As my senior year of college started to wind down, I saw many of my friends scooping up job offers that would match their fancy new engineering and business degrees. Things were a little different for me, as an English major. There were no tech or finance companies out there picking up recent grads who could parse Shakespeare like nobody’s business. I was still figuring out what my post-college career would look like, and as a result, I found myself with no job after graduation. If you find yourself in a similar boat, don’t despair! These strategies can help you get over that “college is over and I don’t have a job and holy moly what am I doing to do?” panic.
1. Don’t freak out
Seriously. You’re graduating with an education and all sorts of skills. You may not have a job now, but that won’t be a permanent state—I promise you. When you’re cranking out application after application and not getting far, it can make you question everything. No job after graduation doesn’t mean you’re not capable of success. Through the stress, always remember that you have already accomplished a lot.
2. Be realistic about your finances
For many recent grads, factors like housing costs and basic life bills come into play in a way they hadn’t during school. Now is the time to take a cold, hard look at your living expenses, both now and what you expect them to be in the near future. Being responsible may mean moving back in with your parents or other relatives, finding an apartment with six other roommates, or other cost-cutting measures.
If you’re living way above your means while you look for a job (read: putting it all on credit cards), that’s a reality that will come crashing down on you hard at some point when the bills come due, and could potentially set you back financially for years to come. Put yourself on a budget and do everything you can to save money while you look for work.
3. Build your network
Right after college is hands-down one of the best times to start cultivating your network. You’re still in touch with professors and peers from school, and it’s much easier to keep cultivating relationships than to let them lapse and then awkwardly try again later. Plus, just about every school has resources devoted to helping students (or recent grads) find jobs through networking events, job fairs, alumni networks, mentoring programs, etc. Take advantage of whatever your school has to offer because you never know when an opportunity can come in through someone in your network.
4. Broaden your job hunt
If you’re approaching your job search with very narrow parameters (like a handful of companies you’re willing to work for, only one city, or a very specific job title), you’re limiting your opportunities. Think hard about whether your job requirements need to be so strict. You may not be willing to pick up and move across the country, but what if you expand your search into the next county? Or how about searching for skill keywords instead of specific job titles?
One common mistake recent grad job seekers make is bypassing some of the most basic entry level positions because they feel overqualified due to their coursework. In reality, entry-level jobs are growth opportunities and a chance to get your foot in the door. By loosening up your expectations, you might find that you’re finding more potential positions.
5. Build your skills
As a recent grad, your resume might be a little thin. The best way to counteract that is with some skill-building. Do a little research about the kinds of skills, certifications, etc., that can get you to the next level in your chosen career path. The time you have now, while you send out applications and hope for interviews, can be used to take online classes or do extra reading to make your skill base broader and deeper. Learn how to code. Develop your Excel wizardry. Take a public speaking class. It may be more difficult to make time for these kinds of activities later on, so take advantage of the time you have now.
6. Stay busy
Volunteering, temp jobs, working on hobbies, part-time jobs in fields you ordinarily wouldn’t consider as a career…these are all ways to keep busy while you look for your “real deal” job. And in the case of a part-time or temp job, it’s a way to earn money while you look for a more stable, career-path job.
No job after graduation can feel frustrating but look at it as an opportunity to put time and care into every aspect of your life. Once you do get a job, you may find yourself longing a bit for the days when you had time and flexibility on your side. So relax, keep yourself busy, and stay optimistic!