When you can’t find a job after college, it can feel hopeless. Like enduring a steady stream of awkward online dates, experiencing bad interviews and no callbacks may make you forget that you’re capable and worthy.
Well, that’s obviously not true. You are worthy of a good job.
If you’re having trouble securing a job after college, then take solace in the fact that you’re not alone. Many workers have faced nearly impossible jobseeking hurdles, yet managed to defy the odds. It wasn’t too long ago that our country tackled the longest recession since World War II. The unemployment rate hit 5 percent in December 2007 (the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in the three proceeding months) and peaked at 10 percent in October 2009.
Among the hardest hit were recent graduates who could not secure entry-level jobs. Even in 2011, CNN Money reported that 60 percent of recent college graduates could not find a “full-time job in their chosen profession.”
But guess what? Many graduates found jobs anyway. We sat down with two workers who graduated college in the middle of the recession, but managed to find jobs in their chosen profession anyway. Despite challenges, both are thriving in their chosen fields today.
Check out their tips and learn how to obtain a great job even when it feels hopeless.
1. Start Taking Preemptive Measures Early
Today, *Ashley works in advertising, but when she graduated college in 2008 she didn’t know what she’d do.
“The crash was happening as I was graduating,” Ashley revealed. “I didn’t know what I was getting into. I had my English degree. I was interested in marketing, but I didn’t know what titles to look for in marketing. I didn’t know how to approach finding jobs when the market was so poor.”
Though Ashley worked hard and found her path, she expressed frustration towards her lack of preparation.
“Really, the best advice I’d give myself now is, within college, take the time to invest in your own professional growth.”
“The crash was happening as I was graduating. I didn’t know what I was getting into … I didn’t know how to approach finding jobs when the market was so poor.”
Is an internship the best way to go about this? Ashley was quick to point out her privilege: she could have afforded a long-term unpaid internship, thanks to her family. However, a 2017 study found that 24.4 percent of college students pay for their college tuition on their own. Furthermore, 24.8 percent of students shoulder up to a quarter of their university costs.
How can you invest in your personal growth if an unpaid (or low paid) internship is not a financial possibility? Consider snagging that internship, but then supplementing your income with a second job. If that is impossible for you, then consider networking. Reach out to professionals on LinkedIn and ask for informational interviews. Little by little, you will build a network of workers who will share their advice and connect you to opportunities.
2. Be Open to Stepping Stones
*Peter, a 2009 graduate who presently works in corporate sustainability, wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after completing college. To obtain the job that he holds (and loves) now, Peter took a series of stepping stones. Ashley echoed the sentiment as well.
“You have to be willing to take those risks. It is rewarding,” Peter began. “You won’t find your dream job; you have to take stepping stones to get to where you want to be. It didn’t seem like I was doing well while I was working to get to where I am. But I’m here now. You don’t need to know what you want to do, but you need to try different things.”
Even though he earned a prestigious internship in college, Peter could not find an entry-level position after college. Instead, he moved in with his parents and babysit for a local family. Peter ultimately got a communications internship that turned into a job. Though Peter was unhappy in that role, he admits that it was a good start to his career; he gained skills, identified what he didn’t want in a job, and then strived to finesse his goals.
“It didn’t seem like I was doing well while I was working to get to where I am. But I’m here now. You don’t need to know what you want to do, but you need to try different things.”
Ashley also embraces the stepping stone notion. Because Ashley couldn’t find a role in marketing after graduating, she took a job at Nordstrom’s as a sales associate. In just a year and a half, Ashley worked her way up to management.
“No, I wasn’t ready for it, but I was managing people old enough to be my parents! It was a humbling experience. It helped me realize that I needed to work on my professional self.”
Eventually, Ashley accepted a role as an admin at an ad agency. Then she became the office manager. Seven months later, Ashley earned a position as in account management. At last, Ashley felt that she was reaching her goals. “It’s a lot of ladder work,” Ashley noted. But without her experience at Nordstrom’s, Ashley might not have grasped this valuable concept so quickly.
If you can’t find a job in the field that you want to pursue, then consider seeking a position that will help you reach your larger career goals. And if you truly can’t find a role that remotely relates to your ambitions, then seek lessons within the position that you hold.
3. Show Grit
“You’ve gotta have grit,” Peter argued. “You’re always going to be rejected, but you have to keep pushing forward. You might think you’re great, but you can always improve. Always look to improve your skills. That’s today’s world: it’s not the days where you can learn the skill and you’re good for life if you’re not constantly adapting, you’ll fall behind. Always go above and beyond. Don’t clock in and clock out.”
“You have to put your ego aside. You have to challenge yourself. You can’t be on your high horse. You have to be willing to learn,” she explained.
A 2013 Forbes article argued that “grit” consists of conscientiousness, follow-through, resilience, courage, and one particularly interesting concept: striving for excellence, not perfection. They insist that “excellence is an attitude, not an endgame,” and hint that perfectionism is neither healthy nor realistic.
“You have to put your ego aside. You have to challenge yourself. You can’t be on your high horse. You have to be willing to learn.”
Do you have grit? Show it. Keep applying for jobs, even after the hundredth rejection. If you think you nailed an interview but you don’t get the job, ask the interviewers for feedback. Accept criticism and work on improving. Strive to meet goals in your current job, but don’t beat yourself up when you make small mistakes.
Above all, remind yourself that you deserve a good job and you’re willing to do what it takes to pursue it.
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