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What to Do If You Can’t Find a Job After College Graduation – 10 Tips

By Casey Slide

searching for a jobWhen I graduated from the University of Florida, living at home with my parents was not where I expected to find myself. With my degree in industrial engineering, I had envisioned starting a career immediately. But instead, I found myself job-less, stressed out, and mailing lots of resumes. In fact, being jobless and frantically sending out resumes is standard practice for most recent college grads these days.

If you’re in this position, it’s hard not to let it get you down – but while the job market is struggling, you’re not entirely out of luck. Here are 10 tips to survive, stay on track, and get ahead of the competition.

What to Do If You Can’t Get a Job

1. Stay Positive
Don’t be upset or surprised if you don’t have a job by graduation day. It is important to stay positive and continue your search. One way to maintain a positive frame of mind is to remind yourself how far you have come already – just like the challenges you faced in school, you will overcome being unemployed.

And remember, it’s important to set aside at least an hour each day to do something you really enjoy. Take a jog, read a book, or spend time with your friends and family. This can go a long way to help you maintain a positive attitude, which could be the very thing that lands you a job.

2. Reduce Your Cost of Living
If you don’t have an income, you need to reduce your expenses. And since you don’t know the duration of your unemployment, start eliminating expenses quickly to avoid depleting your savings and building up debt.

  • Move Back Home. Moving in with your parents has huge savings potential. Many parents don’t charge their children for rent, utilities, or even food. In fact, when I moved home after graduation, my parents looked at it as their last opportunity to provide for me financially; it was a kind of college graduation gift. It was also nice to receive encouragement and emotional support from my family during that challenging time. Just be sure not to mooch off your parents. Also, do something in return for their kindness, such as cleaning, cooking, and mowing the lawn.
  • Defer Student Loans. To defer a student loan means to suspend loan payments temporarily. There is usually an automatic grace period of six months before you have to start paying back student loans upon graduation. However, if you have trouble finding a job, six months may not be enough. If you find yourself in this situation, defer your student loans until you have an income.
  • Put Yourself on a Budget. One of the best ways to save money is to conserve it by implementing a personal budget. Determine the amount of money you have and how much you can spend each month for a specified period of time (perhaps one year). Then, limit your spending to that amount of money per month. Consider putting away your credit cards and using the envelope budgeting system if you tend to over-spend.

searching for a job

3. Spend Time Networking
Professional networking can really pay off during a job search. Often, it’s not what you know, but who you know.

Here are several places to network:

  • College Alumni Associations. Being a recent graduate, you may receive phone calls and mail from your college’s alumni association asking you to join or donate money. Join if you wish, but more importantly, find out if there are functions you can attend to meet other alumni. People love to work with fellow alumni, and you may be able to find an “in” via such a connection.
  • Networking Events. Search online for networking events in your community. Once you begin attending these events, you may receive information for others not listed online.
  • Career Fairs. Career fairs are becoming increasingly common, and they can be hosted or sponsored by a school, a company, or even a city. Keep your eyes open for opportunities by checking online, in newspapers, and by watching the news.
  • Professional Organizations. Similar to college alumni, many people relate well to those who are in their professional organizations. In fact, it was via a professional organization (the Institute of Industrial Engineers) that I found my first job after graduating. Even if you don’t want to network, join a professional organization and attend a few activities in order to update your resume with current industry happenings.
  • Conferences. You can meet many people by attending a conference for your profession or industry. Individual conferences are typically held once per year, and can be held anywhere in the country. The cost to attend these events is often high, but if you leave the conference with some job leads, it could make it worth every penny.
  • Job Shadowing Opportunities. You can get a taste of a day in the life of a working professional by job shadowing. Even if the company for which you shadow does not have a current opening, they may remember you when they do have one. Check for job-shadowing opportunities with your college or local chamber of commerce.
  • LinkedIn. An increasing amount of people are finding jobs via social networking, and LinkedIn is the social network designed for professionals. LinkedIn allows you to display who you are, along with your degrees, experiences, and what specific line of work you are looking for.

4. Consider Going Back to School
This may not be ideal if you’ve been looking forward to working. However, if you were planning to eventually earn another degree, it might be best to simply get it out of the way, during which time the economy can recover.

