By Gabrielle Sales
Graduation seems like the time to finally celebrate all your hard work and no longer having to attend classes at a certain time or do assignments and projects for. It’s certain it could lessen the load from your daily schedule and give you more time. But, sometimes, reality can strike you. All throughout college, we were taught to land a job in our chosen career fields and that’s why they emphasized networking is important or joining a club, seeking advice from your counselors, getting good grades, and being on top of it all.
But, what happens if we can’t find a job in our fields before or right after graduating? Does this mean we screwed ourselves up? …Of course not! Sometimes, we don’t know what happens to us after college. A report by The Burning Glass and the Strada Institutefound that 43% of recent college grads are underemployed for their first job out of college. Being underemployed means not working for a job with their set of skills and abilities that they most likely also acquired through studying in college. Some of these jobs people take on are also doing jobs that just do not require a college degree.
I don’t want to disappoint anyone of what to expect after graduating, but I’m sure we will meet people, whether they’re acquaintances, family members, friends, or colleagues, who had a difficult time landing a job from their field right after graduating. Recent grads do have it harder and many jobs do look for experiences (sometimes, plentyof experiences – I have 3 years of experience in my field during college but apparently, I still got caught up with so much competition).
When I graduated from college in 2018, I was already working an entry-level job in my field, but I, unfortunately, had to leave it to move. I moved back to my parents’ because something in my heart told me I should try and experience a new state and create new experiences there. I did not secure a job when I moved as I should have because I wanted to take a little bit of a break to recover from burnout (mind you, I worked non-stop all throughout attending college full-time and on top of that, I was going through an ugly, messy breakup I had to recover from). So, what did I do and what can you do if you aren’t finding luck in landing that postgrad job in your field?
Don’t give up and stay positive
Job hunting is a gruelling process and if you’re like me, who sent in hundreds of applications with sometimes asking you to do work samples with nothing to land in the end, you’re going to go through many stages of disappointment and depressive feelings may even kick in.
Rejections truly hurt, but after a while, it may not phase you as much anymore (at least that’s what happened to me).
Remember, the job market is not an easy market and there’s a lot of competition. Don’t define your skills and abilities as being “not good enough” when you find yourself rejected. What shifted my perspective when I told my best friend about jobs turning me down regardless of how impressive my experiences looked to them as they’d mention, she said that it means that the job is not good enough for you to begin with.
Many people go through many rejections before they can find themselves succeeding. Take Stephen King for example. His first book was rejected by 30 publishers! Jay-Z, a rapper who’s sold millions of records, was rejected by every single label, so he went on to launch his own records and released his own debut.
Focus on your hobbies and passions that you never had time for before
This is probably the biggest plus of being unemployed or not doing a job from your field. You can give yourself the time to focus on things that you always wanted to do but could not have given 100% of your attention in. If you liked reading as many books and topics on certain things before life got busy for you, you can get back to that and gain that knowledge! If you were an active person who was playing sports or hitting the gym but has fallen out of that, you can go out and start motivating yourself again!
If you haven’t even done things but want to try them now for the first time, this will be an exciting experience for you. I wasn’t an active person though before college, but I did become one after. I started hiking once a week (and even ultimately signed up for the #52HikeChallenge, which I finished in January 2020) and I was, for once, able to work on my physical and mental health. These are SO important for you before you even get into the workforce because it will help you learn how to manage stress, how to have downtime when you have time, and it’ll improve your quality of life and wellbeing overall such as your energy levels.
Take filmmaker Richard Linklater for example. He was fired from his job at 27 years old and had to file for unemployment, but during all that time, he worked on his writing. This leads to my next point.
Create opportunities for yourself
If you truly want to do something that’s related to your skills that you’ve learned or developed through college, you always have the possibility to create opportunities for you! For me, I’m a marketer and writing is such an important skill to have in my field, so what did I do through all my job hunting process or taking my break? I wrote, wrote, wrote, wrote, and wrote. I also read in between. I decided to get back into freelancing to do something with myself and had the opportunity to work for some businesses to help with their needs.
