How my first year out of college was both the best and worst year of my life.
A fellow Oregon duck alum once told me my first year out of college would be both my best and worst year. She said, “your highs will feel so high, but on the other side — your lows will feel like rock bottom.”
I never understood what she meant until there I was there. Sixteen years of school were complete and I had no map to follow for what was next. For the first time in my life I was now without a plan and a minimal sense of direction. Cue my low.
Like most post-grad, I found myself desperately missing all of my friends living within a five mile radius and the liberated freedom I had to do whatever I wanted with no real responsibilities. It was time for the post-grad job hunt.
I didn’t score my first “real world job” as an undergrad and, if you’re a recent graduate in the same boat, I’m here to tell you there is nothing wrong with that. Really.
I wasn’t always so certain. I know what it feels like when everyone you know wants to reassure you that your “big break” is coming. The hunt can start to feel hopeless when all of your friends are working their adult jobs while you sit applying day after day only to be rejected more consistently than Kim Kardashian posts a selfie. I get it, but no one ever said the real world is easy, right?
I promise there really IS a light at the end of the job hunting tunnel. You will find a job you love. To help get you there, here are some of the best and most honest pieces of advice I received while on my own tireless job hunt.
- Ask for informational interviews. When contacting employers you want to work for you are guaranteed to receive more positive feedback if you ask to meet with someone for an informational interview than if you just cold email your resume asking for a job. I’m always more willing to meet someone for coffee to chat about my experience in the industry than if someone just sends me a email with an attached resume. And while on this informational interview don’t outright ask for a job. You wouldn’t ask someone on a first date to marry you, same concept here. You can ask for advice on how best to land the kind of role you really want. When these meetings are authentic and you make a good impression, your interviewer is likely to remember you when they have an opening or may recommend you to someone they know. No matter what, follow up with a thank you card.
- Network like your life depends on it. Chances are you already have a pretty good network in place, you should always be expanding your connections. Getting your name out there via events or seminars instead of crying in front of your laptop is one step closer to landing your big break. If you’re nervous about going alone, ask a friend to join you, but don’t cling onto them. Go out and socialize! It will pay off in the end. This is also a great way to meet people and you can ask for an informational interview.
- Keep busy outside of applying. Sometimes you’ll need a break from filling out applications before you to rip your hair out. Continuing to do things you enjoy will help make the process easier. Work out. Spend time with your friends. Binge watch a show. Whatever makes you happy. Once you do find your post grad job you’ll be missing the time you had to spend on your favorite things.
- Try to not compare yourself to your peers on social media. Social media is a highlight reel, not the full motion picture. Be patient with the application process because everyone is going through it in some form or another whether you see it play out on social media or not. With that being said, keep in mind potential employers are probably creeping on your social media channels. A good rule of thumb is don’t post something you wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about in an interview.
- Don’t give up. I know being unemployed post grad is hard. Odds are your self esteem has taken a hit and you’re wondering if you even majored in the right thing. These are all normal feelings! But its so important to know you will find a job that is great for you. Not everyone will be employed right out of school, and not everyone loves their first post grad job either.
At the end of the day it is important to remember 10 years down the line no one will care if you were employed before graduating. Everyone has different timelines and you are not behind in yours. You are exactly where you are supposed to be. I know that is cheesy advice but it is so true. Be persistent and try not to get discouraged too often (I’d be lying if I said you won’t be at some point) and remember — your first year out of college is a brand new experience that nothing could have prepared you for. But you’ll learn how to swim in a new pond again, nobody stays a little fish forever.