In February, I packed my car and drove from my home in Southern California up to Seattle to start a new life. I didn’t have a job lined up, but I was confident that my Econ degree and 18 months of work experience would serve me well. Little did I know that it can take people months or maybe even years to get a job. Unemployment and underemployment is very common for those of us just out of college. In fact, 50% of us leave college and find ourselves here for years to come. It can be frustrating and demoralizing, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a valuable experience. Here’s what I learned from my 6 months of job-hunting:
1. Don’t be embarrassed
The word “unemployed” sucks to say. I loathed checking that box on surveys from my college or potential employers. It plummeted my self-confidence, and I avoided mentioning it when meeting people at networking events or social gatherings. Being embarrassed won’t help you. Reaching out to people and talking about what you’re looking for will. Change your phrasing. I was “starting a new career path” and “interested in learning about new opportunities in different fields.” Find something that makes you feel excited about who you are and what you’re looking for. People can’t help you out if they don’t know you’re looking for work. And remember, companies don’t hire people. People hire people.
2. Be curious about EVERYTHING
Go out and talk to everyone and anyone, not just people in your preferred industry. Do LinkedIn research on your friends, your parents’ friends, even your neighbors. Be the person who seeks out professional events in town, offers to volunteer at conferences and local non-profits, and continues to take classes simply because you’re curious. Read the newspaper, stay up-to-date on blogs, and familiarize yourself with current technology and best practices. Soon, you’ll be a “Person-Who-Knows-Things.” You’ll find meaning in your free time, and will come across to others as motivated and dedicated.
3. Give yourself a job to get a job
Make a schedule and wake up every day with purpose and tasks to check off your list. Find a place to work where you can feed off of other people’s productivity and creativity like a library, co-working space, or a coffee shop. Start your own projects and help others out with theirs. Volunteer your time in service to something greater than you. Most importantly, find someone who will keep you accountable for going to events, completing applications, and going on informational interviews. It’s a tough world to navigate alone, so find someone else in a similar situation to yours. Trust me — you’re not alone.
4. Remember that your hard work will pay off … eventually
It’s easy to get discouraged when you don’t get the job or networking is going nowhere. Even if it seems like your hard work is not paying off, keep at it.When things start moving, it’ll happen quickly, so invest in your knowledge and reputation while you have the time. In the end, it’s up to you to land that right job. But these tips will help you to stay sane, on track, and make the most of unemployment. Happy hunting!