by: Melanie Sue
Although I walked in June, I technically graduated a few quarters earlier than my Class of 2012 peers. That sounds super ambitious and exciting, but in reality it just meant I got to begin my funemployment career seven months before they did, which came with a benefits package of relocating to my suburban hometown to live with my parents (to their credit, my parents are wonderful humans who put up with my angsty nonsense like superstars). I was fortunate enough to find an amazing job five months after my last final, but I know some people are unemployed (or more commonly, underemployed) for years after their university assures them they are The Brilliant Minds That Will Shape The Future. Don’t worry, you still are. But I know your struggles, friend, and I hope this will make your post-grad unemployment experience seem a little less hopeless.
1. First of all, know that you’re not alone.
About half of college grads are unemployed or underemployed, and about two-thirds of students graduate with debt. I applied for, and was rejected from, probably over fifty jobs before I found one, and it was a great fit for me. I’m not sure what the average number of rejections is, but know you’re not terminally unemployable just because fifty people didn’t find you irresistibly charming. It’s hardly personal. It has less to do with you and more to do with how messed up the economy is right now (probably the first time you’ve heard that!). The plus side of rejection is that you’ll be forced to discover new organizations, filled with unique objectives and missions you didn’t even know existed. It’s kind of like when you get dumped and someone tells you there are more fish in the sea—it’s cliché and it’s much more fun to hate everything, but it’s true.
2. Safeguard yourself against wallowing.
Possible warning signs include voluntarily minimizing your hygiene, eating cereal exclusively, and watching Saved the Bell reruns in five hour blocks. You’ll stay up until 4am and sleep until 4pm for no intelligible reason. Your Tumblr usage explodes and you reblog a lot of those posts with emo song lyrics written on receipts. You start using a cardboard box as a desk and scour the Internet for free places to watch “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.” You consider an activity “a hassle” if it requires you to wear pants. I won’t disclose how many of these examples are autobiographical. I know how good it feels to feel sorry for yourself, but self-pity can only get you so far. It’s okay to be frustrated and discouraged, but don’t marinate in those feelings for too long.
3. Use this time to do all the things you never had time to do during school.
Learn Italian, play the piano, read all the books you’ve routinely lied about reading, visit your friends in different cities, and start cooking for yourself. Take naps with your cat (or your partner, or your friends…I love a good group nap). Spend more time with your biological family, your chosen family, your friends, and your acquaintances. Meet new people. Discover new hobbies (bonus points if they’re free). If you’re not too weighed down by student loans and have some flexibility, take that trip you’ve always wanted—seeing more of the world and hearing more stories are always valuable experiences. See an empty day as an opportunity to fill the hours with something that makes you happy. Boredom is a symptom of lacking creativity.
4. If you have a part-time job (even if it has zero to do with your major), be thankful for it.
It gets you out of the house and makes loan repayment a little less daunting. Also, consider volunteering somewhere! After I graduated, I started spending a few days a week at a domestic violence resource nonprofit. I met so many inspiring people and ended up learning a bunch about the field in which I hoped to work. Plus, you’d be surprised how nice it can feel to make someone’s day even a touch easier.
5. Probably the most fun part of being unemployed after graduation is telling other people about it.
Spoiler alert: I’m totally lying.
Chances are, you’ll have to answer the “What are you doing now?” question pretty often, and you’ll start developing a brief, scripted answer just to change the subject. I feel bad about this one because I definitely ask new grads this question now, and I hated answering it after I graduated. But don’t let other people get all Judge Judy on you. You don’t need to feel embarrassed or defective because you weren’t offered a job right away. You can open up to people about your job search if you’d like, but you’re not obligated. If anyone has some additional tips on how to eloquently respond to this question without using “YOLO,” please let me know.
6. Lastly, take a cue from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and don’t panic.
Keep breathing, keep laughing, and keep applying. You’ll make it out of this alive. Make yourself an inspirational playlist and give yourself morning pep talks in the mirror if you have to. Just shake it out, don’t stop believing, and hold on for one more day (these are my final pop culture references, I promise). We’ll get through this together, one Monster.com post at a time.
Melanie Sue graduated from DePaul University with a degree in communication and media with minors in sociology and gender studies. Her biggest celebrity crushes are Edward Norton, Amanda Palmer, and the country of Iceland. In her spare time she likes taking photos, spending time with lovely people, playing with cats, collecting recipes, wearing dresses/neckties, and wishing she could play the banjo.