Recent Grads Say College Didn’t Prepare Them Emotionally for the Workforce

A new report also found that the majority of young professionals surveyed are experiencing burnout at least once a week.
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  • Only about 2 in 5 graduates say their college gave them the skills to feel emotionally and mentally prepared for the workforce.
  • Even among those who felt prepared, most leaned on peers for support over career services and counseling.
  • Female young professionals are more likely to experience burnout, and Black young professionals are less likely to feel like part of their work community.
  • Researchers suggest that schools take a more proactive approach in helping students mentally and emotionally transition into careers.

Entering the workforce for the first time after college isn't always a smooth transition.

A new survey from the Mary Christie Institute reveals that nearly 2 in 5 recent graduates (39%) between the ages of 22 and 28 years old say that their institution did not help them develop the skills to handle the emotional or behavioral impact of transitioning into the workforce.

An equal percentage of survey respondents, however, said their school did in fact help them with this transition.

The institute partnered with the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU), the Healthy Minds Network, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), and Morning Consult to conduct this survey. The survey additionally found that half of respondents experiencing high financial stress (50%) feel they were not prepared by their college for the transition into the workforce.

Even among students who do feel their institution adequately prepared them for this transition, most credited relationships with peers (57%) and extracurriculars (51%) as opposed to mental health counseling (43%) and career services (40%) with helping them most.

The majority of young professionals (53%) also reported they are experiencing burnout at least once a week.

Among those experiencing burnout, 42% plan to leave their job within the next 12 months.

Female respondents, professionals working in person, and those experiencing more financial stress were all significantly more likely to report experiencing burnout at least once a week.

Despite many young professionals feeling emotionally unprepared for the workforce and experiencing burnout, the majority say their mental health is better now than it was when they were still in school (53%). More than 1 in 5 respondents (21%) note that their mental health is significantly better now versus then.

Black respondents were particularly more likely than their white counterparts to say that their mental health has improved since graduating from college (63% vs. 54%).

But even with improved mental health among Black young professionals, they are still significantly less likely than their white counterparts to feel that they are a part of their work community (50% vs. 68%) and have colleagues who would support them if they were struggling (52% vs. 73%).

The report's researchers note that these findings raise questions about the proactive role colleges and universities take in emotionally and mentally preparing students for life beyond school.

They suggest that educators increase efforts to incorporate mental health support literacy in career counseling and push students to identify and align their strengths with career opportunities.