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College Grads: How To Stay Positive While Job Hunting
As a recent college grad, I am feeling the hurt of job searching. I have applied to over 100 places in the last three months after graduation. Out of those 100 resumes and cover letters, I have had three interviews with no second interviews or call-backs.
I knew the job market was rough, but I didn’t realize just how bad it was until after college. I know I’m not the only one ready to scream. Many college graduates are frustrated, going on months and years of unemployment; imagine paying four years of studying to work minimum wage at a convenience store.
Many people get depressed and give up, taking any job they can just to support themselves. Others are equally depressed, having to move back in with their parents. It is a hopeless feeling when you’ve had internships, a high GPA, and a completed degree, yet rejection letters ensue, telling you, “You’re not good enough.”
I have advice for those who have a lot of free time on their hands while they are pursuing a job that doesn’t involve flipping burgers or greeting customers.
Don’t Sleep All Day
I have known people who graduated and started sleeping later in the day, to the point of waking up in the afternoon. I was there myself for a little while after month two. It’s easy to do if you have no reason to get up at a certain time.
Keep a strict sleeping schedule, mainly so if you get an interview in the morning, you won’t lose sleep that night. People need to bring their a-game to an interview, and losing several hours of sleep might take a toll on your performance (and yes, I consider job interviews performances). Even if you have a whole week to change your sleeping schedule for an early interview, it is tough changing your body’s clock. Don’t put yourself through that.
You also don’t want to miss that initial call if it takes place in the morning, or the call that says you’ve got the job. Wake up at the same time every morning and stick to it, because you never know when you’ve missed your chance; if only you had responded earlier.
Create Your Daily Routine
So you’re spending an hour or two job hunting online every day. What do you do with the rest of your time, assuming you are not working and that you’re done with school?
Look at your unemployment in a positive light; what did you want to do, but didn’t have time for when you had classes to attend, exams to study for, and essays to write? In addition to hobbies that you enjoy for pure entertainment value, this is your chance to self-improve. Get in shape, learn a new language, finish home projects; with all this time on your hands, make it worth your while.
Not to mention keeping yourself busy with hobbies and learned skills will keep your sanity. With nothing to look forward to, boredom will set in, followed by laziness and hopelessness. Don’t spend the day watching YouTube videos, mindlessly surfing Wikipedia, and eating junk food.
It significantly helps to create a daily list to check off. Perhaps there are five things you have to get done every day, such as: read, exercise, job hunt, house chores, and Spanish lesson (via CD or book). Or write half of a chapter in your novel, paint for a half hour, and spend an hour working on the shed. As long as it is productive, do it; waste no day.
Once You Wake Up, Start Your Day
One of the first things I have to do to start my daily routine is take a shower. Once I am cleaned and dressed, I can then get to work searching for jobs and checking off whatever else is on my daily list. If I wake up and stay in my pajamas, I’m just not motivated.
Just like sleeping all day, don’t spend your day with messy hair and wearing bedtime clothes (or nothing at all). In the real world we have to be presentable, and I think letting yourself go because you don’t plan to leave the house that day can be damaging on your motivation and esteem. Dress like you’ve got things to do, then do those things. Not to mention it can be horribly embarrassing to have visitors in the afternoon and you’re still wearing your boxers and undershirt.
You need to keep your resume current. If this is 2013 and your last experience doing anything was in 2012, you need to add a 2013 date on there to show you’re still active.
Before the interview, employers will look at your resume and question the gap. Is there a reason no one has hired you yet? Are you lazy—have you done nothing since school? You might be able to explain in the interview, but you may not reach the interview part if they are just given the resume. You might explain your situation in the cover letter—it better be a good reason, like aiding a sick relative or traveling— but even if your reason is legit, it might sound fake on paper.
So if no one is willing to pay you, do some volunteer work so you've got something current on your resume. Also pick a volunteer position that is close to your career goal. For example, volunteer at a clinic if you are looking for a nursing position. Help build homes if your area is architecture. Animal clinic for zoologists or biologists. Read to sick children for preschool teachers.
Sometimes the organization isn’t the important part, but the position itself. For example, if you are interested in marketing, the Animal Protection League has a volunteer position for promoting the organization through various media, such as sending out mass emails and putting up flyers. Anything that is remotely related to your area of interest can be put as relative experience on your resume.
This goes the same for internships, even more so because while volunteerism is usually just grunt work, internships are supposed to be educational. So keep internships as an option also, although most internships look for current student candidates. Only a few look for recent grads, so keep your eyes peeled.
The most important thing is to keep trying. Look at me; after applying to over 100 places in such a short amount of time and still getting nowhere, I press on. I have a rule: I must submit a cover letter and resume to at least one place per day (or seven places per week if a have an empty day).
As long as you keep yourself busy and keep applying, the odds will eventually be in your favor. Remember, you are not the only one struggling. There are millions of us, and even when following this advice you still find yourself sad and feeling hopeless, there are career centers to consider. There are also a lot of forums out there for recent grads if you just want to rant to people who will lend their empathies and their own similar struggles.
Keep your head up and good luck!