After the excitement of graduating, your time to celebrate is limited. Almost right away, there’s enormous pressure to find a job. If it takes longer than you expect, you can be left scrambling to catch up, and you might start panicking.
If you haven’t found a job yet, here are six things you should do right now.
1. Stop comparing yourself to friends
Comparison really is the thief of all joy. Some of your friends will inevitably land gigs before you, which can be a bitter pill to swallow. As hard as it may be, don’t compare yourself to them. Every person’s situation is different, and their field may be very different than yours.
2. Take charge of your student loans
If you graduated with student loans, your grace period — the time after graduation when you don’t have to make payments on your debt — ends in the fall. At that time, you’ll have to start making payments, even if you aren’t employed.
But don’t worry! If you have federal student loans, you can apply for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. Under these plans, your payments are calculated as a percentage of your discretionary income. If you aren’t making money, your payments could be very low; some people will qualify for a $0 payment.
Contact your loan servicer directly to see if you qualify.
3. Launch a side hustle
If you need to bring in some money but haven’t found a traditional job yet, consider launching a side hustle. You can start freelancing in your chosen field, or you can do things like drive for Uber or deliver groceries for Shipt.
While not a replacement for a regular job (with benefits!), a side hustle can help bridge the gap and keep a roof over your head and food on the table while you job search. And it gives you something to put down on your resume until you find a job.
4. Get feedback on your resume and cover letter
If you’re applying for appropriate jobs — meaning roles that fit your experience level and education — and you aren’t getting any calls, your resume and cover letter may have room for improvement.
Ask a trusted friend or mentor, or contact a professional association related to your field, and ask them to review your application materials. If you don’t know anyone, Ask A Manager has great tips for developing the perfect cover letter.
Many employers expect some professional experience for even entry-level roles. If you don’t have part-time jobs or internships to put on your resume, you’re at a disadvantage.
Volunteering can help you build your experience, stay busy, and make connections. Although serving food at a soup kitchen is admirable, try to look for volunteering opportunities that allow you to use your professional skills.
I worked in the pharmaceutical industry before switching to a career as a writer. To break into the new field, I needed work samples — but no one would hire me without having samples in place. To get around this catch 22, I offered my services to local animal rescues and nonprofits who needed help with press releases or blog posts. I built my portfolio and helped a good cause.
If you need help finding an organization, check out Volunteer Match.
6. Broaden your job search
Many fresh graduates focus on applying to glamorous jobs, like big social media companies. However, competition for those jobs is stiff. People with years of experience apply to entry-level jobs at those companies, so the chances of landing a job there are slim.
Instead, broaden your job search to include smaller companies and even boutique firms. You might not be able to get a job at a huge public relations firm in New York City right now, but you could secure a position with a small firm in your hometown. After you get some experience and build a portfolio, then you can revisit the dream jobs.
Finding a job
Being unemployed after graduation can be frustrating and exhausting. It’s important to stay positive and proactive during this time. By following these steps, you can work toward finding the right job for you.
For more tips on how to find the perfect job, check out these five steps to a job you love.
Originally published on August 6, 2018.