Navigating Tough Landscapes: Unemployment and the 2018 post-college life

Graduation is right around the corner, and with that is the automatic thrust into real adulthood. All of a sudden, thousands of seniors have to worry about things more than just the three numbers of their GPAs. How will we pay rent? Do we move back home with our parents? Will I find a job? Where is the money going to come from?

It honestly seems, even at this moment in April, that everyone has an offer but you. The thoughts of unemployment become increasingly daunting – with the added pressure that once you’re out of here, all of that safety net that comes with being in academia gets pulled right under your feet. Even for those people who plan on taking a gap year, the thought of not having a job right out of college is terrifying.

Many people, after graduation, may find themselves going back to their old jobs during college – waiting tables, working in retail, baristas, bartending. It’s what one person called “the 2018 post-college life”. The user described a situation where he was talking to a clerk at a retail outlet while he was buying clothes for his busboy job. The retail worker had apparently just graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. People with years of internship experience, high programming skills are finding themselves working in fast food joints, spending over six months just trying to find a job related to the degree they graduated with. A 27-year-old mentioned that they have been unemployed multiple times. It took her six weeks to find a position after college and ever since has been unemployed three more times. Part-time jobs seem to be a common way for people to make their way through the purgatory phase of unemployment. They help to build your skill set, help you network, and help to pay the bills and the rent.

Many people also volunteer alongside a part-time job. This may be in a research laboratory, in a non-profit, as a teacher or any other voluntary job that actually helps to build your skill set in the degree that you have. Somehow, when looking for positions on LinkedIn/Indeed/HandShake, a bulk of the most relevant and attainable positions are those that won’t pay you anything. It may be worthwhile to take them, develop connections within the field that you want to go into, and move into a proper job utilizing those skills, or even at the same company. One person was a past volunteer for a hospital for two years and continued volunteering for a few months at the hospital after graduation until they offered her a position as a volunteer coordinator – as she was probably the one person who was very familiar with the program of recent.

Looking back, some people say that the reason they remained unemployed was due to their egos. Constantly trying to appease your ego by picking jobs to apply to that you yourself know you aren’t qualified for only hurts in the end. Sometimes you may have to apply for positions that you are way overqualified for – say ones that only require a G.E.D. It doesn’t matter how much you hate that very first job that you land, it’s just a gateway to something bigger and better.

The people who managed to have positions lined up straight after college or just a few days after college were those that had started job hunting around eight to nine months before graduation. They networked with people through LinkedIn, looked at who worked at the companies, set up informational interviews.

If you aren’t for part time jobs, there are other ways to stay afloat while you don’t have that full-time position. You can go on Craigslist and check out “gigs” – which would allow you to take positions that are kind of quick money. However, with Craigslist, you should be extremely cautious – while there are some great things, you will often have some sketchy offers. There are other pages, such as Facebook classifieds and some neighborhood pages (something along the lines of Nextdoor – which keeps giving me notifications for stuff like babysitting/ house sitting). If you have a car, you could work with Uber or Lyft. If you like dogs, there are several dog-walking apps available that could help you make a little bit of extra cash (apps such as Rover and Wag). There is the option of doing surveys online – which would help make some decent money in the meantime. And if you’re ambitious – blog about something that you are passionate about, and once you gather a decent enough following you can link to products/ have ads on your blog. Freelancing is also an option for those who are talented at graphic designing, photography, market consultation etc.

An important thing to remember is to decrease your expenses. Save up as much as you can while you have a job – maybe if you’re working somewhere during college – so that you can use the money once you graduate to buy food. You can decrease your expenses by eating mostly vegetarian food – because vegetables are a lot cheaper than meat. You can get your proteins by eating whole wheat, beans, soy products and milk. Another way to decrease your expenses is to live in a cheaper apartment and share with multiple roommates. I’ve been told that some people live with up to seven others in a studio apartment in cities like San Francisco, living out of a suitcase with only a mattress. It’s great for a short time, but definitely not a sustainable way to live. Living a little further from downtown helps to decrease your rent, and if you’re fortunate enough to live in a city that has a good public transport system, the cost of commuting would also be reasonable.

While you’re applying, it may seem heartbreaking to even continue to find a position and write that cover letter. There’s something in the back of your mind that tells you, it doesn’t matter, they’re just going to reject you anyway. It’s important to remember that it’s not always the case and that eventually, you will find a job. Network, put your name out there. Keep an excel sheet, and log all of the jobs that you applied for and if they haven’t reached out to you by three weeks, ping them, just to remind them that you are very interested in their position and their company. Tailor your resume to the jobs that you are applying for. Reach out to old contacts, professors, employers, people in your community. Someone must know someone who is looking to hire. Another useful tip that I received was to write a long list with just the word “No” on it 100 times. Each time you get a rejection – or they haven’t replied to you in a month, cross off a “No” on the list. By the time you reach the end of the list, you would have found a job.

It’s important to not give up, and even more important to take care of yourself during this time. Rely on your support system – your family and your ten (the ten people outside of your direct family/spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend whom you trust the most). Try taking up a hobby – something to do instead of sitting around waiting for someone to email or call about a job.

But most importantly, have faith in yourself, and realize that you have made it through three/four years of undergrad, and you can make it through a few months of unemployment too.


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