How to Survive Unemployment After Graduation

It’s April and you know what the means. A fresh batch of undergrads are going to be tossing up their graduation caps and entering the real world.

So, for the beginning of this month my posts are going to focus on life and unemployment after graduation. I’m sorry for starting this series off with a post that’s sort of a Debbie Downer, but I really wish someone had written this when I was about to graduate. Ok, let’s begin.

I graduated from university. I was 23, just a month shy of turning 24, and after 5 years of writing papers and making short films I was so unbelievably ready to start my first real job, move out of my parents’ place, and become a real adult. But life never works out the way you want it to, does it?

To be fair, I was really lucky getting my first job just a month after graduation. It was an office job at a film festival and was quite honestly my dream job. Not only did I get to be part of a really exciting office environment, but there were a ton of perks like getting a free festival pass and access to almost all of the parties. The only catch was it was only a 4-month contract.

I was still incredibly happy to take it, not just to start making above minimum wage for the first time in my life, but also to get some much-needed office work experience. Up until then I had only worked retail and I knew having Blockbuster and Jacob Connexion on my resume wasn’t exactly a selling point to future employers.

The 4 months I spent at the film festival were amazing. Unfortunately, once my contract ended, so did my lucky streak. Being the naive overachiever that I was, I thought I’d be able to score a permanent full-time job within a month no problem. And why not? I’m smart, I’m a hard worker, and I’ve got a bachelor’s degree! I followed all the steps for success that I knew of, but I learned pretty quickly that that doesn’t matter when you graduate at the beginning of a recession and are competing with thousands of other post-grads just as qualified and desperate for work as you are.

In total, I was unemployed for 8 months. Well, not completely unemployed. I did take the odd on-call shift at a news station and once and a while worked as a Production Assistant on some very small, very low-budget film sets. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t broke and in debt: I was. I also slowly slipped into a deep, dark depression that comes with staring at a computer all day, waiting anxiously for a response from one of the hundred jobs I applied to.

A bit of advice does not check Facebook when you are unemployed. Reading Britney’s status update about how much she loves her new government job and is so happy her parents own a condo downtown so she can live rent-free will make you want to punch both Britney and your computer screen. Another thing to be wary of is that your standards for your ideal job will plummet quicker than you think.

For the first couple months I was holding out for an assistant or coordinator position at some cool artsy start-up, but around month 4 I was applying for every receptionist post that went up. Of course, every time I went to interview for a receptionist position, I was told I was overqualified. Ah, life as a post-grad: the Catch-22 of being over-educated and under-experienced. Isn’t life just a big ol’ kick in the pants?

Okay, enough self-pity. I’m here to talk to you about how to survive unemployment after graduation, not how to become a depressed hermit that wears pyjamas all day and doesn’t bother shaving her legs because there’s no point anymore. Unemployment after graduation sucks, but it’s a natural part of life and it happens to everyone. Except for those jerks who never experience it, but don’t worry about them; karma probably has something really good in store for them. Maybe an actual kick in the pants?

Listen, the main key to keeping your motivation and sanity going is to never stop trying. I remember someone telling me that opportunities won’t literally knock on your door. You’ve got to get out there and find them. And that’s what I did. I started volunteering at a few arts festivals.

I started reading up on finances and budgeted a plan to pay off my student loan. I started working out in the mornings and made a point to leave the house at least once a day. I also started looking into different ways to find job postings. Instead of relying on all the job boards out there, I started making a list of places I wanted to work at and started checking their websites regularly to see if they ever listed any available positions. That’s actually how I found my current job.

Another thing I wish I had done more was follow up after applying for a job. I was always afraid of bugging the employer with a phone call, so I almost never followed up. Of course, I really wanted the job I currently have, so I finally ignored my fears and followed up and it definitely made all the difference.

So, what have we learned here? Unemployment after graduation isn’t something to be ashamed of and it will not last forever. It’s important to keep motivated even when you feel completely hopeless. Remember that old saying “Failure only happens when you stop trying”? It’s true!

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