Maybe I am in the same boat as some of you reading this: last semester of college, with the ominous graduation date just hanging out of your reach, but close enough to give you a good dose of reality. You’re tired; it honestly feels like you have been doing homework for 100 years and now that graduation is less than 90 days away, it’s all starting to become real. You now have another task at hand: finding a big-kid job that (please, dear God) applies to something you just spent the last 4+ years working toward.
So, you begin applying for jobs, taking advice from your professors and try all those job websites designed for people like you. You say to yourself, “I’ve got this, look at my resume! I’ve had two internships, I was the vice president of my on-campus organization, I have volunteer hours, I had a job the whole time—this will be a piece of cake.” Until you see start scrolling and start seeing a whole lot of “2-4 years working in required field” in the job requirement section.
At that point, you’ve probably started to get this nervous eye-twitch and begin to awkward-laugh to yourself. “Ha…it’s fine, this is only the first page...”
My question: why do websites like these, designed for employers seeking recent-college grads for entry-level positions say that in order to qualify to work, you need 2-4 years (or more) of previous experience? If you are anything like me, you currently do not make a lot of money. You also probably have some kind of internship experience, and would like to find a long-term position making more than $12 per hour to start paying back those loans you borrowed for that degree, and oh yeah, live. But if you really want it, you need that 2-4+ years experience (minimal), be proficient in Mandarin Chinese, be a skilled fire-juggler and have a third arm. Piece of cake.
Okay, I’m sounding a bit negative. Some good news: it’s going to be okay. This is all a part of growing up. This is why you went to college in the first place; to get a job! But why is is so hard?
My best advice: just apply. What harm can come from applying for it? Worst case scenario is you get turned down and you move on to the next one. Best case scenario, someone sees something in your resume and reaches out for an interview. (To which you better proceed to KILL that interview!)
Before you start, make a killer-ass resume for yourself. And though that part isn’t always the easiest, there are many places on campuses designed to help with these problems. So take advantage of them while they are still included with tuition! Or talk to your professor. They were once in your shoes too, preparing to take the next step in their lives.
Compose a neutral, changeable cover letter. Most jobs will ask you for some sort of letter giving them more reasons on why you qualify and want this job (because “wanting to make money and not be broke all the time” isn’t an acceptable answer). Do your research and learn something about where you are applying to and format that neutral cover letter to sound just right for each different job you are applying for.
Don’t just stop at one—Apply to them all. Remember when I mentioned those “2-4+ years experience” and something about having a "third arm" minimal job requirements? Apply to those too. It is, at least, worth a shot because if you can really knock their socks off, you might just have a chance. And speaking honestly, you won't qualify for each position, but the practice you took filling out the applications and doing more than just one will ensure that 20 applications later, you are bound to get at least one response from them.
Network and connect. Remember all of those emails inviting you to networking events that you tend to glance over or delete? Open them! See what it is! It might be an awesome opportunity to give a potential future employer your resume or your business card. And while you’re at it, hit up that friend you know who knows a guy in your field. There is nothing wrong with having some help. Don’t be “the hero” and do it all on your own. If you know someone who can help, jump on it.
Breathe. I know it sounds cheesy, but sometimes, just reminding yourself that you are okay goes a long way. When you get to the point where it is 3 a.m. and you just submitted your 50th job application, remind yourself why you started this in the first place. Ask what brought you to college in the first place, and see how far you have come. Then, close your laptop and get some well-deserved sleep.
Exercise. Relieve stress. Go for a run (or walk, if you hate running like me). Get some fresh air and sun on your face. Go swim laps or lift weights. I find that I am in a much better mood if I have had some form of physical activity in my day, especially during times like this. You might think “I you don’t have time for it,” but remember how you had time to binge the most-recent season of Game of Thrones last night? I think you have time. It doesn’t have to be 3 hours at the gym. It can be 30 minutes of a YouTube yoga vid or ab-routine. Whatever gets your heart pumping. Prioritize.
Remember, you have other options. Worse case scenario out of this all is you don’t get a professional job right away. Or, you don’t get the job you were looking for, but you did get a part-time position that you don’t wish to stay at forever. You have other options! Join Care.com and start nannying for a few months while you polish up that resume. Good news, you can pick the family you work for, and you make lots of money just hanging out with some kiddos all day. And… no taxes. Cha-ching!
If kids don’t float your boat, find another job. You don’t have to stay there forever, trust me. Spend your free time making an online portfolio for yourself and use your cat to practice interviewing for the big time (Bonus she won't be on her phone the whole time like some interviewers, because she’s a cat and loves you, because you feed her.)
See, you have a lot of options! You just have to keep telling yourself “I can do this,” and you will succeed. Remember your reasons. Make yourself a goal board. Make a list of all the things you will buy when you get that first paycheck (well, besides paying rent and all those other life expenses you have). Are you the first person in your family to succeed in graduating from college? Or, are you the next legacy in a line of successful graduates? Whatever your reason, we are all in the same boat. We all want to be successful someday. Reach out to those around you. Grab a friend and take an afternoon to go to a coffee shop and edit each other’s work. And while you’re at it, take a night off! Have a drink (if you're old enough, of course…) Unwind for a few hours with your roommates. Then get some sleep, and go at it again.
You’ll get there.