How to Survive Unemployment Post-Grad
by Alex Burns
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If you’re reading this article, you’re likely a new graduate without a job wondering how you’re going to survive unemployment. I’m here to tell you you’re not alone, and there’s no need to panic. You can go ahead and let out that breath you’re holding and read on for five tips on how to not just survive unemployment but thrive.
1. Re-frame the period of unemployment as a period of exploration
It may feel like every other person on the planet has a great job, but that’s just not the case. In fact, 53% of college graduates are unemployed or working in a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree. Don’t fret; you’re not alone. Hold out for the right job. Besides, there are a number of reasons (unrelated to you) why you may not be getting those jobs.
Rather than stress 24/7 about being unemployed, enjoy this period of “funemployment.” Yes, people overuse that term on Instagram, but there’s some truth to it. I’m not telling you not to look for a job—you have to do that, and you have to devote a certain amount of time to it—but learn to be efficient and productive when searching and applying for jobs instead of devoting every hour of your day to it.
Why? Well, for starters, if you’re consumed by the job search, it forces you to act from a desperate place and people can feel that desperation seeping through your resumes and cover letters. Second, it causes you undue stress and to miss out on an otherwise great time of your life: unemployment means you have free time.
That may seem like the worst thing in the world right now but trust me. Once you start working, and you’re getting home after a long day and too exhausted to do anything but watch Netflix, you’re going to wish you took advantage of your unemployment.
So, how do you take advantage of free time in a productive and fulfilling way?
2. Explore your creative outlets
If you’re entering a creative field, this is especially important, but even if you’re not, exploring creative outlets can have a huge benefit. When you’re creating something, you’re adding to your portfolio of samples and expanding your repertoire. That’s super important because when a job opportunity does come around, not only can you tell someone you’re qualified, you can show them.
Creative outlets to explore, whether they’re your forte or not:
- Writing (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, blog posts, copywriting)
- Adobe Suite (If I could go back five years and tell my younger self anything, it would be to teach myself every Adobe program I could. There are a lot of opportunities out there if you know Premiere, InDesign, or Photoshop.)
Even if you think you’re the least creative person on the planet and these skills have nothing to do with your desired field, I urge you to reconsider. Having a creative outlet provides your brain time to relax and refuel.
You don’t have to choose from the list above, either. Creativity can take many forms. Maybe you want to learn how to cook, or increase the number of books you read, or make photo collages. There’s creativity in all of us. Unlocking it will provide you with untold benefits, no matter who you are or what your job is.
Plus, it’ll give you something interesting to talk about when a hiring recruiter eventually asks, “So, what do you do for fun?”
3. Learn a new skill
I know you just graduated, but that doesn’t mean the learning has to stop! Going off of exploring creative outlets, if there are any subjects that interest you but you’re not sure about, take an online class.
There are a plethora of great free resources out there where you can learn brand new skills or dive deeper into skills you already know the basics of. Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, and Skillshare are also popular websites with great paid eCourses. Or if you prefer a classroom setting, check out classes offered at your nearest community college.
My suggestion? Find skills adjacent to topics you already know and which might make you a more well-rounded candidate.
- Are you a writer? Take a couple of online classes on SEO and marketing.
- Are you into computers? Take some coding classes.
- Are you an entrepreneur? Join your local Toastmasters club to practice public speaking.
Whatever it is you are interested in, there are skills that can build upon what you already know. We even got you two free months of unlimited classes on Skillshare. So give it a try!
4. Start a side hustle
This is one of those things I wish I could tell my twenty-year-old self, back when I had time and a lot fewer responsibilities. Start a side hustle while you have this extra time. You have a world of possibilities, and with time on your hands, you’ll be less pressured to go with the very first idea you come up with.
Take some time to really dig for things that would add value to the world, that you’re passionate about, and that you can actually turn a profit on. Then start working towards it little by little. You’re not working a 9-5 right now, so you can actually put some time into it each day without overloading yourself. Get something off the ground and running—even better if it’s passive income—so that when you do eventually start working, this is already ready to go.
5. Spend time with friends and grow your network
This seems silly, but it actually might be the most important takeaway from this list. Take advantage of the time you have to make your friendships a priority. There are tons of budget-friendly (even free!) activities you can do together:
- Go on a walk/hike/run (bonus point: you get to enjoy nature!)
- Attend free local events like comedy shows or open mics
- Play card or board games (don’t roll your eyes, these are making a comeback!)
- Volunteer together for a local charity
In addition to spending quality time together (don’t skip that step), you can also ask your friends to introduce you to other friends of theirs they think you might get along with. This is a great way to expand your network and meet new people.
Don’t try to get something from these new people right away, just try to make honest, genuine connections. But you never know where these might lead—making new friends might be an even better way of finding new job opportunities than scouring job boards all day long. After all, at least 70% of people find their jobs through someone they know.
How these strategies will help you not just survive unemployment but thrive
When you’re searching for a job, it can feel like it’s the only thing that matters, but you’re going to burn yourself out if it’s all you’re doing all day every day.
If you find yourself in the unemployed stage for longer than a few weeks, you don’t need to panic but you also don’t want to plateau (hint: use the tips from this blog post to make sure you don’t plateau). You should always strive to improve in whatever you’re doing, regardless of employment status. In doing so, you’ll make yourself a much better candidate, meet new people who might lead to new opportunities, and you may even find a new aspect of your work you love but never thought could be a focus.
Remember to remain open to new possibilities, enjoy this period of exploration, and continue learning (grab your two free months of Skillshare here). The job opportunities are right around the corner. Before you know it, your unemployment will be over and you’ll be setting yourself up for success at your new job.
Alex Burns is a freelance writer and consultant helping aspiring writers, millennial women, and anyone trying to better themselves a little bit day by day. You can find her at https://alexgraceburns.com.