In May of 2014, I walked across the stage at my alma mater to receive my B.A. in journalism/mass communications. The ceremony was followed by pictures with friends and family outside, packing up my dorm room and a celebratory lunch. The day itself was exciting, but also marked the beginning of a new reality: I was one of the thousands of college graduates that didn’t yet have a post-grad job lined up.
That summer saw me moving back in with my parents and working my old summer job as a cashier. It took me several months before I landed an internship that started my career here in D.C. During that time, I constantly struggled with having a sense of my future and feeling hopeless at times. In the four years since then, I’ve learned a lot about the post-grad struggle. Here are some tips for maintaining mental wellness during this time.
Make finding a job your job. Free days can mean sleeping in and freedom, but can lead to an uneven sleep schedule and boredom. Make it a routine to get up at a certain time every week day and work on applying for jobs. Or if you’re working part time, schedule time in between shifts to look for jobs. To make the process less tedious, make lists of what kind of jobs you’re looking for and aim to apply to a certain amount each day. Use reputable job sites such as Indeed or LinkedIn to ensure that the job is legitimate. Having a plan will help you save time and feel accomplished.
Set realistic goals. Many of us aim to move to the big city right after graduation to start that dream job. However, this isn’t always the case. Depending on what sector you’re looking to work in, jobs in big cities can be very competitive and the cost of moving and living can be very high. Looking in a smaller market can increase the likelihood of landing your first job and serve as a stepping stone to securing that dream position. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your hometown, but another town in your state or somewhere where you have family. Living at home can also help you save money to eventually move to another city or state.
Network. This is probably one of the top words heard by college graduates, but can actually help in the process of finding a job. Start with looking at how your friends are applying for jobs, as this can help with motivation. Or if your friends already have jobs, ask for advice about the process. Networking with alumni from your alma mater is another option. The thought of contacting someone you’ve never met may seem a bit daunting, but most alumni are eager to help fellow alums. Attending the same school gives you something in common with them already.
Try something new in your spare time. The period between graduation and starting a job doesn’t have to be completely consumed by job hunting. The free time can give you the opportunity to try something new. Look for a new hobby or class that meets during the day to add some change to your routine. Traveling during this time can also be an option because of not being tied down by a job. I took advantage of the time I had off and visited friends and family in New England, New York City and Washington, D.C. Trips helps with mental wellness and can give you a glimpse as to what life is like in a different place if you’re considering relocating for a job.
Relax. You’re not alone when it comes to looking for a job. Close to a third of college graduates don’t have jobs right after finishing school. Keep working hard with an open mind and something will come along. In the meantime, it’s important to focus on your mental and physical health too.