How to Address “Failure to Launch” Syndrome in Graduates

May 21, 2024

The transition from university to a fulfilling graduate-level career is a significant milestone in a young adult’s life. Securing a good job after university is the first step towards gaining more independence and responsibilities. However, the current graduate job market’s competitiveness has led many to an unexpected halt in their personal and professional progression, often referred to as “Failure to Launch” syndrome. 

Whilst not an official medical diagnosis, this term describes young adults who struggle to move into the next phases of adult independence, including securing employment and living independently. This situation is becoming increasingly common, causing concern among both graduates and their parents.

In this post, we explore why so many graduates are feeling lost after university and what they can do to get their foot on their dream career path. 

Factors contributing to failure to launch syndrome in graduates

Several factors contribute to “failure to launch” syndrome in university graduates:

Fierce competition in the graduate job market

Graduate recruiters require not just a degree but also substantial work experience to stand a chance of getting a graduate-level job. It’s a mind-blowing statistic, but 78% of graduates never land a graduate-level job (a job that requires a degree) and remain underemployed.

Many Graduates don’t know what they want to do after university

A staggering 90% of graduates struggle to identify a career path that aligns with their skills and passions. Without direction, graduates send out numerous subpar applications that don’t get them any interviews, leaving them feeling hopeless and defeated.

Being ill-equipped for life after university

Many graduates receive a massive shock when they graduate and realise that their degree alone is not enough to secure them a job. After all, their whole academic life, their performance has been measured by grades. However, in the world of work, hard and soft skills are a better indicator of potential performance and graduate recruiters need to see evidence of this. Many studious, capable students fall short by graduating with stellar academics but with a stark lack of work experience on their CV. Furthermore, many graduates lack an understanding of the graduate job market and the skills that are in high demand.

Rising Cost of Living

In many cities, particularly those with significant economic opportunities like London, the cost of living has skyrocketed, making independent living unaffordable for many young adults.

The Psychological Impact on Graduates

The delay in achieving expected life milestones can have profound psychological effects on graduates. Feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression are common among those struggling to find their footing in the professional world. The pressure to succeed can exacerbate mental health issues, particularly if there seems to be a disconnect between the effort put into education and the outcomes in terms of graduate job opportunities. 

Strategies for Moving Forward

For parents and graduates experiencing failure to launch, there are several strategies to help mitigate the situation:

1. Stop and Reflect – Determine your career path 

Graduates often go into panic mode and apply for jobs willy-nilly in the hopes they will secure any job. This approach is not effective, usually ending up in burnout and loss of motivation. 

Stop sending out a high volume of low-quality applications, and take some time to understand your skills and interests and identify the graduate jobs that are in alignment. 

Graduate recruiters are looking for candidates whose skills and interests match the vacancy to a high extent. They are not looking for graduates who simply want any job. 

At Graduate Coach, our 1-2-1 career coaching programme begins with reviewing your academic career, work experience, and your overall experience of life so far, to map out a career path tailored to you.

2. Be strategic – Craft a Career Plan 

Once you’ve assessed your skills and identified the graduate job titles that would suit your skills and interests, the next step is to create a career plan to keep you on track during your job search. 

Here at Graduate Coach, during this stage of our coaching program, we prepare you to excel in your chosen field. This preparation varies for everyone but often includes helping graduates to get work experience, outlining the graduate job market, teaching you the key employability skills graduate recruiters are looking for and creating a career map to help you with the next steps of the graduate job search. 

3. Prepare your Graduate Job search Assets – CV, LinkedIn, portfolio 

Skills are paramount. Graduates must demonstrate their skills at every stage of the application process. 

At Graduate Coach, we help graduates write a graduate CV, cover letters and a LinkedIn profile that tell a compelling and consistent story about who they are, what they want and what they can do. All three will have a clear focus on the type of career that is going to suit them best.

Depending on the desired industry, we also help graduates to put together a portfolio to showcase their skills. 

4. Apply for Graduate Jobs 

With your CV up to scratch, cover letters drafted and your LinkedIn profile complete, it’s time to start applying for jobs!

At Graduate Coach, during this stage, we help with:  

  • Finding the right job opportunities and internships.
  • Building and managing a network of your own.
  • Internship and job opportunities within the Graduate Coach network.
  • Working well with Recruiters.
  • Maintaining confidence and persevering.
  • Looking for higher salary jobs. 

5. Get interview coaching 

Interview coaching helps graduates to stand out in a competitive job market and gain lifelong skills. 

Our 1-2-1 interview coaching sessions for graduates are designed to teach you the art and the science behind presenting yourself and passing interviews.

We help with not only preparing for interviews but also practising interview techniques. 


“Failure to Launch” syndrome is a multifaceted issue influenced by several factors. By firstly understanding these challenges and secondly implementing supportive and actionable strategies, graduates and their parents can navigate this transitional period more effectively. Securing a good graduate job is the first step in graduates becoming “unstuck” and realising their career potential. Before you go, if you or a graduate you know is failing to launch after university, get in touch with us via our contact form.

Featured image by Pixabay from Pexels

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