15 Useful Things I’ve Learned From My Unemployed Post-Grad Life

They say that being unemployed is a job in itself, and I couldn’t agree more. You have to tailor your resume to each job, craft clever cover letters but make sure it doesn’t look like you’re trying too hard, attend networking events, connect with industry professionals and colleagues from your alma mater, keep yourself busy with volunteering or a job, stay on top of industry trends, prep for interviews. The list goes on.

This is what I learned (and am still learning) from 2015: My Year of Job Searching.

1. Getting a job took longer than I thought it would.

I made deadlines in my mind. Get a job by January. Start in February. Find an apartment and move in by April. Save money. It’s July and I’m way behind on my schedule. I still don’t have a real job. No apartment either. Barely any savings! Funny how life works, huh?

2. A degree does not guarantee a job…

But I feel like many college students are brought up believing it is. We’re brought up believing if we attend class and get good grades a job will come easy after graduation. But that’s not good enough. We have to not only be involved in extracurriculars, Greek life, organizations, but take on leadership positions as well. That’s not good enough. We have to apply for competitive internships and part-time jobs and do freelance work, then get stellar recommendations on LinkedIn from our contacts and supervisors. That’s not good enough. We have to network, stay on top of our fields and connect with professionals. And that’s still not good enough.

3. I had no idea moving back home after graduation was going to be so difficult.

It’s sad how I’ve lived in my parent’s house for almost 20 years but now it doesn’t feel like home. My dad repainted my bedroom walls to stark white and hasn’t put any photos or decorations up so it feels like I’m living in a hospital room. I think it is just as hard on my parents as it is on me. I haven’t lived at home for four years, so I felt like I was invading my own home.

4. My funemployment was both glorious and awful.

I stayed with my boyfriend in downtown Milwaukee most weeks and weekends. While he was at work, I applied for jobs, watched terrible daytime TV, cooked, baked, cleaned, napped, and felt like a housewife. I had a lot of ‘me’ time in those four months, which was fantastic (something an introvert can never get enough of). I started exercising, I watched a lot of documentaries, I read books.

I was also extremely unhappy. A lot contributed to how awful I felt about myself and my life, but I felt like I had lost myself. Those were some dark times. I was depressed, unmotivated, and down on myself most of the time, and I knew it was important to stay busy, whether it be through writing in my journal, photography, spending time with friends or watching movies.

5. Networking with strangers is exhausting for introverts.

Introverts hate small talk. And what powers networking? Small talk. Of course, I forced myself to go to a couple networking events. I did what I was comfortable with. Baby steps are key when you’re entering a situation that is uncomfortable, but you know it will help you out in the long run.

6. Apply for jobs you want but might not be qualified for.

This piece of advice I got from my boyfriend. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you apply for a job that you are 90% sure you won’t get? They’re not going to reply to your e-mail or ask you in for an interview? Big whoop.

I had a great experience when I applied for a job I knew I wasn’t qualified for. I met with the CEO of the smaller agency, and we talked for almost an hour. I went in knowing I wasn’t going to get hired for the position, but flattered that the CEO wanted to get to know me in case any future positions opened up. I had an open mind throughout the interview, and in the end, I learned a lot about the company and their needs, more than I ever could through their website and social channels.

7. Remember what your parents told you about putting your personal information on the Internet.

By this I mean your phone number and address. When you upload your resume to job boards with your phone number, you will get phone calls from strangers. I learned this the hard way. I should have written, ‘prefer to be contacted via e-mail,’ because I cannot tell you how many random calls from recruiters about sales positions I’ve gotten in the past five months.

8. Get organized.

I kept an Excel grid of all the jobs I applied for, if I heard back, who I contacted, and any other relevant information. This helped me out so much when I would apply to multiple jobs at the same company, or if I had forgotten if I applied to a certain job.

9. Don’t be afraid to follow up with contacts.

I don’t know why, but I hate talking on the phone to strangers. If I didn’t hear from a company soon after I sent in my application, my boyfriend suggested I follow up with a call. People can ignore e-mails, he said, but they can’t ignore a phone call. Good point. Companies get a ton of e-mails regarding job openings, especially if it’s a coveted company and position. Calling the office and following up with your application/interview/hiring process is a smart idea to stay on top of what’s going on. Again, what’s the worst that could happen?

10. It’s hard to be creative when you’re unemployed.

I couldn’t write. I couldn’t sleep. I haven’t written in months. All of my creative energy went into writing cover letters, updating my resume for each job position, and soaking up information in career-related articles. Instead of blogging and tweeting about journalism and public relations-related articles, I leaned on my past experiences to shine in my resume and cover letter. I leaned on my parents, friends and boyfriend.

11. It’s hard not to feel worthless.

I get it. You’ve worked so hard the last few years in college, in your internships and jobs, in your classes, and now you have nothing to show for it. Bills are piling up, dreams you had about post-grad life seem far out of reach, personal deadlines pass. It’s really hard not to compare yourself to other graduates or young professionals.

I stalked my dream companies like crazy. I checked company websites and online job boards like it was my religion. I applied to jobs multiple times a week. I checked my peers who I graduated with to see if they got jobs. I always had LinkedIn open on my computer. I was doing everything right, and it was very frustrating not seeing any results.

12. Get used to talking about your unemployment.

When I would see my parents, go to a family gathering, visit my boyfriend’s parents, hang out with my friends or basically be in any social situation, I always feared someone would ask me how the job search is going. I cringe even thinking about it. ‘It’s going,’ I’d always say, not wanting to elaborate. You’ll get used to hearing, ‘Well, I’m sure you’ll get something soon.’ and ‘Keep your head up.’ It’s hard not to feel like a failure when all of your friends, boyfriend’s friends, and people who graduated with you all have jobs. It’s hard thinking that everyone will define you by your lack of a job.

13. It’s scary not having a game plan.

All I wanted was some sort of security. Reassurance. A guarantee. A contract. And all I got were unreturned e-mails and unwanted phone calls. It was scary not knowing what kind of place I would be in come summer. But then again, I had the whole world. I could apply anywhere. Live anywhere. Do anything. I even applied at the Peace Corps (something I’ve wanted to do for a long time), because what better time could I jet off for two years? Having that freedom is equally exciting as it is terrifying.

14. Connect with recruiters.

I had a friend from college who connected with me on LinkedIn mid-though my job hunt. We met up, I took a typing assessment, we talked about my strengths and weaknesses, and she suggested a job for me. Usually recruiters will reach out to you if they see your resume on LinkedIn or a job board, but I was lucky that I knew her in college. Never underestimate the power and connections of a recruiter!

15. Never stop learning.

I worked for a year and a half at my university’s career center, so I knew a lot about job searching, but I still want to learn more about interviews, workplace culture, resume and cover letter building. I’ve seen so many people’s resumes and online portfolios and I learn something about every single one. Never stop updating your resume, researching interview tips, pinning appropriate office outfits, tweeting relevant information, learning about different companies, and crafting your skills. And when you do get that job, kick butt. TC mark

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