If you’re a part of the graduating class of 2013, the good news is that unemployment for college graduates is down to 3.9 percent. The bad news is that nearly half of recent graduates are working low wage jobs outside of their fields. That means, with a whopping anchor of debt, many members of Generation Y are employed in positions that didn’t require them to ever set foot on a college campus. So, if you end up in this situation, how can you quickly get from just treading water to speeding over it with Jet Ski throttle?
• Apply often. If you end up taking a job just to keep yourself afloat (food, rent, and certificate authenticated Game of Thrones memorabilia aren’t free), never get too comfy or complacent. Apply to new jobs on a regular basis, do it daily if you can, but don’t apply indiscriminately. If a position requires years of experience or a mountain range of unfamiliar skills, don’t waste your time. Apply elsewhere. On the other hand, if a job requires just one year in the field or a small mound of unfamiliar skills, it might be worth a try. Academic experiences or internships can often be a strong substitute and you can always learn on the job.
• Keep your skills razor sharp. Whether you’re working a register or a fry cooker, the education you’ve gained might be rusting away. Under such monotonous daily tasks, your knowledge can easily atrophy if you aren’t regularly stretching your intellectual muscle. So keep yourself sharp on your own time. Dig through industry blogs, participate in your online community/LinkedIn groups’ discussion boards, and attend any relevant seminar in the region. If you can, volunteer your skills at a local nonprofit – it’s a great way to add to your resume while making real social contributions.
• Network like mad. Ask everyone you know (family, friends, former teachers, and your blood nemeses) if they know about any openings in your field. If you exhaust those groups, reach out to anyone you meet. Make yourself known like a less obnoxious politician (don’t blast people with infomercials or prerecorded telephone messages). Get known in your community by attending career fairs and connecting with your peers on professional social media sites. Your network, both locally and all over the web, will balloon and ultimately connect you with something.
• Pursue an internship. If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to pursue an internship. Summer internships are mostly filled for now but you may be able to find something for the fall. If you’re going to be in a low paying job anyway, you might as well do so while learning the ropes of your industry in a hands-on way. The opportunity & knowledge could lead to permanent employment with the company or any number of others. At the very least, it will provide you with a resume that doesn’t look so bare bones.
Together, these practices and experiences can help to forward your career over the next few years. Even if the results aren’t immediate, you are also building up your problem solving skills and sooner or later, you’ll strike land with a relevant job that will set you on the right track.
by James Walsh