How to Beat the “Post-Graduation-No-Job” Blues

Maybe your friends had their post-college work plans figured out by last Christmas. But not you. You weren’t going to let an annoying job search get in the way of celebrating senior year. Or maybe your efforts this spring didn’t pan out. Don’t freak out! 

At least half of the successful recent grads I studied in my new book Graduate to a Great Job didn’t know what they wanted to do when they graduated. Still, they landed on their feet – eventually. Here are three things you can do this summer to make progress towards landing a “real” job and to calm down your parents.

Stop beating yourself up!

The job market is better than in recent years, but good jobs are still hard to come by. You have tons of competition and the employment process is much tougher since the Great Recession. But, if you’ve graduated, getting a good job now becomes your primary focus. So stop worrying about what you didn’t do this past year. That will all be forgotten as soon as you land work you feel good about.

Exploit Those College Connections

One of your biggest assets right now is all those people connected with your school who are anxious to help you launch your career. You have an unbelievable network of contacts and potential advisors who can help you – but you gotta ask! Faculty members you clicked with, parents of your college friends and school alumni, who you can quickly find through LinkedIn in your area. All of these are great candidates for informational interviews.

If you don’t automatically think about “informational interviews” when talk turns to networking, then get on the stick and learn how to do them today. Just Google “informational interviews” and read a few articles on how to make them work for you. These will be THE key tool in your job search.

Of course, which of these potential allies you approach for conversations about your job hunt depends on:

1. How focused is your search today? Are you still clueless about a career direction? Then talking to almost any employed adult will give you insights about what you do or don’t want in a job, as well as giving you insights into logical career paths. If you know you want to work in marketing in a healthcare start up, then your networking will be much more focused on people who can help you develop contacts in that field.

2. Where do you want to live? No sense talking to people about financial services jobs in Boulder or Ann Arbor if you’re committed to moving to Atlanta. You need to focus on building your connections and networks in places you want to live. Don’t forget to ask recent professors about former students in the area who might help you.

3. How good is your parent’s professional network? Say your Mom is an accountant and your Dad is an engineer, and they’ve been living in Smallsville, Kansas, for 20 years. Then their networks won’t help you find a marketing job in New York or L.A. But you’d be surprised who your parents know, and who’d love to help you brainstorm employment ideas and other people and companies to contact. Even if your parents are a pain in the butt, don’t be too proud to take advantage of who they know. It’s one of their last chances to help you, and you’re a knucklehead if you don’t take advantage of their contacts.

The Homework Never Ends!

Did you think it ended with graduation? No way. Employers today want experienced new hires. Unless you’ve had internships that show you already know a lot about their business, you need to really educate yourself about potential employers and the jobs you want.

Lily graduated from UC-Santa Barbara with a degree in art history and no job. She started applying for positions with no focus except to work for a “young and fun” company. Big surprise. She got no response from potential employers. Then Lily did a series of informational interviews. People she talked to convinced her she needed to hone her skills. If she was interested in marketing, they said she better learn about brands, which meant reading the right blogs, like Tech Crunch, for starters.

Lily began investing time every day learning about current Internet marketing problems, so she sounded much more informed about the challenges potential employers faced. She explained:

“By late August, I was learning the lingo and sounded more qualified that I felt. But I also started getting more responses to my applications. In November, I landed a job with a small web-based education company.”

No potential employer is going to take you seriously until they can tell you’ve really done your homework about the company and the type of job you’re look for. You may be open to several possibilities at once, such as: working in a public health agency, doing project management for a technology start up, or guiding tours for an adventure travel company. That’s fine. But you must narrow your focus enough to educate yourself about those types of organizations, their challenges, the jargon they use, and the specific job opportunities where your skills make you a good fit.

You learned how to fit successfully into your college, didn’t you? Now it’s time to figure out where your energy and talent fits in the work world. That means talking to people in your college network and applying the study skills you’ve learned to master new subjects. Get started now. You can do it!