On the flip side, if you were not planning to get another degree, don’t jump into a costly academic program out of frustration. As you know, earning a degree takes a lot of time, money, energy, and determination, and it’s not worth doing just to have something to do.

5. Keep Yourself Busy
While looking for a job is often a full-time job in and of itself, don’t put your life on hold because of it. Pick up part-time work at a temp agency, pursue your hobbies, or learn something new. You may even want get additional training or licenses to benefit your career.

6. Broaden Your Job Search
It took me seven months from the time I graduated to start my first job. I later realized that I had kept my job search too narrow by looking in a limited area, within only certain industries, and for one that required minimal travel. Had I been more open, I believe I would have found a job much more quickly.

Consider broadening your search to find a job quicker and especially if you’ve been looking for several months. Open yourself up to more locations, industries, career types, and entry-level positions, even if you qualify for a higher level job. Focus on getting your foot in the door, and try not to be too idealistic.

7. Build Your Skills
Every time you interview and are overlooked for the job, ask the interviewer what skills they recommend you improve. If you struggled answering the interview questions, ask a friend or family member to help you do mock interviews. This will also improve your confidence.

job interview

8. Volunteer or Work for Free
In some industries, it is common for a recent hire to work an unpaid internship before becoming a paid employee. If you are unable to find a paid job, consider this option as a way to gain experience and network. You could have yourself a paid job before you know it.

Another option is to volunteer for an organization such as the Peace Corps, Teach America, or AmeriCorps. Keep in mind that it takes time to be accepted as a volunteer, and these organizations require a commitment. For example, my sister joined the Peace Corps – the volunteer acceptance process took nine months, plus she had to commit for two years and undergo three months of training.

9. Start a Business
If the corporate world isn’t working out for you, take matters into your own hands by starting a business. Focus on an area in which you have a great deal of knowledge – for instance, if you are good with computers, a repair shop may be the perfect business to run out of your house. Consulting companies are also low-risk endeavors that require little start-up capital.

10. Start a Blog or Website
If you have a passion that you would like to share with the world, write about it and see where it goes. For instance, healthy cooking, personal finance, sports, couponing, and new technology are all popular topics online. It will take work and dedication to develop your blog, and it will take patience and smart social media marketing to build up a readership – but over time, you could find yourself with a dedicated following and a solid source of income.

Final Word

Since I got a job, my life hasn’t slowed down. And while I have enjoyed every bit of it, I doubt I’ll have as much time off as I did after graduation until I retire. I regret giving into the stress of the situation and not taking advantage of it. If you are currently a graduate who has yet to find a job, know that with diligence and an open mind, you too will find one. Keep your head up, stay positive, and enjoy the “time off” as much as possible.

What other tips can you suggest to college graduates struggling to find a job?

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Casey Slide
Casey Slide lives with her husband and baby in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for a prominent hospital in Atlanta. With the birth of Casey’s son in February 2010, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Casey’s interests include reading, running, living green, and saving money.

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Comments

  • John@TheMoneyPrinciple

    Good suggestions that can apply to many unfortunately these days. Young people have had their dreams squashed by the economy and chiefly the banks which caused the crash. Shame on them!

    Living with parents is good for a time but you need to start your life before too soon.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    These are all great tips, especially #2. Though, I might try and find away to start paying those loans if at all possible. The job market these days is definitely a changing one and requires flexibility to adapt.

  • Patti_TheFatDollar

    Reading this from an employer’s perspective, I felt these were all excellent tips.
    Networking is very good, since it is always a plus to have a trusted reference. I
    especially liked the suggestion of asking the interviewer what skills
    they should improve ..that would get my attention. I will add one other
    factor that might get overlooked: go over your resume with a fine
    toothed comb. My first encounter with prospective employees is their
    resume and their accompanying email. Cover emails or letters with
    misspellings, odd or poor grammar, or a messy look, will go to the
    bottom of my consideration stack at best. Same for the resume. You
    would be surprised at the number of possibly qualified people who give a
    very poor impression with their resume. My business is accounting, so
    naturally I require more attention to detail, but I still urge you to
    take 30 minutes to check, double check and then have a friend
    (preferably in the business you are trying to gt a job in) review your
    resume. I’ll add one other thing … be sure that the resume emphasizes
    any of your skills or experiences (paid or unpaid) that the employer has
    indicated that they want. Forget the generic resume – customize it a
    bit for each job application if needed. And finally … here’s to the
    best of success with your job search!

