May 18, 2010

Job Search Advice for New College Graduates

Yup, it’s tough out there. There are hardly any jobs it seems, for the new college or high school graduate. Unemployment in this demographic tops 25% in some areas, with little hope for improvement, at least for the near future. What’s a young adult to do?

Get a job anyway.

That sounded kind of clueless, huh? What do I mean, get a job, when there are no jobs? Just this: Get a job anyway.

If you’re in your teens or early twenties, you haven’t had this experience yet, so I’ll tell you about the last three recessions, including a big one in the early 1980s, as I was coming out of college myself.

I have learned that the 1981-83 recession was one of the worst this nation has ever experienced, and that the current recession may or may not eclipse that one in terms of some unemployment measures.

Luckily, I didn’t know that at the time, and I managed to get hired for six or eight jobs in that period, while also running a solo housecleaning company with a decent slate of clients. Why so many jobs? Well, I was attending college on a pay-as-you-go plan, so I needed the income from multiple positions to cover expenses.

And how did I get the jobs? Pretty easily, as it turns out. I totally ignored the idea that I should be working at a certain level or in a particular field. Not trying to match my college major to jobs in the market relieved me of a time-consuming and frustrating process. Instead, I looked at places that fit into my commuting pattern and stopped in directly to ask if they needed help. Quite a lot of those jobs were waitressing, but a couple were more professional in nature. It didn’t matter to me, as long as they paid.

Since opening my career counseling business 25 years ago, I’ve coached job seekers through three recessions, including the current one. Here’s what I’ve learned: There are always jobs. Always. The people who get those jobs tend to share these characteristics: They don’t listen to employment statistics, they look every day until they get a job, and they don’t limit themselves to “career-appropriate” positions. In a nutshell, they’d rather be working than not and they make it happen. The ball’s in your court – will you spend the summer working, or wishing you were working?

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