So, you’ve finished college. You’re a grown-up (kinda)! The next logical step is getting that job you’ve been looking forward to since high school—you know, the one that will launch your fabulous career, the one you’ve studied and tested for, dreamed about, the one that will get you your own place and your own life. The time is now!
Only, it’s not.
It seems like there’s nothing out there but unpaid internships. The abhorrent structure through which you’ll actually lose money commuting—where you’ll spend your days thanklessly affixing labels to folders for some company who barely acknowledges your existence. It’s either that or high-level jobs that require seven-to-ten years of field experience and an array of skills you’ve never even heard of. Where are the reasonable jobs? You know, the ones you can do while still earning some kind of compensation?
There aren’t any.
And so you scroll endlessly through want ads on websites of varying levels of repute and grow more and more depressed as you realize that not only are there very few jobs out there, but that you’ll have to compete with an infinite number of young new recruits to the workforce for them.
It’s enough to make you want to crawl back under the covers permanently.
But it doesn’t have to be. Here are five things that I learned on my very own trip through un- and underemployment that kept me going, even when building a cabin in the woods and living off the land was looking like a rational idea for someone raised in the suburbs, whose idea of roughing it is showering without using conditioner.
1. Get dressed: There’s nothing more depressing than blobbing around in your pajamas all day. If you’re dressed like you’re ready to sleep all day, chances are you’re not going to get anything done, and then you’ll have to deal with the hideous cycle of your own inertia making you too tired to do anything, and that’s just depressing. So even if your day is going to be poring over Craigslist looking for a job, get dressed. You don’t have to dress up, but put on an outfit that looks at least presentable, and you’ll feel a lot better.
2. Get out: Leave the house at least once a day. Staying in one place can make you depressed, so it’s nice to have a change of scenery. Try to get out of the house, into public, at least one a day. If you live at home with parents, run errands for them (they might even pay you). Go get a cup of coffee. Take a walk. Be advised that if you’re out, there can be a temptation to spend money, which is not something you want to do if you’re not gainfully employed. So, try not to spend too much.
3. Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do: Have you ever really wanted to do something, but never found the time? Like write your novel, compose your rock opera, or learn to knit? Now’s the time. You’re not bogged down with a 40-hour work week, so, when you’re not looking for a job, do the thing you’ve always wanted to. Not only will this give you something to occupy yourself, but it will also give you a sense of accomplishment, confidence in your abilities, and an opportunity to expand your knowledge and experience. And anyway, once you do get that full-time job, you won’t have as much time to do this stuff anymore. So take advantage of it now! A great way to spend time doing something you like that can also fancy up your resume is volunteer work. Looking for a job in education? Sign up as a homework helper in a local library or community center. Environmentalism? Offer your services at parks and nature centers for clean-ups, camps, and events. You don’t have to kill yourself (they’re not paying you, remember?), but this can be a way to network, improve skills, and make a difference.
4. Don’t be scared: Real talk? I hate applying for jobs. Nothing makes me feel less qualified, less capable, or less likeable than looking down a long list of job requirements and expectations. It’s really tempting, sometimes, to just chicken out. But think about it this way: if you don’t apply for the job, you’re definitely not going to get it. You have nothing to lose by applying, so applying can only benefit you. Right? Even if you think you have a 0.00001% chance of landing the position, go for it! 0.00001 is bigger than 0. Will you get the job as a result of your bravery? Maybe not. But with each application, the process becomes more familiar and less scary, and soon you’ll be writing cover letters with wit and confidence.
5. Keep going: Seriously. Just keep going. Keep applying, keep looking, keep putting yourself out there. It might sound cheesy, but it’s really the only thing you can do. It’s going to suck and be filled with anxiety, but one day, someone will hire you. And from there, it gets easier and easier to build your career.
– By Laura C. (that’s right, artists can write too!)