Graduating from a college or university with a diploma is a great academic achievement, and it also marks the end of an era of the structure that organized education provided. With this change many graduates may be experiencing a loss of identity because they have had the label of “student” for nearly 17 years. The graduate is now expected to forge a new identity and this may come with anxiety about venturing out on their own, into the “real world,” coupled with the high expectations of securing their first real job.
Job search success is not guaranteed to the recipient of an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree and the reasons why are unique to everyone. This may lead to feelings of despair and depression among graduates that find themselves continuing their search for full-time employment months after they have graduated.
The reality is this – not all graduates of a two or four-year institution will become successful in their pursuit of full-time employment during the months immediately following graduation. According to research by the National Association of College Employers, more than 12 percent of 2016 bachelor’s degree recipients were still job hunting six months after graduation.
While the days turn into weeks, and the weeks turn into months, there are tips these labor market novices can utilize to help keep the unemployment blues at bay.
The following recommendations were inspired by the American Psychological Association (APA) to help reduce the anxiety graduates may face and give them the tools to become successful:
Keep Your Head Up – Remember, you have worked hard to earn your diploma and no one can take that away from you. For many entry level positions, you are already one step ahead as a college degree is often one of the minimum qualifications required. Lastly, remain optimistic. The first job post college is an introduction to a career, not a conclusion. And for most, the first job post college is not their “dream” job but a first step along their career path.
K. I. T. = Keep in Touch – Be sure to maintain contact with your network of friends, associates, mentors, and professors. This is easier now more than ever before thanks to the ubiquity of social media platforms. Do not be afraid to share your employment seeking challenges in addition to your successes. Moreover, do not be afraid to ask for help because as the adage goes, “a closed mouth doesn’t get fed.” Translation: If you do not ask for what you want/need, you cannot expect to get it. Also, be careful what you post onto your public social media because your future employer could be watching.
Looking for a Job is Your Job – If you are unemployed or under-employed, changing your status to full-time employee or entrepreneur is your full-time job until you succeed. Do not pass on the opportunity to introduce yourself to a company that you find interesting simply because they do not have a job opportunity posted. Send an email along with your resume to a hiring manager or head of a department that interests you. You might be the missing puzzle piece they have been looking for. Lastly, put yourself in places where you want to be, this is called networking. For example, if you are interested in working in the tech industry, look for volunteer opportunities or industry events to attend to get you around and interacting with people who are working in your field of interest.
Resilience is Key – Learning to adapt in adverse situations is a key skill that will serve you well throughout your career. Rejection will happen but success will come too. Every experience is a teachable moment and the key is to remain diligent and focused on your goal of securing that first job.
If you find that you are unable to overcome any feelings of despair, anxiety or have feelings of desperation, seeking the guidance of a mental health professional licensed through the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Board of Psychology or Board of Behavioral Sciences can help. To find a psychologist or therapist near you, visit the board’s respective websites at www.psychology.ca.gov or www.bbs.ca.gov.