The Overwhelming Reality of Graduation

By Samantha Ling

“What are you going to do after graduation?”

Whenever I’m asked this question, I am often filled with anxiety and dread. Although graduations are supposed to be exciting and joyous, the reality is that it is extremely daunting. This is especially so with the societal pressure where we are expected to be a “real adult” with our life all planned out, earning five figures at a well-known company and even married to the love of our life upon graduation. If you’re also feeling this sense of, for the lack of better words, impending doom, know that you’re far from alone. To ease your graduation anxiety, I spoke with fellow NTU seniors — Josie Kiew and Cherrell Ng, to learn how they dealt with the pressures of graduation and the advice they have for those embarking on their adulthood journey.

Josie Kiew (left) & Cherrell Ng (right).
Credit: Josie Kiew, Cherell Ng

Josie is a 2021 graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies with a Second Major in Business, while Cherrell is a 2022 graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature & Art History.

How did you feel knowing that your graduation was finally approaching?

Josie: I was definitely excited to move on to the next phase in my life, but I had some mixed feelings. The uncertainty of landing your dream job can keep you up at night. But in reverse, this also motivates me to persevere to find (or keep finding) a job that suits me.

Cherrell: Honestly, it was a blur. I remember rushing my final year project till the very last day. Graduation didn’t really sink in until I was watching a video compilation by a friend I met during my internship back in September and it left me in tears. I knew there and then that I had to take time to process things and give myself the credit I deserve.

Were you pressured over having to find a full-time job immediately after graduation?

Josie: Adulting hits you faster than you know it. One minute you’re preparing for the biggest and last project in your final semester, and the next minute you’re expected to find a job after graduating. Conversations about finding jobs from family and friends did add pressure. However, I was adamant about doing things at my pace. I wanted to take a break after graduation. Thankfully, I could start my job search early and secured one in March, three months before graduation. Whenever I found pockets of time in my final semester, I reached out to companies and applied for jobs.  

Cherrell: No, actually. I was looking out for full time jobs, but I knew there was a particular dream of mine that I had to fulfil before that. It was an internship with Zula. Most importantly, follow your heart and know your worth!

How did you feel during your job search? Why did you feel this way?

Josie: As I graduated during the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of social interaction as a result of virtual interviews was a disadvantage. We are assessing our future employer as much as they are assessing whether we are a good fit. The inability to see the interactions between the employees and the management and their style of communication was hugely missed.  

Cherrell: I felt so drained because I was constantly scrolling, waiting for the email notifications and I let it consume most of my days. Something that a career counsellor said stuck with me: the job search is a marathon and not a sprint! On average, it takes six months for a fresh graduate to land a job so don’t lose hope and enjoy the process of self-discovery! And always set boundaries.

What kind of considerations did you have with regard to finding your first job or internship?

Josie: The people that I am working directly with are most important to me, mainly to see how open communication within the team is. Questions like “Is creativity allowed?” and “How comfortable does one feel voicing out a contrasting view?” were at the top of my head. Open communication and constructive feedback are essential for good teamwork and producing great results together.   

Cherrell: Being a literature and art history major, I wasn’t sure if I was suitable for the communications or media industry. But as they say, you never know until you try! I wanted to pick up a new skill with my first internship.

How did you deal with comparison among your peers? 

Josie: When comparing against the market rate, I understood I got a decent job and starting pay. Although it is very natural to compare ourselves with our peers, it can be unhealthy and potentially do more damage than good. More importantly, we should shift the focus to ourselves and the person we want to be. I assessed my level of happiness by considering factors such as a good company fit, and the ability to learn and advance in my career presently and the future. I knew I was looking for more.   

Cherrell: It can be stressful to hear from friends who are getting interviews or job offers and you’re not at that stage but ultimately, I told myself that we’re here to support one another! I think speaking about how you’re feeling and what you’re struggling with really helps since we’re going through similar experiences. My friends have been so supportive, and they even send me job opportunities that they come across on their own job hunts.

What kind of advice would you give to others who are also facing graduation anxiety?  

Josie: Every new phase has its uncertainty, and its ups and downs. Constantly remind yourself that if you’re feeling anxious and stressed, you’re not alone. Talk to someone you feel comfortable with to release some of the mental and emotional stress. Remember to spend time on things that make you happy, too. Whether is it watching an episode on Netflix or going for a run, these small little ‘breathers’ helps to keep you going.  

Cherrell: It’s normal to feel scared whenever we go through big changes, but don’t forget to show yourself appreciation for how far you’ve come! May you find new levels of self-discovery and confidence amidst the uncertainty in this shifting season.  

The stress and struggle while transitioning into adulthood is real, but don’t forget to enjoy your graduation and celebrate how far you have come! I hope that these experiences and advice from Josie and Cherrell lets you see that everyone has the same fears about graduation. You should not feel that it is too late, or you have too little time to decide to do what is best for you. With that, I wish you the best of luck in whatever you do!  

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: