When I graduated from college, two semesters of job hunting had gotten me nowhere: I was unemployed and had very little in the way of savings. It was terrifying, but I made it through, found a job within three months, and saved about $10,000 over the course of the next year.
Right now, things are feeling a little familiar as my husband finishes up his PhD with no job in sight. This time around, though, it’s not as terrifying. Having done this once before, I feel confident that I can help him tackle the challenge of post-graduation unemployment so that he ends up exactly where he wants to be.
If you are graduating this spring with no immediate job prospects, you’re probably feeling frustrated (what was the point of all that work to get your degree?), scared (how are you going to support yourself?), and a little lost (what should you do next?).
But don’t panic just yet. There are a number of steps you can take that will not only help you through your period of unemployment, but also set you on track to find the full-time work you need.
Set a Budget for Yourself
My husband is lucky — he has me to pay the bills while he hunts for a job! If you don’t have someone else covering your expenses, then the first thing you need to do is figure out how much you can afford to spend per month. If you have savings, you need to make them last as long as possible while you continue your job hunt.
The best way to figure out your monthly budget is to look at what you have saved up. Estimate how long you will be unemployed for — you should plan for at least six months or a year, just to be on the safe side. Divide your savings by six or twelve months — the number you get is how much you can, on average, afford to spend each month.
Reduce Your Living Expenses
That number will probably make you cringe, so the next step is to reduce your mandatory monthly costs as much as possible.
Husband and I are reducing our cost of living dramatically by moving out of our apartment and subletting a room from friends for the summer. Other ways you can reduce your monthly expenses might be:
- move back in with parents or a sibling
- get a roommate
- downsize to a smaller apartment
- find a cheaper insurance plan
- get a pay-as-you-go phone plan
- sell your car and bike/take public transport
- get rid of your home internet and use the library
- find a long-term housesitting gig in your city
Use the Resources Your School Provides
Remember all that tuition you paid over the last few years? It wasn’t just for classes — your degree also entitles you to all sorts of help and benefits from your school. Be sure to take advantage of it now.
Visit your school’s career center and see what sort of information or advice they can provide. At a minimum, they will probably be able to help you with writing cover letters and resumes. Most career centers will also have a list of job fairs in the area or other networking events that you can take part in.
Sign up for your school’s alumni network and then actually go to the events. You’ll be surprised at the number of connections you can make over a plate of finger food, and alumni are usually willing to help out recent graduates. The more people you know, the more likely you are to meet someone who can help you out.
Set a Job Hunting Schedule
A lot of people will tell you to treat job hunting like a full time job. In reality, though, that’s an easy way to burn out, especially if you’ve already spent your last semester looking with no results!
Instead, create a schedule that will keep you on track without leaving you feeling hopeless. This could look like:
- two hours of job hunting each day and two networking events per week
- three days a week looking for work and one day applying to everything you found
- alternating between days looking for work and days for developing new skills
Whatever sort of schedule you develop, it should be regular enough that it keeps you on track without leaving you so discouraged that you give up.
Tap Your Network
Don’t just focus on your alumni and professional contacts — tell everyone you know that you’re looking for a job and what sort of field you hope to end up in. You never know when a friend’s aunt or a parent’s neighbor may know someone who can help you out. Spruce up any professional social media accounts you may have, such as a LinkedIn page, and update them to say that you are looking for new opportunities.
Remember, don’t just take from your network — odds are, if you’re graduating, you know other people who are looking for jobs as well. Help them out and introduce them to connections who could advance their careers. Not only is it a nice thing to do, the people you help will be more likely to return the favor.
Look for Part-Time or Volunteer Work in Your Field
Right after graduation, my husband is running a conference that he helped plan. It isn’t paid work, but it’s incredibly relevant to the field he wants to be in. Later this summer, he’ll be teaching part-time at a local university.
While it may take you some time to find a full-time position, odds are, there is other work out there that you can do to keep busy. When you’re unemployed, even a little pay is better than none, but that’s not the only benefit. Part-time or volunteer work in your field will hone your skills, prevent gaps in your resume, and help you make more connections that can lead to employment.