Panic. That’s probably the first feeling that sets in when 4 years whiz by and the job hunt doesn’t go as planned. While your credentials may slay, there’s unfortunately no way to predict how long it will take to find the right job for you. It can get pretty frustrating to see your friends celebrating home runs while you keep missing the ball.
We know it can be a blow to the ego and can feel tough to overcome, but we have faith you can use your time on the bench to your advantage instead of giving into a life of PJs and cheese balls on the couch (oh, the temptation…). How? Well, for starters -- don’t panic (hopefully we’re not too late!). The job search can take as little as 3 months to as long as a year, depending on the company’s hiring process, your industry, and the external market. So, what’s a college graduate to do when finding a job is your only job? Here are 6 ways to use your new founded freedom to stay motivated and spruce up the process:
1. Mow the Lawn
Okay, not literally. More like figuratively. Stop and take inventory of what you’re good at. Twitter pro? Offer your services to a local business that needs to tweak their social media presence. Finance whiz? Take to the net and start blogging away. Use your gifts to become an expert in your field, gain a résumé booster, and make connections within your chosen industry. Taking on a side business will get your mind off the terrors of unemployment and give you a new way to look at the job hunting process: while you’re out talking to people about your side project, people are taking an interest in you and what you can do!
Here’s one fun way to land a job: socialize! Networking may take on a bad rep, but letting your network know that you’re on the hunt can come in handy. First, make sure you’ve got your ask down -- people can’t help you if you don’t know what you want! Then, starting with your inner circle, ask to see if there’s anyone they think could be helpful to connect with or if there are any great resources that have proved fruitful for them. Getting out and meeting new people can lead you down the right path. Networking doesn’t have to be super formal to be helpful! Try seeing what workshops are happening in your area, join a meetup group, or sign-up for an online course. Start making meaningful connections and you may just find yourself hired down the line.
3. Try a (Résumé) Facelift
You may not want to hear this, but your résumé may be killing your game. If you’ve been using the same résumé for some time now, why not try something new? Do a LinkedIn search for folks with your dream job and see how they sell their role and responsibilities. Play with the layout of your résumé to make it more visually appealing and easier to read. You don’t have to be an InDesign pro to give your résumé a fresh, new look -- there is a lot you can do with other Office programs, or even templates for inspiration. Finally, have a trusted friend or mentor look it over to see if there are any formatting or grammar typos you missed or ways to make your content pop even more. Just remember to save your doc as a PDF to preserve the format before you slide it on over to your job of choice!
4. Help Out
Add supporting a cause to your list of to-do’s. Volunteering can knock off a couple of birds with one stone: you’ll meet passionate people, get fodder for your résumé, and build up a side skill. Winning! You may even get lucky if you love the organization and find out they’re hiring (one can dream right?!), or meet someone on the board who has connections to your next company. Getting involved can give you a better sense of what you enjoy doing, and can be great insight for when you’re job searching. Maybe you come to find out organizing files as an Executive Assistant isn’t really your thing, but you really enjoying the planning side of operations. Now you can go into your job search with a better idea of what really makes you tick, and apply that for more success!
4. Get Your Name Noticed...
We love informational interviews . Companies may not have an opening while you’re applying, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get to know each other. Think of informational interviews like dating: you sit down, chat about your interests, and see if you’re a good fit. Even if it’s not instant gratification, hiring managers notice that you took the initiative -- one of those companies may call you with an opening down the line, or let you know of another role that could be perfect for you. While informational interviews are more informal, they still give you a chance to brush up on your elevator pitch and interviewing skills, and take stock of what experiences to highlight when it comes time for the real deal. The knowledge you gain from these sit-downs are invaluable, so be sure to use them wisely!
5. Cool Your Jets (and give yourself a break)
This process can be the worst, and we’ve all been there -- so first things first, cut yourself a little slack! It can be really easy to spiral into your own negative thoughts, but wallowing there can become cyclical. You ARE qualified and you WILL find a job, but beating yourself up about it or comparing your search to your friends won’t help you get there any faster. The timeline isn’t always perfect, but as long as you’re open to support and suggestions, you can fine tune your process until you land that dream gig.
No one wants to hear they should take a break from job searching, so we won’t say it. Instead, you could think about enlisting the help of a temp agency or picking up a part-time gig. Take a breather to re-calibrate. Sometimes in the pressures of job searching, we find ourselves submitting to just about ANY role which can have the reverse effect of what we’re looking to achieve– and that’s waaaay frustrating. Instead take a step back and see if you can draw a smaller net. It may sound counterintuitive, but getting more specific can bring you more focus while hunting. Maybe it’s time to take a break and come back with a new approach!
Looking for a new job can be stressful. While sending in application after application and not hearing back aren’t exactly the highlights of unemployment, the extra time to find something worthwhile definitely is! Do some extra research, learn what makes you stand out in a sea of one-page parchment paper, and call up your connections. This is a great time to dip into an online course or even explore a hobby that’s always peaked your interest! Looking for new ways to expand your options and ramp up your career? Join Planted to simplify your search!
Dronile Hiraldo is a New York city born and bred writer with a love for writing, travel, entrepreneurship and wellness. She credits her East-coast upbringing in Washington Heights for empowering her love of Selena, pop culture and social activism. When she’s not deep in a new book, she loves tinkering with photography, eating donuts and listening to Michael Jackson.