A graduate’s guide to staying sane during a job search

You have spent your entire life in education with the simple conventional wisdom in mind: A Levels = university degree = good job. During A Levels you know exactly what grades you must achieve to earn a place on that university course. You then spend the next few years at university believing that a 2:1 is your best chance of getting a foot on the ladder in your desired career path. You spend six weeks or so after your final exam tentatively applying for jobs but are really holding back until that anxious wait for your results is over. The beginning of July arrives quicker than expected. Relief washes over as you realise those three years of study have not been in vain. But now what?

Of course throughout your student years the news has talked of nothing but recession and dire economic forecasts but it’s only now you appreciate the reality as employers stubbornly refuse to bite. You look anxiously at those in your friendship group who have long since secured coveted places on graduate schemes or used connections to secure internships and you start to question your own choices. ¬†You have read every piece of careers advice going, adapted your CV what seems like a thousand times and sought the counsel of everyone you know who has been through similar. They advise you to remain patient, your break will come. However the Jobcentre is putting pressure on you, advising you to lower your aspirations (conveniently ignoring the enormous jobseeker-vacancy gap). You follow their advice, applying for the most mundane of jobs knowing they probably won’t get back to you. Your financial situation is becoming so desperate you start to think, God forbid, you might have to move back in with your parents.

Six months into your job search lurking self-doubt and despair have replaced the hope and enthusiasm of those halcyon student days. However, retaining confidence and drive is just as important in finding employment as the standout CV and killer covering letter. Rather than resigning yourself to a life of daytime TV and rolling 24 hour news, the following five tips can help prevent the job search from crushing your soul:


The ability to lie in as you listen to your flatmates struggle out of bed in the dark to brave sub-zero temperatures outside is perhaps the only advantage of unemployment. However nothing is more likely to decrease motivation than lounging around in your dressing gown until 1pm. Getting up at a respectable hour, showering and having breakfast will set you up for a productive day


Cabin fever is a common symptom of continued unemployment. A brisk morning walk or meeting up with your friends for lunch will help you feel connected with the human race (if they’re working, let them pay). Try replacing the silence of your kitchen with the buzz of a busy coffee shop – you will be surprised at how it inspires you to approach the job hunt with renewed vigour.


Quality not quantity is the key in a successful job search. Robotically churning out dozens of repetitive applications on a daily basis will not only result in mediocre content but increase your sense of despair when they are unsuccessful. Avoid visiting the same select jobsites every day and take regular breaks between applications. This will help you consider how to approach each job specification in its own right and avoid feeling like you’re going round in circles.


An interview may not be a job but at least in this highly competitive market you have made enough of an impression to be considered. This should remind you of your worth as a candidate and even an unsuccessful interview will offer invaluable experience for the next one.


Even if none of the previous points have lifted the gloom, remember this really won’t be forever. Don’t dwell on your present situation and stay focused on where you want to be in a year’s time. Be bold and remember you are not alone: even if speaking to friends or family doesn’t help, there are plenty of government agencies and charities out there which can offer free support and advice.