What To Do When You Can’t Find a Job After College

Interview Training

Starting is the hardest part of any career. The job market is all about competition, and many recent graduates lack the experience necessary to help them stand out. It can be extremely frustrating, especially when it seems like you’re doing everything right and still failing to find a job. And as the struggle to find work stretches from days to weeks, frustration becomes stress.

Sometimes, the reason why you’re not getting a job is totally out of your hands. But much of the time, the reason is something within your control. Even in a tough economy, there are almost always concrete steps you can take to increase your chances of finding a job, whether you were a business or marketing major!

One of the secrets to finding work you’re passionate about is through gaining new experiences. Every new experience brings you one step closer to finding a job that’s perfect for you. Even if you already know exactly what you want to do, try to remember you don’t have to start in your dream-field to end up there. Being employed provides you with experience and skills that can be applied to any number of future careers. All you have to do is get started -- new skills and employment references will follow.

Struggling To Find Jobs to Apply For

  • Goals: One of the best ways to get a job is to make goals for yourself. A good way to keep on track is to set concrete goals, like submitting at least 5 to 10 applications each week. If you can’t meet your quota because you’re struggling to find jobs to apply for, then you’re probably casting a net that’s too small. It would be wonderful if you found your dream job across the street, but it’s unrealistic to only search for jobs by looking out your window.
  • Job Search Expectations: Expanding the range of your search will increase your chances of finding a job. The first way to widen the net is by searching for jobs within new regions, which may require you to consider moving. The second way is to expand the scope of your application by looking beyond your immediate field or specialty. Widening your prospects can allow you to find any number of jobs that might be a fit for you.
  • Try Networking: Networking is another way to widen the net. Not every new job gets posted online, or printed in the wanted pages.  People hire who they know. When they can’t do that, they’ll often rely on the recommendation of a friend. You can expand your networking by joining industry organizations, volunteering, attending career fairs, and even through social media interactions. Meeting new people and forming relationships may be what gets you your next job offer, or the one after that.

Interested in exploring potential opportunities but unsure of what you might be interested in? Use the Career Wizard to find out what careers map to your skills and interests.

Having Trouble Getting Interviews

It may sound cruel, but employers aren’t looking to hire just any candidate who seems just adequate. Employers want to hire the best person they can find for the job. You have to be able to sell yourself as the best available option, or you will be passed over. And it’s hard to stand out against others candidates, especially at the start of your career. But it’s not hopeless.

  • Tailor Your Resume For Each Employer: One step you can take is to tailor your resume to each position you apply. Unless your resume demonstrates clear experience in the position you’re applying for, then you’ll want to explain how your skills are useful. Imagine you were applying for a position tasked with helping upset customers. You might point out how your previous experience volunteering at a crisis center helped you learn to deal with people under pressure, which makes you a perfect fit for the position! Your goal is to try and show an employer how you fit their needs specifically, whether in your resume or your career transition cover letter.
  • Assess Your Skills: Another thing that may keep you from getting an interview is a skill gap. Even entry-level positions are sometimes posted with a requirement of 2-years of experience. That’s because sometimes employers can hire someone who can learn what they need to know on the job, but other times they need a candidate who can hit the ground running.

    To access those slightly out-of-reach jobs, you’ll need to expand your skill set with new experiences. It could be a college course, some type of certification, or an internship. Part-time and freelancing can improve your qualifications. Even jobs seemingly unrelated to what you ultimately want to do can provide skills which make it easier to get the jobs you really want.
  • Look for Gaps In Your Employment History: Gaps in employment can be another problem. Research from UCLA shows that hiring bias against the unemployed begins the moment you don’t have work, and only gets worse with time. The long-term unemployed have to send 3.5x as many resumes to get an interview as the employed. Even if you put aside the stigma of unemployment, someone who hasn’t had a job recently is unlikely to have relevant letters of recommendation.

    While some states are banning employers from discriminating against unemployed applicants, the best thing you can to do avoid unemployment bias is to have new experiences. It’s usually easier to find a part-time job than full-time employment. But almost anything counts. Even volunteering can be a step forward towards your dream job, provided only that you’re learning new things and meeting new people.

Getting Interviews, But No Offers

  • Research questions to ask: Failing to move past the interview stage can mean you need to brush-up on your interview skills. Often times, employers want to hire a candidate who wants the specific position they have to offer, not a candidate who’s looking for any job they can find. You can help them see what kind of candidate you are by researching the company to find questions to ask during your interview. These questions can signal you’re authentically interested in the job. It also shows hustle and a can-do attitude.
  • Salary Range: Another stopping point might be what you’re asking for salary. Try consulting friends, colleagues, and salary estimates tools before accepting an offer. Sometimes these tools are inaccurate because of regional differences and other variables, but they can be a useful guideline. You can also explain that your priority is getting on your career path, and beyond that you’re willing to consider any fair offer.
  • References: The very last thing you’ll want to review are your references. That’s because references only get checked after a company is starting to feel confident you’re a good hire, meaning you’ve passed every other test. But after you’re confident that every other aspect of your application is in order, if you’re still experiencing trouble finding a job, you may want to recheck your references to see if they’re as good as you remember.

The Road Ahead

Some people get lucky and find a job right after graduation, but it’s completely normal for the job hunt to take time. Try to stay focused on your objectives, and remember to keep your options open. If you don’t, you can miss out on opportunities you hadn’t been looking for. Your early-career resume may be weak, but that doesn’t have to stop you from improving your chances of finding a job.