13 obstacles that may get in the way of your job hunt after graduation
The good news is that job openings are at a 15-year high, and hiring of new grads is projected to go up 16% this year. The bad news is that you’re still competing against a lot of fellow applicants for any open position, and some of your own habits and history may hurt your chances. Don’t panic, this unpleasant process will (hopefully) be over soon, and it helps to know which distractions and challenges to look out for. Here are some of the roadblocks that can get in your way:
1. Good old-fashioned inexperience…
College taught you a lot, but it only accounts for one line of your resume. If you didn’t have a job in college, or the jobs you previously had don’t seem applicable, making yourself look good on paper can be a huge challenge.Try getting creative instead of discouraged — look at internships, sure, but also think of ways to broaden your skills through community involvement and other life experiences. Talk with people you admire in your area of interest about how to best frame these facets for entry-level positions. If all else fails, consult a career counselor
. If they can’t give you any direction, then apply for their job (jk they’ll be very helpful).
2. …or just a bad work history
In college, jobs may have felt expendable because you had no interest in them. But now that you need to relay your former boss’s phone number to prospective employers, it’s normal to regret walking out on that shift without giving your two-weeks, or worse, getting fired.Take this as an important lesson learned, and then try mending past professional relationships. Admitting the error of your ways may help restore good karma, if not good references. Maybe you can just get a letter of recommendation from your favorite professor?
3. Being too picky
Your wall may have a poster that says, “Shoot for the moon, if you miss you’ll land among the stars,” but what it really meant is that you might land in an temporary receptionist job in Hoboken, New Jersey. Your pride and ambition are awesome and will serve you well, but so will patience. Recognizing that you might not get an amazing job right away will help you manage your expectations and project the kind of humility that employers admire.
4. Relying on graduation money instead of job hunting ASAP
If you’re fortunate enough to have generous friends and family members, your graduation checks might seem like a windfall. But that money will go way faster than you think, without anything else lined up, especially if you’re using it to go out with your friends. There’s enough precipitation in the summer naturally; you don’t need to make more rain.
5. Getting too comfortable at your parents’ house…
It’s great that you get along with your parents and they’re cool with you crashing, and it’s smart to keep your housing costs down while you’re job hunting. But if your familial safety net is what’s keeping you from job hunting, because you know your parents will always be there for you (and you can always take advantage of their generosity), then it may be time to think outside the basement.
6. …and getting too comfortable on their insurance
You can now stay on your parents’ insurance until your 26th birthday, which definitely makes life easier after college, but that’s closer than you think. Plus, relying on your parents’ insurance only works if their employment situation remains stable, which unfortunately for a lot of people may not always be the case.And even with medical privacy laws, being on your parents’ insurance can lead to some embarrassing overlap that may not always make you feel like an adult — my dad’s insurance once accidentally sent him an STD test of mine that he opened (which, btw, was negative.) If you find a job with benefits, then you might be able to cut the healthcare cord early.
7. A summer fling that distracts you from applying
Everyone loves a little summer romance, but infatuation can be a huge distraction. It’s called a “fling” for a reason. If you don’t see a future in this, don’t let it get in the way of yours.
8. The wrong kind of friends
It might not be fair to blame your friends for your lack of professional progress, but if a majority of them are also unmotivated, it may not be a coincidence. Laziness isn’t technically contagious, but the company you keep can be be a great asset or huge obstacle in your job search. Try to surround yourself with people who challenge and motivate you.
9. You’ve glamorized being a starving artist
If you have big artistic hopes and dreams, by all means pursue them. But as “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner advised
, don’t use that as an excuse to starve. Depriving yourself of basic needs will make it harder to thrive creatively. Use your innovative energy to figure out a way to draw an income while pursuing your passions, and you’ll be better equipped for the long haul.
10. Not addressing your insecurities
With all the celebration and excitement around graduation, it’s easy to feel alienated by worry about the future. It’s a significant change that can come with a lot of mixed emotions about not being able to handle what’s ahead.The good news is that you’re not alone, and talking with your peers, parents and even a counselor or therapist will help you find the best way to cope and take care of yourself
. Believing in yourself and your talents will only make you more appealing to prospective employers when they meet you.
11. Partying too hard
Summer might seem like college in the sense that it’s one big party, but when you’re no longer a student, there’s no such thing as summer vacation. Your capacity to drink your buddies under the table isn’t a strength you can bring into interviews — it’s going to make you sweat bourbon through your clothes.
12. Going on an expensive adventure to find yourself first
Go ahead, bike across the country, backpack through Europe and go on whatever adventure you want. Just know that you can do all this and still
return knowing little about yourself, except for the fact that you have no job and a lot of debt.Self-discovery isn’t a short game, and some people go their entire lives without fully answering those kinds of questions. Finding the answer shouldn’t be a condition for getting a job. If you want to travel, there are plenty of ways to do that and gain interesting, applicable work experience — from teaching English abroad to volunteering at an organic farm
— which will give you a unique opportunity to learn about yourself while preparing for a career.
13. Not trying to find a job because other people couldn’t
You probably hear plenty of your older friends lamenting about how there were no jobs for them when they graduated, but be careful not to use this a gauge for your own search. Times are changing; the number of people filing unemployment claims is much lower than it was a few years ago. Someone else’s past shouldn’t determine your future.