Learning to Climb – Transitions #1

Snowy mountains behind a large lake

“Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.” – David Foster Wallace

You go to school. You do pretty well. You go to a capital ‘U’ University. You do pretty well. So has everyone else, it seems. Awesome. Now what?

You’ve always known that at some point you will be expected to get a job. This is a supposition that others hold about you, but principally one you hold about yourself. Or it might seem completely alien. You might know exactly what you want to do but don’t know where it is. You might have disavowed the whole job thing, mentally postponed the date at which you told yourself you’d squeeze into your hiking boots and scale that monstrous acclivity, the bag-shadowed mountain natives call ‘THE JOB MARKET’.

And it really does cast a big shadow. It might seem like there isn’t anyone pointing you in the right direction, something you’ve become so accustomed to. Or maybe you’re used to doing things on your own, to staring down challenges, but you really don’t know where to start, circling the base of the mountain and getting a crook in your neck from all the heavenward squinting through the shifting clouds. There aren’t signposts. Or maybe there are too many signposts. What kind of job do you want to do? People might even ask things like that. You can do whatever you want, supposedly.

When you look at the stats they kind of sit there and shrug. Despite June 2015 offering 62,750 entry level jobs to graduates, a 15.7% increase on 2014, approximately 350,000 graduates are expected to apply for these positions, with an average of 3.98 applicants to every graduate role – a figure which rises to over 35 in more competitive regions of London and the South East.[1] Competition for graduate roles this year is set to be 9.2% lower than in 2014, a notable improvement in fortunes for university leavers – but it is still tough.

Tell me something I don’t know…

One thing we have to acknowledge is that the job market is what it is. There won’t be a seismic and sudden influx of job opportunities, not overnight anyway. Employers aren’t going to come knocking at your door, knock-kneed and begging, begging for you to sign on the dotted line for a six-figure salary (sorry, my mind wandered there…). The task of filtering through masses of candidates is arduous enough. The mountain isn’t going to shrink just so you can climb it. You need to take steps, steps that others might not be taking.

First things first: preparation. You need to prepare yourself psychologically. Finding a job and succeeding in your eventual role will be tough. Just like climbing a rocky escarpment, there’ll be slips and falls and setbacks – this happens to everyone. Remembering that we are all identical in our capacity for making errors is so necessary, really. We are by nature erroneous; therefore, what matters is how we cope with our mistakes.

This can be accomplished by cultivating a resilient mindset, equipping yourself for the ascent by understanding how to bounce back from adversity, from rejections, criticisms, and mistakes.

This involves understanding how to transition. No transition will be perfect – if you haven’t got the odd blister you definitely haven’t made it even half way up the mountain. The trick lies in knowing how to become psychologically resilient, a skill which research proves correlates with levels of success and achievement. If you develop such a thinking style then you are fully prepped for success, climbing in the best damn hiking shoes around. This is what can set you apart.


At Positive, we know from research that resilient individuals usually have 3 specific characteristics: a clear purpose, a perception of control over events, and a perception that change is an opportunity for development. These traits can be coached learned by anyone, but are easier understood if we acquire emotional literacy, which is knowledge of how and why certain emotions arise and the impact these emotions have on our mood states and behaviours. Once we understand that the feelings of fear and self-doubt we experience at the foot of the mountain bubble up from our hearts – our emotions – steaming and clouding our rational minds, making us perceive the mountainous job market as a threatening or overwhelming prospect rather than a challenge to grow and develop, once we come to terms with this we can begin to teach ourselves to think with rational optimism.

In the meantime, when approaching the big old mountain, it will prove helpful to try and set yourself a clear purpose. You could set yourself achievable goals each day – like a target of applications to send, or a deadline for a project you’ve been assigned. Likewise, we can try and embrace the transitional period, viewing the climb ahead not as a daunting and potentially injurious uncertainty but as a chance for us to challenge and exceed our current state.

The key to transitioning into work, quite simply, is not setting limits but targets and attainable goals, remembering to stop and take a breath when you climb, using your head to help that pounding heart.

1 http://www.insidecareers.co.uk/2015/07/more-jobs-and-less-competition-for-2015-graduates/

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