…before deferment ends
College graduation is looming for many seniors. Whether you have plans to graduate this December or this May, it’s time you consider how you are going to find a job after college. I knew of only a few people who were bright enough to snag a job upon graduation. The rest of us will face a tough world. Last week, I wrote about what you can do during college to your chances of finding a job after college. Today, I want to talk about those few months directly following college. For many 20-somethings, the moment you walk across that stage a timer starts counting down. It tells students how much time is left before they must bear the burden of paying off their student loans. Deferment will go by fast and you want to do everything you can to find a job before it ends.
1. If you have the luxury, plan to move back in with your parents. Not everyone has this luxury, so take advantage of it if you can. This is important in terms of goal setting. When I graduated last year, I started out by telling myself I would do everything humanly possible to avoid moving back in with my parents. At the time, I was told 80% of college graduates move back in with their parents. I was stubbornly determined to be a part of the other 20%. With this goal in mind I worked 40-50 hours a week, saved every dime I had and planned to move to Chicagoland. Even if I had no job, I would live off my savings until I found one. Less than a month went by before I realized the two major flaws of this plan. (1) I had no time to apply for jobs when I was working so much, meaning I would only start looking when I moved to Chicagoland. (2) If I used up all my savings before I found a job, I would be more than screwed. It’s a fine goal to want to avoid living with your parents again, but don’t destroy your finances to do so.
2. Prioritize your job search. When I changed my mindset to accept the reality I may have to move back in with my parents, the strategy I used to find a job also changed. Instead of spending all my time working, I cut down time at work and spent every single morning from 7am to noon at the university library looking for jobs. My work hours reduced to 20-25 hours per week (just enough to pay the last few months of rent on my apartment lease). Using this strategy, I applied for an average of 10 jobs every day.
You cannot spend the majority of your day working your college job, unless you are already working in your career. Doing so prioritizes your current job over you future career. This is your moment, your deferment. Make just enough to get by and use up the rest of your energy looking for a job.
3. Apply for everything and anything that your stand a chance of qualifying for. I graduated with two majors, (1) journalism and international studies and (2) international studies with an emphasis in human rights. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t entertain ideas of working for a news station, becoming a muckraker and breaking stories. That said, I applied for many jobs outside of the journalism profession. Anything related to writing was applied for, be is content writing, data entry, advertising, marketing or otherwise. There are also plenty of jobs that don’t care what your major is, so long as you have a four-year degree. Apply for them all. No matter what you do, chances are you won’t land in your ideal career right away. Life is a journey and your dreams are only just now being made. You’re going to have to work your way up in the real world now. Let no opportunity pass you by.
4. Only apply for jobs that pay. Unless you are lucky enough to have enough money that you can live without being paid or you don’t mind living with your parents, do not apply for unpaid jobs. Deferment will end faster than you think. You want to have a paying job by then.
5. Apply for paid internships. This could be your ticket into a job, either with that company or with a similar company. I am where I am today because of a paid internship. After two weeks slaving my morning away, I earned a three month internship in Chicago. Using Craigslist, I found temporary living, packed up my things and headed to the windy city. In the interest of full honesty, I have to tell you that the paid internship I got was not in any way the type of job I wanted. It involved writing, but the workplace was less than ideal. Those three months were not great for me, but I was in my dream city. Soon after I started that internship, I resumed my job search. Since I was now living where I wanted to, the companies in the area were more likely to consider me. (It can be hard to find a job when they know you will need time to move before you can start).
Paid internships are a great way to get your foot in the door. Some will result in full time jobs with the same company and other will help you get jobs in the area. The worst thing that can happen is you realize you don’t want to work in that kind of job. Take that as a positive experience and incorporate that into your continuing job search.
These steps detail how I found success after college. I never had to move back in with my parents and was able to start paying off my student loans as soon as deferment ended. If you take nothing else away from this post, know that the key is to prioritize your job search above everything else. The search is more important that your current job and your social life. Your career is waiting for you, but like many opportunities in life, it won’t wait forever. Go for it now and never look back.
Disclaimer: I am not a job or career expert. Most of the above is based off of my own experience and the advice I've given to friends and family. I write these posts because I noticed my advice made a difference for those that took it and I hope that you can too. If possible, I highly recommend taking some for of career preparation class. A lot of this information is based on what I learned through the Career Leadership Academy at the University of Iowa and it was a huge benefit to my job search after graduation.