Congratulations! You’re about to graduate from college. Years of dedication and hard work have led you to this momentous occasion of walking across the stage for that magical piece of paper. But as graduation approaches, that feeling of excitement is usually coupled with anxiety and fear of the unknown. People starting to ask you “What are you going to do after you graduate?” and chances are you aren’t 100% sure.
After graduation, you basically have a handful of options: grad school, travel the world with a backpack, or find a career. If you’re going to grad school, come back to this article in a few more years. Travelling the world? That’s a nice thought, but usually not an option for most people. So that leaves us with finding a career. The concept is exhilarating but executing? It’s probably giving you heartburn.
Sure, you can look up places you want to work, apply, and wait for an interview. Most of the time, you won’t even get an interview. Talk about disheartening. So you continue the cycle of applying and rejection until you reach a point where you start to think “What am I doing wrong?” “I’m qualified, why doesn’t anyone want me?” and you find yourself stuck in the Catch 22 of “I can’t get a job without experience, but how can I get experience without getting a job?” Trust me, I’ve been there.
So what can you do?
You’re a recent graduate and the only experience you have is waiting tables and that one random internship you did. Well, unfortunately there isn’t a magic formula for everyone, but there are a few ways that you can rise above the frustration this catch 22 and enter the workforce with confidence:
- Tap Your Resources – This seems obvious, but most people do not take advantage of the people they already have relationships with. Reach out to your professors. Have your parents talk to their friends, “Hey, my son/daughter is about to graduate and is looking for a job. Is your company hiring?” Remember that internship? Reach out to your supervisor and co-workers; they know your work ethic and even if they aren’t hiring, chances are they have connections elsewhere and can vouch for you. Remember that college you spent years at? Look into career services! They don’t just exist just for decoration.
- Work with a Recruiter – I didn’t do this. Looking back, I missed the mark on getting some additional help. The thing with using a recruiter is this: Recruiters get to know the person behind the resume. They know your strengths, interests, and most importantly, your personality. Having someone in your corner is nothing but helpful. Plus, you’ll have the upper hand of interview insight and what you can expect from management.
- Network, Network, Network – Make it a habit to go to at least 2 networking events per month. Check out your local MeetUp pages and you will be surprised about how many career fairs, industry specific presentations, and social hangouts there are. Networking is definitely awkward at first, but there are some best practices to explore if you’re not feeling super confident.
- Take an entry level job – Don’t be too proud to take an entry level position. I REPEAT. Do NOT be too proud to take an entry level position. Some of the most successful people began their career at the bottom. Whether it’s a temporary job until you find something else or you snag a role at a company you’d like to grow with, just do it. Learn the business. Show your worth. It’s a chance for you to build some true credibility and when you get that first promotion, you’ll realize how much your dedication was worth it.
- Don’t compare yourself to someone else’s journey – As human beings, we naturally compare ourselves to others, especially our peers. That is so dangerous to do. If your best friend lands their dream job before they graduate, great. But don’t let that make you feel inferior or that you are less valuable then they are. I SWEAR the cliche of “Everything happens for a reason” is true. Your story will start differently than anyone else’s but that doesn’t mean it won’t be just as wonderful.
To sum it up, here’s my story: I graduated college only two years ago. You know what I did after I graduated? I was a shift manager at a restaurant. Do you think my self-esteem was shot? Damn right it was. I just graduated college. I’m an educated professional and I’m running plates to tables? Are you kidding me? But you know what? I did what I had to do. I made some money as I searched for a career that truly made me happy. Friends were landing full-time careers and half the time I wanted to just explode. My story started differently but I can honestly say that everything I went through brought me to where I am today.
My advice? Hang in their buttercup, something wonderful is around the corner. Just keep going.