“Sometimes I wish I had gone to prison instead of college.” –Hernan Castillo, college graduate
When I saw this quote appear after searching “what to do post college” on Google, I couldn’t help but laugh. Not because it was particularly funny, but because I have had similar thoughts. The May article on MSNBC.com sums up what many recent college graduates are thinking, including myself. I have definitely found myself in a sea of self-pity lately. Why did I try so hard in college just to be unemployed more than a year later? While it is easy to think this way, let me tell you it is not advantageous.
Graduating from college was one of the most exciting events in my life. My entire family congregated in Reno to help usher me into an exciting future. Later that week, I packed up a U-Haul with my then fiancé and headed to San Diego. Anything was possible. Through my one San Diego connection, I landed a job within the first month. Unfortunately, I did not listen to my gut feeling and I accepted the job offer knowing that it was not a right fit. Looking back, I would say it was the biggest mistake I have made in the last year. I lost valuable time when the job market was not as bad. I encountered a huge shot at my confidence early in the game. The love I had for my career path was greatly questioned. However, it also allowed me to learn in a short time what I want in a job environment, in a boss and in a career.
The past year has been the most challenging in my life. When everyone says that you can do amazing things after graduating from college and instead you are still unemployed, it is extremely humbling.
Here is what I have learned so far:
- Never give-up, never surrender! From experience, I can tell you that throwing in the towel on your job search will only lead you to eating cookie dough on the couch in pajamas while watching “Wife Swap.” Keep trying to reach your goal, no matter how hard it might seem to achieve.
- Be optimistic. Don’t you be a grumpy. The biggest turning point for me in the last year came when I gave-up on negativity. So what if the 30 resumes I sent out last month didn’t even land me an interview? Their loss.
- Because you’re worth it. Remember that you have desirable attributes. Rejection is hard on the ego, but losing sight of your worth will only make it harder. I had to keep telling myself many things, sometimes in the mirror. I am a college graduate, who did well in school. I am hard working. I love to learn and be challenged. I am not socially challenged. I can read and write. I have good personal hygiene. This last point is very important in a close office environment!
- Pick me! Pick me! Perseverance is extremely important. I was always afraid of being a pest. Not any more. The more you get your name in front of someone, the better. If there is a company you want to work for, e-mail them often, try to set-up an informational meeting, comment on their blog, become a fan of their Facebook page, anything!
- Misery loves company. Sadly, it helps to keep in mind that plenty of other people are struggling to start a career too. It is hard to swallow career stagnation, when you did what everyone told you was the “right” thing to do to achieve success. However, you are not alone and there is no shame in not landing the ideal job after college. Most people aren’t.
- Will work for free. While an unpaid internship is not ideal, it is not all bad. You can gain valuable experience, make connections and get closer to your end goal of landing a job. Sure, it is a little embarrassing when you tell friends what you have been up to, but at least you can say you are on the right path.