After almost 15 years of waiting, it’s time. You’re done with school, you’re back from your graduation trip, and you’ve even sent out a couple of resumes. You are ready for your first job!
And still, months go by without any offers. You’ve experienced zero progress despite emailing five CVs a week. You start to wonder if you should have tried harder in school. If you should have attending more career fairs instead of spending so much time worrying about your exams. It doesn’t help that all of your friends have started working already, or that your parents keep nagging you to get out of the house.
“What’s wrong with you?!” says your dad. “When I was your age, I found a job just by walking into the bank and asking if they had any openings.”
At this point, you’re this close to applying for a job at McDonald’s. At least you’d be able to avoid your parents while making some cash.
Sound like you? Don’t worry, we can sympathise. Not everyone is lucky enough to land a full-time job straight out of university. Just because it takes you a year (or two!) longer doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck behind everyone for the rest of your life. Use your “in between” time wisely, and you might accelerate faster than people who started work without having any prior life experiences other than school.
If anything, one of the biggest mistakes ambitious young people make during a quarter-life crisis is putting everything fun on hold until they get a job. Instead of using their free time to do all the things they won’t have time for once they start working 60 hours a week, they hunker down in front of job sites, rationalising that anything fun (such as travel, volunteer work, or blogging) should be reserved a reward once they have things together.
Yeah, it’s logical and wise not to blow money when you don’t have a stable income, but once you do get a job, you’ll realise that you should have spent less time angsting and more time enjoying life as a free agent. So keep on sending those CVs, but don’t be afraid to use your time to pursue other passions and projects. Show the people who will be looking at your resume that you know how to keep yourself busy even when life is slowing down.
1. Travel overseas
Don’t let the guilt about traveling overseas without a steady income get to you. Once you get a job, you’ll find that opportunities to travel for more than two weeks are far and few between. Set aside a budget titled “Exposure” or “Life Experience” and start planning for an affordable trip that includes couch-surfing, AirBNB, hostels, and train rides (sorry, no 5-star hotels for you). When else will you have the opportunity to take the 21-day Trans-Siberian Railway tour from Beijing to St. Petersburg? Or to take a cross-country trip from New York to Los Angeles? Seeing the world, at least for a few weeks, won’t wreak havoc on your timeline toward landing a job – if anything, getting away will inspire you to start anew on your applications once you return home.
2. Explore your own city
Yeah, yeah, you’ve been stuck at home because all of your friends are busy with their grown-up jobs. But just because you don’t have friends who are free during the day doesn’t mean you have to be chained up indoors. Kill two birds in one stone by learning how to go out by yourself while exploring your city.
Trust us, it’ll be a lot harder to venture around town once you get hired. Unless you work as a food or travel writer, you’ll more than likely visit the same roster of restaurants, bars, and cafes once you start working. Not because work makes you boring, but because the average, overworked person would rather sleep or crash in front of the TV instead of explore his town’s nooks and crannies. You’ve got the time, you’ve got the energy, so what’s stopping you from having your very own adventure at home? Compile a list of all the new tables in town and check them out at off-peak hours. Hit up independent flea markets, hole-in-the-wall bookstores, and even craft breweries to get a sense of your city’s art scene. You might be unemployed, but at least you’ll be the hippest person around. That being said…
3. Start a blog
“But I have nothing to write about!”
Sure you do. Just because you’re not working doesn’t mean you don’t have a life. Why not start a travel or lifestyle blog since you’ve been so busy exploring your town’s latest haunts? Or why not start a blog about job-hunting? You’ll never know who will need it a few years down the road.
Blogging might have faded in popularity thanks to social media, but forcing yourself to write on a regular basis will help you in ways that you cannot imagine. First, it will give you an outlet for self-expression (completely necessary when you spend entire days by yourself). Secondly, it will force you to maintain a routine. And thirdly, it can help open more doors in your career. How? Read on.
4. Freelance like crazy
Full-time jobs in journalism might be hard to come by nowadays, but you can always build a portfolio but freelancing for various publications. Don’t worry if you’re completely lacking in experience, as long as you have a few writing samples on hand when editors asked (that’s where your blog comes in). Go for the smaller publications, who may be more open to newbie writers, and keep working your way up until you can get connected to more prestigious publications. It’s a lot of grunt work and sweat – and like we said, it’s not full-time – but at least you’re putting your name out there.
5. Catch up on your reading
If there’s one thing that flies out the window when you’re working, it’s reading – unless, of course, you’ve already made it a habit to read for leisure.
“For leisure?” you say. “Reading is boring! I’d rather catch up on my dramas!”
Well, nothing against TV shows (we did marathon Game of Thrones in embarrassingly record time), but binging on dragons and medieval warfare won’t exercise your mind the way that an old-fashioned tome can. Reading forces you to think critically, to use your imagination, and to persevere, which are all muscles that can atrophy when you’re browsing job descriptions for days on end. Hey, throw in a title about entrepreneurship and you might even be inspired to stake out on your own.
6. Spend time with your family
Family is one of the easiest things to neglect when you’re working. So as annoying as their nagging can get, use this time to be there for your parents and siblings. Help your mother with some of the cleaning. Tutor your brothers and sisters in their weakest subjects. (Heck, if you’re really nice, you can even wake up early to drive them to the mall). Watch the news with your dad and learn about which issues are close to his heart. Be generous. When you can afford it, take your parents out for meals to show that you will love them regardless of you circumstances.