• Eve Arnold

How to Embed Resilience and Mental Well-being as a Graduate and Beyond

Having been on the graduate scheme for twenty-seven months and then the working world thereafter for about a year and bit now, I think I’m quite well placed to talk about mental well-being and resilience as a grad and beyond. It’s no secret that plunging into the world of work from Uni is pretty difficult. I remember getting onto the graduate scheme and thinking ‘yes I’ve nailed it, I just need to pass third year exams and that’s it’. I never really thought about entering the world of work, I just concentrated on having a wonderful summer and passing third year.

Early into the graduate scheme I was quite perplexed at the sheer amount I had to learn and how bloody exhausting work was. Going from lecturers for half the day to a fully day of work and a couple of hours of travel was a right kick in the teeth and that definitely effected my mental well-being. When you are tired you are more likely to feel down. That transition period I was purely concentrating on getting in on time doing a decent job and making sure I made it home without falling asleep. It sounds ludicrous to think back to now but genuinely, staying awake on the way home for a time was the main focus. All this ‘newness’ and all the expectations definitely means you have to pretty strict on your mental well-being. Making sure you are actually okay and happy is the number one priority for year one of being a grad.

How do you do that?

1. Make sure you have a support system that helps you vent / talk through your worries. They’ll be a whole host of people in your business who are well placed to help you, mangers, graduate buddies, work mentors, friends — they all help.

2. Be honest and truthful with your problems and work on solution for them. There was a period of time I was just being miserable for miserable sake. That was until I started journalling down what the actual problem was and wrote down what I could do about it.

3. Be fair to yourself. We overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can do in a year. We have grown up in a world that is instant gratification right now. We need to learn that not getting something right away is a natural and all part of the process. So we can relieve the pressure.

4. Stop comparing. Being on a graduate scheme with thirty or so other brilliant young people can be unnerving. You start to get into the realms of “well they are three months younger than me and they’ve managed a team of this size so I’m rubbish”. All that is total bullshit and you need to let go of that in anyway possible. Everyone does their own thing. The main objective (I think) is finding a job you love and are passionate about. It isn’t about the size of your team or your pay cheque (unless you are really passionate about that).

5. Look after yourself. Make sure you eat enough, drink enough water and get enough sleep. It sounds basic but getting your physical well-being right helps no end with your mental well-being.

Moving into the world of work is scary for a number of reasons — long gone is that structure and support that you had all throughout your schooling life, now you are on your own. No longer do you have progression so easily ironed out for you. That comfort blanket is taken away. At uni it’s really easy to see where you are going next. You need to get Bs in all your assignments this year, then you’ll be on course for a 2:1, you’ve got five weeks left of this module and then onto studying the next, which is a follow on from the last. You do the groundwork to then study the harder material. It all makes reasonable sense. Everyone is marked on the same set of criteria and if you put the work in you get the grades to then move onto the next module. Work is not like that at all. You enter the world of work and all of a sudden the training wheels are off. You are completely responsible for your schedule, how you spend your time, what extra stuff you do alongside work. You are the one figuring out the path, when before you had it all laid out in front of you. This is the beginning of a huge journey of figuring out what you want to do with your life and it does really feel like you are in the deep end. That can be really overwhelming.

I remember being at a graduate event and we were asked to write your biggest fear on a balloon and pop it. I wrote “being capable of finishing the graduate scheme” on mine. I think it’s easy to fall into the bracket of ‘I’ve not done this before so I can’t’ but that’s exactly how you build resilience to do it time and time again. So, if you have the opportunity to do something you think ‘no way am I capable of that’ 100% do it. Just don’t even think about it go and do it. Because you will be surprised when you can. Second, to that is resilience is all about bouncing back from problems and being unwavering in your passion to do what you set out too. In business people will always tell you no. I’ve messed up presentations, forgot to do things, missed meetings, mismanaged people’s expectations — the lot. The beauty of that is — so has everyone else. As soon as you realise everyone is human and you don’t always get it right then that’s when you really start to be bold and fearless in what you do. Third to this is, failure is part of the process. Failing is a sign that you are doing things outside your comfort zone. You are bound to get things wrong and that is totally okay, it’s part of the system. Bouncing back (in my opinion) is all about perspective. Spend the time understanding why you got it wrong, what you could have done differently next time and then move on.

As Ryan Holliday says “the obstacle is the way”.

Originally published at https://www.careerhealth.info on March 3, 2020.

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