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How To Deal With Not Landing Your Dream Job Right Out Of School

career Jan 14, 2022

Graduating from university or college is a huge accomplishment. It’s often filled with so much relief and excitement, and also a little bit of “holy shit did I really just do that!?” But what most people don’t talk about is what happens after graduation. After the celebrations have died down, after the cap and gown have come off, and after the champagne bottles have been emptied.

If graduation is a “holy shit” moment, what comes next might be best described as an “oh shit” moment. Now what?

Some grads find work in their field quickly, snatching up a super cool position right away, but for others it takes time. This is often a hard pill to swallow, especially for those who have just spent so much time and energy (and money!) investing in an education that, in theory, was supposed to help them find employment. I know. It totally sucks. But waiting is a dangerous game that’ll get you nowhere. So what can you do in order to pass the time a little more effectively, plus get yourself a little closer to landing that dream gig? I’ve outlined five ideas below.

NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK

Having a good resume, a solid skillset and a stellar education just aren’t enough to land you a top-notch gig anymore. You have to connect with people and build relationships to show them how your skills and education translate to real-life experiences. Not only will this demonstrate that you can actually do what’s listed on your resume, but it will also allow other professionals to vouch for you when/if an opportunity arises. Keep in mind that networking isn’t all about you, though. It’s also about listening, learning and knowledge-seeking too. 

Ideally, you want to chat with people in your field (former professors are a great option), and you can call or email them asking for a short coffee chat or informational interview. If you don’t know anyone in your field and cold-calling someone you semi-stalked on LinkedIn doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you can start with friends or family members in any profession and go from there. It’s best to have a shortlist of questions before going into the chat in case you freeze up, but mostly it’s important to just be yourself and treat the “networking” session as a casual conversation. And if you’re worried about rejection, don’t be. You’d be surprised how many people are willing and ready to share their expertise with you.

TRY YOUR HAND AT VOLUNTEERING

This is a great option because not only does it give you the opportunity to do something “feel-good,” but it can also help you gain industry experience to add to your resume. If you’re looking for work as a teacher, try volunteering your time to a local soccer club as a coach. This will help you gain transferrable skills (or strengthen existing ones) that you can speak to in a job interview.

For example, if a job posting requires curriculum planning and you have limited proficiency in this area, you can draw on your experience planning weekly practise drills for the team. Both require a certain amount of organization and planning to be successful, and showing you can do something (even if it’s adjacent to what they’re looking for) versus just saying you can do it will improve your credibility tenfold.

FIND SOME PART-TIME WORK 

Money isn’t everything, but unfortunately, we do need it to live. That’s why finding a part-time job as a server or retail associate (there are so many of these positions available right now as businesses try to build up their staff again) can both help you make ends meet, plus get you away from your computer and the mind-numbing process of applying for jobs in your industry.

And you never know, you might strike up a conversation with a colleague or customer who has some useful insight or even a connection you can chat with. If anything, having some stable part-time work also helps foster a sense of productivity even if you feel like you’re currently at a standstill. 

DO YOUR RESEARCH 

You know the job you want, but how did others before you get there? This is where a little bit of investigative work comes in handy. Try doing a quick online search of both the organization you want to work for and the position. Usually, someone will come up (thank you LinkedIn!) and you can look at their profile to see what kind of education and experience they had prior to landing the job you’re seeking. Does their education match yours? Did they do an extra college certificate program? Did they do an internship? If there’s a qualification you see on their page that you don’t have, try searching a few other people and if you’re noticing a common denominator (like a specific school or program), you might want to look into that more seriously.

The other way to do this is to actually look at the industry jobs you’re applying to and see if there’s anything they’re asking for that you don’t have. If you want to go into social media management and you need proficiency in something like Hootsuite but don’t have it, consider taking a crash course or watching a tutorial on YouTube.

DON’T GIVE UP

I know, it’s a little cliche but hear me out. This little transition phase where you’re in between school and work will feel like an eternity at times, but the good news is that it won’t last forever.  Nothing does! So it’s important to keep pushing even when you don’t want to. Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give yourself a well-deserved break every now and then, it just means you can’t lose sight of your end goal by getting down on yourself. As soon as you let something else take your attention away from the target — you risk missing the bullseye.

And another thing? Don’t start second-guessing yourself or your choices now. No education is a waste, so don’t even go there.

Article by: Arisa Valyear 

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