How to cope with the inevitable ‘third year fear’

Self-help tips to survive third year meltdowns


Third year. The fear has hit, and it's hit hard. Maybe you spent your summer being really productive and grown up and you got an internship, if so – great! But maybe you were like me and decided to travel round South East Asia while you had the chance, and now you're half wishing you had three months at a real company to put on your LinkedIn page instead of "life experience" and a tattoo from Hanoi.

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Employers want to know I can take Instagrams while kayaking, right?

'The Fear' (Lily Allen is that you?) was present in first year to some small extent, when we were working out what formatives meant and how to equate a 63 onto the weird new university grading scale.

Then we realised that first year doesn't count and we happily skipped off to the unicorn-themed Damn Good and slept through our 9am the next day, confident in our little fresher bubble.

Second year got a bit more intense. "This year counts, though…" we would say to our friends, pretending to put up a fight before agreeing to go out mid-week as we had obviously originally planned to. Starting to consider maybe going to see lecturers in their office hours, we might even have learnt how to check out a library book. Still, though. We had another full year before graduation, why worry?

But now it's here, and here's how to cope.

You don't have to have your whole life planned out up until age 35

It'll ruin the fun and spontaneity of your younger years if you do. Go for manageable chunks. Plan the next few weeks out by writing to-do lists. Seriously, the little boost you get when you tick off 'start Essay Plan' or 'buy Mum birthday card' or 'throw away mouldy bread' is worth taking five minutes to write some bullet points.

If you know what you want to do, career-wise, but you don't have any experience, make it your goal to get some.

No matter how small, every bit of work experience you can gain will be helpful. Email a local law/accountancy/insurance (insert whatever floats your boat here) firm and ask if you can visit and shadow a colleague to gain some insight into the profession, request a two week placement at a department store somewhere near your hometown over Christmas if you want to gain some merchandising or visual marketing experience. You might get a No, but keep trying.

Make use of Career Central

UEA is lucky to have such a well-stocked and well-staffed resource right here on the Street on campus. They can help you give your slightly tired Year 13 CV a face-lift so you can apply for grad jobs.

They also run regular career events if you're undecided what path to take. Go in and pick up a booklet on 'Careers with a Politics degree', or grab a copy of the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers. Schedule a meeting or a mock interview – it's all good experience.

Grab a leaflet on your way to getting a meal deal at the shop

Practise good self-care

Buy some fruit tea or hot chocolate so you can have a soothing hot drink to calm the panic as you read your leaflets and scroll through Milkround looking at graduate opportunities.

Manage your time and make sure you have some time off to unwind in the evenings. Ensure you're getting something that resembles a weekend, even if it has to be Wednesday afternoons and Thursday mornings because you work at TGI's on Saturdays. You made it through year 1 and 2, you can make it through this, one caffeine-fuelled summative at a time.

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Productivity starts with a cuppa

Give yourself a break!

Don't feel bitter if your housemate has just secured a job for after graduation and you're eating pasta watching the Apprentice. Hey, Lord Sugar started by working at a greengrocers – the world is your oyster!

Everyone has different paths and choices, and not everyone walks straight into a grad job the September after graduating. You are allowed to move home with your parents, get a job in the field you're interested in and save up for a year before applying for a grad scheme.

You're also allowed to go travelling, start a high-powered Civil Service Fast Track, apply for a job you know you'll be great at, or take a few months off to run away from scary choices and do some volunteering. 'Feeding Sea Turtles in Costa Rica' counts as an Experience on Linked In, right?