    • djschultz3

      Great idea, spend a few hours or days writing a custom resume for each posted job, knowing full well that no matter how much custom writing you do, it will still be rejected by a computer system and will never be read by human eyes, and quite likely the employer already has a candidate in mind and is only advertising to make it look like it was a fair competition, or they are only collecting salary information and have no actual intention of hiring anyone to actually fill that fake job opening.

      Living with your parents is also a wonderful idea, since they keep reading all the news articles about the “critical shortage of engineers and scientists” and how companies are importing foreigners on H1 visas because “there are just no qualified Americans who can do that type of work”. It’s great fun to explain to them over dinner every evening why you still don’t have a job when everything they read or see on TV says that there is a “huge demand” for engineers.

  • Ryan

    Great article. However, I have one small problem with it. It does not apply to me. I have not been able to find a job for two years after I graduated. I work at a movie theatre and am becoming very down about my life ahead of me. Any tips for me?

    • avalidusername

      Ask yourself the question “what can I do that other people are unwilling to do?”

  • JeffLaChappell

    Some great tips,but I would add start your own business while you are still looking for a job.You can start your own business for less than a few hundred dollars.I started a business for less than $100 and now earn over $100,000 working from home around my schedule.A job will never give you financial freedom(or time freedom)Make it a Great day!

    • Berto Gil

      What kind of business did you start?

      • JeffLaChappell

        I work with an Inc 500 Health & Wellness.Last year our sales grew over 94 Million dollars and ended in sales over 1.1 Billion dollars!I have worked from home for over 12 years full-time!(Earning over $100,000 a year!)You can checkout…www.SuccessIsCalling.com

  • http://www.jellyowl.com/ Jelly Owl

    Good tips. Its hard not to get down on yourself when you are out of a job after college (I’m going on 6 months without steady work), but you have to stay productive and positive. If you are doing productive things like networking and building your skills, then its definitely easier to stay positive, so good tips.

  • Casey Lewis

    Points 8, 9, & 10 are perfect! I think everyone in college should be interning, volunteering, or otherwise doing stuff that doesn’t involve beer pong and x-box. It’s a fantastic way to build a resume` and build valuable business connections that will make it that much easier to get a job out of school. Even if it’s just a little extra cash, a small business is a great way to start developing and refining your skills while you are looking for a job. And of course blogging is a great way to point potential employers to where your passions line up with the services they provide. Great article!

  • Ashish Sahu

    My last 10 years of educational & professional life has been spoilt due to lots of reasons. Is their a way out?

  • Pratibha Berister

    very peaceful…! coz before reading I was very stressed…but now feeling quiet well…! thanx for sharing your experience and views…!

  • HassanAlqaraguli

    Very nice and useful article thanks for sharing your experience

  • http://alan-zhang.com/ Alan Zhang

    A great article.

  • Russell

    If you can’t find a job after Graduating College and want to start right away making money online this amazing program has flipped the internet on its Head, newbies are making $100-$275 per day! If you can follow Directions and you are trainable you can do this! email me at [email protected]

  • Richard

    This isn’t really advice. No different to any other page as it just tells us everything we already know. Whatever happened to “keeping it real”? The last few points are reasonable, but the first two are entirely pointless. “Staying positive” and “saving money” is kind of a given when you are in this situation.

  • Gabriel

    Almost 2 years after graduation and still no job. With a degree and an impressive résumé which I’ve sent out a few thousands times over the years, I can say without exaggeration I can count on one hand the interviews I’ve had.

  • Anonymous

    Every time I read an article about this subject I get so pissed off when they suggest that you should work for free… Yeah! That’ll work for a Mechanical Engineering graduate with a student loan that can’t seem to find a job even after having submitted countless resumes and has done a lot of “networking” (people in high positions that will always suggest you visit the company’s web page and… submit your resume). In my job search I have seen millions of job descriptions and I can’t even apply for a 12/hr job because they require 5+ years plus 5 certifications on things i’ve never heard of before. I have brought myself to believe that college and the education system is but a scam… a giant business because if you or your family dont have any “contacts” you are simply screwed when you graduate.

