can be challenging. Sometimes it can feel like other people are putting pressure on you to ‘know what to do’ or are making assumptions about what you should or will do. It’s natural for others to want to give us advice or support us but ultimately, it’s your life, and your choice. It’s important for you to take the time and space you need to discover what you want to do.

I have no relevant experience’

You may feel like you don’t have the ‘right experience’ to get work, and can’t get work to get the ‘right experience’. Obviously, this feeling is frustrating! However, it’s rare that someone will lack any relevant experience for a role. Have you reflected on your transferable skills? You may have developed these through part-time work, volunteering, and curricular or non-curricular activities. Remember, employers are keen to hear about any opportunities you’ve taken to develop your skill set. How you’ve done that is what makes you unique, interesting, and employable.

Remember, extracurricular activities can also be used towards the Bristol PLUS Award which recognises you for the skills you gain during your degree.

You can use activities from any point of your degree, anywhere in the world. Find out more through the PLUS Award webpage and PLUS Award guide

‘I’m confused, and I want to talk it through’

That’s what we’re here for. It’s important not to isolate yourself and your concerns.

It can also be helpful to share your thoughts with other students who feel the same way as you.  You can do that by attending one of our small supportive workshops –“Get Clear on your Career”. Have a look at this and all our events on mycareer.

Guidance Appointments.

Alternatively, you may prefer to talk things through on a 1-1 basis with one of our friendly, impartial and non-judgemental Careers Advisers. We can offer you a safe place to discuss your concerns and worries about the future, during a thirty-minute guidance appointment, either in person or online.

A careers advisor talks to a student

During the appointment, you’ll be guided through some self-reflection, consider options, and identify practical steps to move towards a more positive mindset.

If you think this would help, get in touch and we’ll help you arrange the best type of appointment at a time to suit you.

If you’re feeling more ready to move on, you can self-book a shorter information and advice appointment via mycareer. These appointments can be used for a CV, Cover letter and/or application reviews and Careers Information queries.  Come and talk to us on Live Chat or Visit us on campus at 5 Tyndall Avenue for a face-to-face chat

If all of this feels too daunting and what you are looking for is a safe space to relax and meet like-minded students in the same boat as you then have a look at Peace of Mind @ Bristol SU

A drawing of the world with "peace of mind" written over it

The Peace of Mind society is a student-led mental health charity aiming to create a safe space for all UoB students to relax and socialise. Our weekly PositiviTea sessions are free to attend and open to all students to chat and have a go at some fun activities! This year, we have folded origami, painted Christmas cards, and watched a Halloween movie. Check out our Instagram (@uobpeaceofmind) or our Bristol SU website to find out what we are up to next.   (Vice-President)