So graduation has come and gone and it seems like everyone in your friend group is starting their post-college careers — except you. Applying for job after job, only to receive rejection letters each time (or no response at all) is disheartening, and can make you wonder if you will ever be successful in your career.
Not having a job waiting for you when you graduate is frustrating, but by no means does it make you a failure. There are several steps you can take that will get you on your way to starting your first job and living your best life.
1. Take a deep breath
Or even several, if needed. The stress of not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from and trying to stay positive in the face of rejection is overwhelming, and it can bring on major feelings of anger and anxiety. When that happens, the best thing you can do for yourself is to take a big step back from the situation, calm yourself with a relaxing activity and come back to it in an hour, refreshed and ready to tackle everything life throws at you while you’re on your way to becoming a boss babe.
2. Plan the work and work the plan
Treat your job hunt like an actual job — create a timeline that notes the due dates of applications for positions you’re interested in, practice for interviews with colleagues and mentors who are willing to give you honest, clear feedback on your verbal and nonverbal communication skills, and network with individuals who are currently working in the field you’re interested in. If you can learn to tailor your resume to each individual company and highlight achievements that most closely align with their values, you’ll have a much better chance of getting an interview.
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3. Reach out to former professors and employers
If you made a positive impression on your professors and employers during college, chances are they will be willing to offer you help if you ask for it. Contact them and ask if they know of anyone in their industry who may be looking to hire recent college graduates. When contacting them, be polite and professional and remind them of how they know you — chances are that if they enjoyed teaching and working with you, they will be more likely to help and put in a good word for you with hiring managers.
4. Don’t limit yourself to your area of study
On average, people will hold more than 11 different jobs in their lifetime. Ideally, the first job you land will be your dream job, but that rarely actually happens. It’s pretty likely you won’t find the “perfect job” right away — so open yourself up to other opportunities that may help you find a new direction that is more ideal than your “perfect job.” Your first few jobs may not directly relate to the line of work that you’re interested in, but they will be learning experiences that can bring you some clarity regarding your own professional and personal needs in the workplace.
5. Utilize professional networking sites
Many companies use professional networking websites like LinkedIn and Meetup to connect with potential new employees and learn more about them before meeting in person. Updating your profiles regularly with information on new projects you’re involved in and engaging in genuine interactions with other users will help you gain the attention of hiring managers. Use your connections on LinkedIn to find mentors who have likely been where you are now, and can give you advice on how to remain positive when the job search feels futile.
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6. Don’t quit your day job
Serving up lattes at Starbucks all day may not be the most exciting (or well-paying) job, but it does provide you with a source of financial security until you have a more lucrative job. These jobs do offer you the opportunity to develop some important skills, such as providing superior customer service, having exceptional attention to detail and being able to act quickly under pressure. These are all attributes that will set you apart from the other candidates when hiring managers are reviewing candidates. Plus, these jobs will stop you from having large gaps in your resume, something that can scare off potential employers.
7. Don’t quit your daydream
Don’t give up on your dream job just because it’s out of reach right now. Many people spend time working on passion projects that will help them get the jobs they want. Set aside time each week to focus on applying for jobs, networking and learning skills that you know are highly desirable among professionals in your industry. Even if you spend just 15 minutes every day working on your personal growth, you will see major changes in your knowledge and work ethic, and with any luck, hiring managers will too.
8. Stay positive and persistent
Many people suggest using the “3-to-1” rule to stay positive: for every one rejection you get, do three things to help yourself in your job hunt, such as applying for a new job you’re interested in, reaching out to a colleague to ask if their company is hiring and making a list of two to three new goals you have for the next day of job hunting. Rather than look at rejections as losses, choose to view them as an opportunity for you to gain experience and learn more about your industry. Redefining your perspective on job hunting will make you much more productive in the long run.
Job hunting is never easy, and it can be lonely when you feel like you’re the only one who isn’t moving forward with their life. Making a plan for your search, reaching out to friends and colleagues to build a support system and being positive will help you build confidence in yourself as a job applicant.
Life is tough, but so are you! Now get out there and start looking for an awesome career.