    • Phil Rozzi

      It absolutely is. Recently I applied to become an air traffic control and what happened is that the FAA cancelled their agreement with CTI schools and opened up applications to everyone from the general public. What this means is Just one month ago you had to go to a special school to learn Air traffic control and if you passed you’d be put on a waiting list and eventually guaranteed a site to work at. Now those kids are very angry because they spend thousands for nothing, only for the public to get in front of all of them because the FAA said they want experience over those kids with the degrees. The same goes for college, you used to be guaranteed a job but if a bum with no degree has 10 years experience then they’ll hire him instead.

    • Mariel

      I agree about school seeming like a scam. From middle school on, everything I was taught was geared to just getting the right grades so you got to the next “good” school. It never seemed to matter whether I actually learned something as long as I passed the tests and my GPA remained high. Subsequently, I ended up in college with no idea where my interests actually lay and stuck on a path that was all wrong for me. I was studying towards an engineering degree when I realized that I hated all the course work related to my “chosen” major. I switched back and forth between engineering and anything else that wouldn’t leave me stresssed-out at the end of the day. Everyone (parents, family, friends, and school advisors) kept telling me that an engineering degree and graduate school would guarantee me a job after graduation but I felt that if I continued on that path I would go crazy. This little dance I found myself in made me so stressed that I started to lose sleep and my hair started falling out, not fun, specially when you are a female. I graduated college with an Art History degree only because the people around me and the economy scared me away from a Fine Arts degree. I feel that if I had been more confident in my choices I would have continued with studio art classes and been happier for it, probably still currently unemployed but happier.

  • Jerris

    Yeah. I’m pretty much in agreement with everyone else. This advice is all fine and dandy, but nothing can really bring my spirits up. I’m stuck with a useless political science degree. I thought I was going to law school, but I changed my mind too late. I’m 23 and still live with my parents. Most of my friends have all moved away and are either in grad school or have kids. I can’t find a job in my hometown. Luckily I didn’t incur any debt and I don’t have any student loans to pay. My parents are pushing graduate school. But I’m not really sure if I want another useless degree. I desperately want to leave, but it’s too expensive and there aren’t any jobs. But my parents seem to think that once I go to graduate school and obtain an MHA, I’ll suddenly find a good paying job. I’m just up the creek without a paddle at this point. I send out countless resumes, fill out application in person and online. But these people have requirements that a lot of people my age can’t fulfill. Ugh! And on top of that my parents want me to obtain this masters degree online and take one class a semester. I just don’t know what I’m going to do at this point. And don’t really know what I want to do. I don’t want to live my parents for the rest of my life. And it’s easy to say “you’re an adult move out!” But it’s difficult when you can’t even get a retail job.

  • anonabong

    SMOKE WEED

  • Anan

    When I attended the 10 year reunion at my college, most of my classmates obtained advanced degrees but are either working a low-paying job they hate (not associated with their degree) or can’t get a job because they’re over-qualified and companies won’t even give them an interview opportunity. Some told me that they were offered interview opportunities after they deleted their advanced degree from their resume. It’s sad but true. An advanced degree does not guarantee a better paying job. However, you are more likely to incur more debt.

    I’m fortunate that I obtained a job I love (not connect to my degree), with benefits and pension because it’s a city job. My job also provided advanced training specific to my duties. When a recent graduate from my college tried networking with me for advice on possible employment opportunities, I told her about looking for city and county jobs because of benefits and pensions. She turned her nose up on that because it wasn’t good enough for her. I wish her the best, but many youngsters don’t fully comprehend reality and fantasy. She told me she didn’t want to look at public entity jobs because she didn’t like the environment after interning at one place (only) and in one city (only). Each city has many different work environments, and each city has a subculture attached to it. She just cut off many possible employment opportunities because she “thinks” that private sectors will provide better work environments. I’m sure she will find out that it’s not always the case very soon.

  • Weimom

    A quick word about social media. Many companies and agencies, both public and private, are now completing background checks on applicants. Remember that they are assessing your liability possibility from a risk management point of view. Keep your social media comments clean and be careful of the photos that you post online.

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