Last May, I graduated from college and started looking for a job, but I have yet to find one. For me and many others, commencement has meant a year-long search for work.
I’ve gone on interviews, sent thank-you emails, left voicemails for potential employers, followed up with follow-ups, and called for leads from friends, former teachers at Hunter College, City University of New York and former employers. I’ve extensively researched how to create the perfect resume and cover letter, emailed those extensively researched resumes and cover letters, called different people, left new voicemails, redrafted resumes and cover letters and sent them out again, and scoured the Internet for listings. And so on.
I’m a member of Generation Jobless, or Generation “J” for short. And I’m hardly alone.
The unemployment figure for college graduates is the highest it’s been since 1983. That’s not good news for 3.1 million students who will get their degrees this year, according to the U.S. Census. For Americans ages 16-24, unemployment is 19.6 percent, compared to the overall rate of 9.7 percent. Last year, new grads had 40 percent fewer job prospects, according to one report. This year looks to be only mildly better.
The recession may be over and an economic recovery underway, but it’s going to be awhile before Generation J benefits from the turnaround. So, as thousands of mortar boards are tossed into the air this college commencement season, let me offer the class of 2010 seven tips for looking for a job that I learned from my own search. Even though I’m not gainfully employed, I have a lot of experience looking for work.
1. Make friends with your parents. After I graduated, I offered to do the dishes, take out the garbage when asked, and give up rights to the remote control. If you weren’t doing so before, be courteous and cooperative. You may need to live at home for a while.
2. Take any job you can get. Sure, you worked hard for that degree in anthropology, but right now that isn’t happening. I dream of being a writer, but over the holidays, I took a seasonal job at a local Toys R Us store. There I was, newly possessed of a BA in English and film, with dreams of crafting the next bestseller, hocking stuffed animals to four-year-olds. Check your ego at the door and think about how you can earn a paycheck.
3. Don’t rest on your laurels. You’ve just had a promising interview. Time to celebrate, right? Nah. Get right back to the job search. You wouldn’t stop working if your boss congratulated you on a job well done, would you? Immediately after getting hired at Toys R Us, I continued my search with full force and even went on a couple of interviews. Remember: If you’re unemployed, your full-time job is to find one.
4. Stop lying (to others and to yourself). After my gig selling toys, a few months passed with no job activity. When people asked me how my search was going — friends, girlfriend, parents, even my little sister — I would embellish the truth or make declarations about how hard I was working. Forget embellishment; quit lying. It only gets in the way of the reality of your situation. Be proud of your effort, or make one worth being proud of.
5. Feel free to give up now and then. After a few months of searching, I had no responses. No leads. Nothing but an empty inbox and a silent cell phone. Things got so quiet I even started hoping for a rejection. At least I’d hear something. So I slowed down. Wrote lazy cover letters. Sent out fewer emails. When I got tired of that, I started working hard again. Sometimes giving up can refresh your attitude.
6. Forget #5. Never give up. You will feel every reason to be discouraged from your job search, and you should be, but that should never truly stop you.
7. Be the right kind of person looking for a job. The recession is creating two kinds of people: those who give up and those who fight harder. I found out I could be both. Make sure you pick the right one.
Michael Brody is a freelance writer and blogger.
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Is Any Job Better than No Job? (New York Times)
College Grads About to Flood Labor Market (Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis)
Job Outlook for 2010 Grads: Still Stinks (CNN Money)