There is very little in life more discouraging than spending thousands and thousands of dollars on an education only to find no one willing to give you a job and a chance. At a time in your life when the college loan bills start pouring in, your home is in limbo, your relationships and friendships are askew, and your excitement to get your life “started” is at its peak, there really is nothing more crushing. It takes patience, faith, and hard work to press on, maintain your confidence, and relax.
As a film-school graduate, I can relate to the suffocating, depressing, never-ending job searches that make you question every choice you’ve ever made – especially choosing to go to college in the first place. I know what it’s like to have bills outnumbering and outweighing your meager income. To have to accept an unrelated job where you are treated like shit and your high-school-grad co-workers are paid the same as you. Or to work in an environment where everyone is miserable and work sucks out your will to go on.
Whatever situation you find yourself in, the important thing is to be willing and able to step back and take a good look at the big picture. Remembering what you’ve accomplished thus far, reminding yourself of how young you are, and realizing that nothing is permanent – “this too shall pass” – is essential for keeping a positive, focused, and balanced outlook. Not to mention dealing with stress and anxiety.
Besides maintaining a healthy mental perspective, keep searching! No matter how aggravating it can be to submit cover letter after cover letter, only to receive zero response, do not stop looking for and applying to new jobs! Make job hunting part of your daily routine – you may want to follow my tips for digital-age job hunting, because really, looking for a job on the internet can be a difficult, time-consuming process that provides little feedback or motivation that you’re on the right path. So try everything… check your regular listings and keep looking for more. Talk to people, network, don’t burn any bridges, and whatever you do, don’t give up. Keep your eyes and your mind open and the right opportunity will find you eventually. It may be the ultimate test of patience waiting until that fine day, but the strength of self you will gain in the process will be worth it.
Be open to new challenges. So what if you have a degree in Ceramics. If a job comes along, completely unrelated, but sounds like it could put you on an interesting path – go for it! There are also online courses that can help you face new challenges; For example, I find financial crime investigation to be an interesting career path! So how about earning an Economic Crime degree online to prepare yourself for that type of challenge? Who knows?! Avoid deciding that something is not worth applying for if it’s not EXACTLY what you want in a job. And on the other side of the coin, don’t apply to relevant jobs if they don’t excite you. Why waste your time just because they’re in your field? Follow your instinct… if you read a job posting and your gut reaction is interest… then apply! An unrelated job that lights a fire under you is never a bad choice, especially at this point in your life.
Don’t limit yourself. I remember receiving two calls from two different jobs each wanting me to come in for an interview. One of the jobs was in my field, and I was completely qualified and excited about it. The other was nowhere near my field of expertise, and I was barely experienced for the position. I almost turned down the interview for the second job, because I couldn’t turn off the what-ifs… What if they both offer me a job? What if the second job is offered first? What if I accept the second job and then the first job is offered? In the end, I ended up with the second job, after the first one interviewed me twice then never called back. Which taught me not to ever pass up an opportunity because you’re afraid of a situation that hasn’t happened yet. Don’t worry about what choice you will make if you get two job offers. Don’t stress yourself out about what you will do if you land your dream job three weeks after you accept a pay-the-bills job. Make the decisions as they present themselves; don’t waste your time worrying about things that haven’t happened yet, and most importantly, don’t limit yourself because you’re afraid of situations that might happen…chances are, they won’t.
Know when it’s time to make a change. Be aware of your progress, your finances, and your overall situation. Understand what your last-resort options are, and know when to take them. If you’ve been searching for a career for 8 months to no avail and are growing deeper and deeper behind on your bills, then it might be time to give it up and look for any job. At a certain point, any job is better than none. Remember, it’s only temporary. Chances are, with a college degree, you really can get a general-labor job if you want one. It may be mowing lawns, or flipping burgers, or running a cash register, or chopping veggies. But it’s a job, for now. And your job search shouldn’t stop here. Keep job hunting while working and something eventually will change. If you are working a pay-the-bills job but are still struggling, falling behind, and unable to land what you consider the “right job” – then it’s also important to know when it’s time to move on… or move home. As much as it’s not in the plan book, moving home is an often-overlooked option that, in itself, should remind you how lucky you are. To have a fall-back plan in the most dire situation is smart and nothing to be ashamed of. It is too, only temporary.
Lastly – enjoy this insecure, adrift, wandering phase of your life. Because with all certainty, it won’t last. Someday you will have a job, you will be settled, and you will – absolutely – reminisce about the days when all you had to do was wake up and explore the possibilities of where your life will go. Looking for a job, though challenging and daunting, is the equivalent of standing at a cross-roads and choosing which way to go. Entertain your craziest ambitions and remember that the choices you make now will affect the rest of your life. And if nothing else, enjoy the fact that you can sleep in, eat breakfast by the computer, and spend the day wallowing in your life and the direction you want to take it.