I also worked hard full-on my outdoor/travel/wellness blog (From One Girl to One World, www.from1girlto1world.com). I was still applying all my marketing skills onto here since running a blog is a lot of hard work and requires consistent marketing. Landing sponsorships and media placements and seeing traffic growth were accomplishments I am proud of because it meant my work was paying off. This was a time for me to understand that I can improve my skills and add experiences at the same time.
If you’re looking to do medical-related work, maybe think about volunteering at an animal shelter or at a children’s hospital. Many are always looking for people to help! Even if you do not get paid for this work, you will probably feel empowered that you’re making a difference in someone or something’s life and making it easier for some people who work there.
I took up many unpaid positions (and still do) solely because I am adding experiences that feel fulfilling and rewarding for me. This doesn’t mean it always has to be like this forever, though. You do deserve to be paid for your time and work and you always have that choice to make.
Do some networking
This is something I wish I did more of in college. I wasn’t always all that outgoing or did not want to stick out like a sore thumb whenever I attended my college clubs after school. I saw in the long-term what that can do now and I am now taking full advantage of this.
You can always go through your LinkedIn app and ask to have coffee with someone in your field and learn more about how they’ve been since working in a company that has the same responsibilities and role you’d like to do. On Instagram, there are plenty of easygoing ways to connect with someone! I’ve met a lot of awesome bloggers on there who are trying to do the same thing I am and we all learn from each other and it sometimes started with some simple engagement.
There are many conferences and meetings and fairs held and you can find some of these events simply from a Google search, newspapers, news announcements, or on Facebook Events. Many of these events will have professionals who attend and it’ll be a great opportunity to do some networking.
Don’t ever take meeting someone for granted. You never know if your friend’s uncle’s wife is maybe someone who is looking to hire someone in their company or could be your future client.
Possibly go back to school
This isn’t my favourite approach but if you feel that you absolutely need to fulfil some requirements to work a position in your field, then, by all means, go back to school! It’s of course not always an easy decision because you may have to make more payments or take out more loans and as we know, school isn’t cheap. School is also a commitment you’d have to get back into, so this is pretty much such a personal decision that depends on you as an individual and should not be taken lightly to decide on. It’s also not the only way to keep yourself busy as I have listed above other ways.
I do feel though that if it isn’t required of you and you do want to extend your education and knowledge around certain skills and subjects without being certified, the Internet is full of reliable resources too. I learned more about marketing, which is an everchanging field that evolves with technology, from YouTube tutorial videos or taking courses on Hubspot. You don’t have to take costly academic programs either if you’re looking for more certifications. Being open to a wide range of options and not limiting yourself is a good idea in this case and for the next case…
Don’t keep your job searches limited
If you believe that there aren’t many jobs to be found in your hometown, have you thought about maybe going out of state to find it? This may also be a huge decision to make as for what I experienced when I was planning to move out of state. However, you do not know what the future holds and the grass can be greener. You may actually like the city of the potential job you find and build a life around there.
Don’t keep your industries and job positions limited either. If you’re looking to work for a beauty brand but absolutely cannot find employment in one, then it’s going to continue to be hard. You should focus on just getting your foot in the door and applying for jobs that are not specific to your ideal industry and role. Who knows, if you end up liking it too and if it expands your knowledge? When I got my entry-level job during college, I did not think I was going to end up working for a finance company and I ended up liking it and learning more about the industry!
I hope that this post has inspired you, postgrad! It’s going to be tough after graduating and with all the job hunting you’ll be committing to, which will essentially feel like another job, but I think everyone has a way of figuring it out. Also, give yourself credit for getting to where you are now and remember, there’s never a wrong time.
Good luck in your search!
Update: After a year of being unemployed from a full-time job and job hunting, Gabby landed a job in her field of marketing and works with one of the biggest social media networks.