Let’s talk about career anxiety: support and tips for students #MyNextSteps

Have you ever felt overwhelmed about taking career steps? Maybe you’ve encountered feelings of anxiety, worry or uncertainty about decision-making, job applications or maybe there have been times you’ve second-guessed your own employable skills. You’re not alone.

A close up photograph of a man's back as he looks at the British Houses of Parliament across the River Thames.
Image property of King’s College London

Here at King’s Careers & Employability, we know a lot of students feel anxious about careers whether in small or bigger ways. In the midst of Covid-19 and the changes to the economic outlook, it’s natural to feel these emotions intensify.  It’s important to reduce the stigma around anxiety and build confidence and coping strategies. Let’s take a look at some practical ways to stay resilient as you manage emotions of career anxiety. Have you ever felt like the example students below?


Struggling to get a summer plan going?

“It’s the start of June and I know I’m supposed to maximise my summer. But I feel stuck and anxious; I haven’t been able to start or finish any applications because of this.”

Your summer is not a lost cause. It may help to know that feeling stuck and anxious is something that lots of students feel at this time of year. It’s natural to feel worried if people around you (maybe even good friends) seem to have got their summer all sorted, and you’re the only one that hasn’t. You are definitely not alone so keep your spirit up!

Try giving yourself a very manageable daily target like this: on Day 1, spend 20 minutes finding two suitable roles. On Day 2 use 20 minutes and map out some content for your first application. On Day 3, spend 20 minutes writing the application. Hurray – you’ve already made great process! The next day, why not read some cover letter tips on KEATS and come and have a chat with us (you can book an appointment on KCC!)

Small steps like this are helpful to build resilience around career anxiety. By breaking up tasks to manageable chunks, you’ve used the Pomodoro Technique – a good time management tool for you now and in the future!



Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash
Did I choose the wrong job?

“I’ve accepted a work experience opportunity/internship, but I’m not sure this is aligned with the dream career I want. I feel like I’m wasting my time here – should I quit?”

Don’t quit just yet! This is a good dilemma to be in. You have some experience and for some reason, you do not think it is for you. You’re learning something about yourself and where you may fit in the world of work. Before deciding whether to stay or go, some analysis of the situation may help you come to the best decision for you.

Does the work experience opportunity/internship give you the chance to gain skills and experience of working with others, understanding the world of work, learning about meeting customer expectations or managing your own time? These are just some of the very valuable things you can gain from all types of work experience.

It’s a recurring myth that employers only want to hear about experience you have gained in an organisation like their own. So before you quit, make sure you’ve made that decision because the opportunity really isn’t worthwhile, rather than for more ‘surface’ reasons like the sector or job title.


Image of person leaning against railing Anxiety about career decisions?

“I love my degree but have no idea whether I would even be able to work in jobs in the field – they sound so…out of reach.”

Start by congratulating yourself on having chosen a degree you love! That’s great decision making.  Next, start noticing what you enjoy about your degree, for example, subject areas, ways of learning or how it’s applied to real-world situations. This will give you good clues about what matters to you.

To tackle this with resilience, see what people with your degree have gone on to do and how they did it, using the King’s College London LinkedIn Alumni Page. Also, prospects.ac.uk have plenty of well-organised information about how to get into several careers.

So how can you find out more about organisations and jobs in the field? Starting with the Discover resources on KEATS is a great idea, as is listening to some of our event recordings, where you can listen to employers from many industries talk about their career journeys.


Feeling like an imposter?

“I’ve started work in a new place, but despite the company choosing me as the best candidate, I feel like an imposter who knows nothing!”

Starting a new role brings challenges – both positive and negative! As you’re learning the ropes of a new role, it can be tough to keep your confidence when you have to keep asking about everything and feeling like the ‘newbie’. There are lots of helpful tips on these pages to guide you in transitioning to work, such as settling in, office IT and learning how to say ‘no’ if your workload is getting too much.

These are normal but uncomfortable experiences of being the new starter. So, be kind to yourself! Remember that they chose you and want you to succeed – and you can’t do that on your own. To develop your resilience in this situation, seek out support networks and be enthusiastic about learning – this will give you a good foundation at the start of your career.

You’d be surprised how common it is to feel a touch of Imposter Syndrome. Michelle Obama has often talked about her own lengthy experiences with that “stigma within my own head”. As Obama said in her Guardian interview, “let your work speak for itself” – that’s a great mantra to help build your resilience.


Join our #MyNextSteps webinar all about building career resilience during Covid-19.

For more support resources, take a look at our Keats pages and e-courses on: