Three and a half years ago, I graduated college. Receiving my diploma (and promptly downing champagne and strawberries with my friends and family…) is definitely ranked on the list of the happiest days of my life. I was extremely proud of how hard I had worked, and I was ready for the next chapter in my life sans papers and tests – hallelujah.
While I was extremely happy, this day also ranked on the saddest days of my life. I was surrounded by 1,600 peers who seemingly had it all together by the time they walked across the stage in cap and gown. The vast majority of my classmates were moving on to big cities, huge job bonuses already in their bank accounts from big-name companies. Others were en route to med or law schools, and a good percentage had big international travel plans for a gap year. Meanwhile, I had zero plans for the future and zero job (and even interview) offers. I was broke and about to move back to my parents’ house across the country to figure out what my next move was going to be, praying a company would finally respond to my resume.
Honestly, when people asked what I was doing after graduation day, I was mortified to admit that I had to move home, unemployed. I wondered why I even spent the money and time going to college, and my self-esteem hit a low as I listened to people’s big plans.
After spending an extra week in my college town, I drove across the country with my best friend and moved back into my childhood room at my parents’ house for three months. Finally after lots of tears and frustration, endless (and traffic-filled) drives to the nearest big city for interviews, arguments with my parents as I struggled with a new lack of independence and hundreds of cover letters later, I accepted a job.
Well, a few years removed from graduation, I can confidently say:
1) Graduating unemployed is absolutely the norm, despite everyone around me making it seem rare. Hindsight is 20/20.
2) Making six figures on your first job is not the norm…again despite what everyone around me made it seem. Sorry to kill your dream of ballin’ out immediately, especially if you are in the Communications field.
3) Moving home is not the worst thing in the world, though it may seem that way in the moment.
If you too graduate without a job or a plan – here’s my survival guide.
1. Find a hobby.
After living independently for four years, moving back in under the supervision of my parents as a 21-year-old was a difficult transition. I needed to do my “own thing” and get out of the house. I spent a lot of my time hiking, running, and doing yoga outside. Not only did these things give me my space outside of my house, they gave me endorphins and definitely a better outlook and acceptance on living at home. Other things I picked up: journaling, cooking, and crossword puzzles.
2. Save money.
I graduated really broke after really going after my senior year bucket list and eating and drinking at all of my favorite restaurants and bars for the “last” time. When I moved back home, I wanted to occupy my time by shopping and taking day trips. After a month of taking this approach to fill my time, I decided I needed to save money. If I wanted to move out when I got a job, I had to have enough saved for rent, furniture and so on. I was making zero money, so why spend what little I had? Instead, I found a lot of little free things to do – I got back into hiking, I crafted, I scrapbooked, I watched movies, I read. It wasn’t thrilling at the time, but once I moved, I was so happy I hadn’t spent the last of my money for things in the moment. Real life is expensive – save up for it.
3. Get off social media.
I made the huge mistake of sitting on Facebook and Instagram for hours daily. I was so upset seeing my friends’ fantastic European travels or their employers’ happy hours or their med school friends. I already have big jealousy issues, and this exacerbated my need to compare my life with everyone else’s. So, remove the apps from your phone until you feel confident enough to move past your jealousy and bitterness. And, as a reminder, social media is just a polished version of everyone’s lives – look at your own posts, and you’ll realize this is true!
4. Work on a professional project.
During the three months I was unemployed, I decided to teach myself the basics of HTML. I started a new blog and used the platform as a practical way to apply my lessons in coding. Now, I’m able to list coding on my resume and have a practical example of how I’ve used it. It was a productive use of my time that has 100% paid off – and kept me occupied when I was tired of applying to jobs. So, find a project that applies to your field and get after it.
5. Embrace the downtime.
My friends told me this all the time, and as an individual who really truly enjoys being busy, it was extremely difficult. But, it really is the only time in your life for the foreseeable future where you will have zero responsibilities, zero schedule and zero commitments. While I griped at the time about how I couldn’t Netflix binge or read anymore, now weekends when I can do just those things are my favorite. Embrace the ability to lounge around in leggings, watching TV, reading trashy magazines and setting your own schedule.
Hang in there!