Your questions answered by our Views Editors.
I’m having a bit of a crisis about what to do after graduation. Since I was about 12, my heart was set on a career in journalism, but over the past week or so, I’ve completely changed my mind. Now I am trying to apply for other grad jobs, but I’ve never considered them before and I don’t know which ones to go for. I feel quite lost about what to do now, and I don’t want to commit to working for a company in case I change my mind. What advice do you have for a fourth-year who has no idea what she wants to do for a career?
Emily: I. Feel. This. This was exactly the situation I was in last year, and still am in this year, so know that you’re not in this alone. Throughout my honours years, various work experience placements had left me feeling blah about the career path I had previously thought I wanted, and being a 2020 graduate facing a vacuous job market only compounded the uncertainty.
So, I did what any panicking final year student with no ideas for the future does: I applied for a Masters. This might not be the path for you; depending on if your Masters is teaching or research-based, the fees can be up to £10k a year, so you might not have the funds to do it straight away or you might not want to drop that kind of money if you don’t know of a course you’d love to do. I was really fortunate in the fact that mine is something of a passion project for me and I got a full fee-waiver scholarship, so it felt like a no brainer since I’m still in limbo about the whole career situation; it gives me more time to figure things out. Yes, my family keep asking me, “So, what jobs can you get with that?”, but fortunately I can just blame my doing it on not wanting to enter the jobs market in the middle of a pandemic.
Don’t feel the need to apply to grad schemes if you don’t know what you want to do just yet. There’s all this pressure to get yourself into a good, secure job straight out of university, but you don’t need to know what you’ll be doing with the rest of your 50-odd working years right away. It’s perfectly acceptable to apply for jobs that you don’t particularly care about just to keep you on your feet until you do decide what you want to do. Or, maybe you’ll realise that you aren’t a career-focused person, and you’d rather just work to live, rather than live to work. The latter is what high-achieving school and university environments would have us believe is the only way of being a successful member of society, but it isn’t true. It’s perfectly fine not to be a world-changer – most people are just normal, and that doesn’t mean you can’t be happy and successful in your own ways.
In the meantime, try and get a job that pays you something without taking up all of your mental energy. That way, you can be earning money whilst giving yourself the time and space to explore who you are and what you want from life outside of higher education, which can really skewer your world view. In the current careers market, it isn’t easy to get your dream job even if you know what you want, so you might as well try your hand at whatever there is that you don’t mind doing. When you’re not working allow yourself the concentrated time to try out new hobbies, or to test out potential jobs either by researching them, playing about with new skills on your own, or volunteering in different sectors – although admittedly this last one may be dependent on Miss Rona. In the end, you’ll either unexpectedly fall upon your calling in life or discover a job and colleagues that you’re settled in whilst finding fulfilment outwith the working world. Both are perfectly acceptable – and rewarding – ways of being.
I think I have ADHD or ADD but I don’t know how to broach it with my GP or if it’s even worth it (for context, I’m a woman). I tried to discuss my anxiety with a GP and he was really belittling and invalidating despite the fact that I am sure about my anxiety disorder. That makes me even more nervous to bring up ADHD because I worry I would be made again to feel like I’m just trying to come up with excuses and making a mountain out of a molehill. And is it even worth having the discussion? Like realistically, is the GP going to be able to help me with ADHD?
Hailie: I have two magic words for you: dump him. The next time you’re trying to arrange an appointment, make a point of requesting a different doctor – sometimes they just aren’t a good fit for you, and sometimes they’re just plain ignorant. No single doctor has complete authority over validating your experiences – if you believe your anxiety is having as great an impact on your life, as it sounds, then it probably is. A doctor is able to recognise symptoms of different mental health difficulties and prescribe you certain medications, but there’s a reason that any further support involves a referral to a specialist: GPs usually aren’t mental health specialists. I don’t say that to undermine the profession, but to highlight to you that sometimes GPs do get it wrong.
As you’ve highlighted, the experiences of neurodivergent women and those assigned female at birth are so often misunderstood in medical spaces, meaning that it’s often challenging to get an initial assessment, never mind an official diagnosis. Whilst a professional diagnosis isn’t necessarily everything, it can be vital to accessing support. It sounds as though it is important for you to explore: and so you should. Obviously, I can’t say whether you have ADHD or ADD. In this case, as it is for everyone, the person with the most insight into your experiences is you. My advice then is to take a note of the things that you feel are indicators of ADHD in your life: maybe you really struggle with executive dysfunction or find yourself zoning out in situations more than your peers.
An appointment pre-referral for assessment will probably involve your GP asking questions about whether you feel these traits and characteristics were present in your childhood – so I would also spend some time reflecting on this or discussing your behaviours with family or friends who knew you when you were younger. This may help to bring other things to the surface or help you to come to a decision about pursuing a diagnosis.
I want to reassure you though that you aren’t “just trying to come up with excuses and making a mountain of a molehill” – even if you aren’t diagnosed with ADHD. If you feel strongly about engaging with your mental health and potential neurodivergence, then it is so important that you do. With NHS waiting lists being as tedious as they can be, it may take some time before you can see someone who can help you explore this better than your GP, but I would say that, as soon as you’re ready, you should arrange another appointment with a different doctor. The likelihood is that current circumstances being as they are, this will be an over the phone appointment, which means you can have all your notes out in front of you to make sure that you get the most important things across in that short space of time. Self-advocacy can be hard, but you are worth all the effort. Good luck!
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