Graduation is generally a time of celebration and grand phrases like “reach for the stars” and “opportunity is yours…” But it didn’t feel that way to me.
As I recall, post-graduation felt like being dropped in the middle of the ocean with a bottle of water, a life vest, and a Swiss army knife.
The worst part was feeling that I was completely alone in this feeling. I didn’t realize just how normal it was to really struggle, especially during a recession.
I got my diploma in the winter of 2007, just 6 months before the beginning of the Great Recession. Through trial and error, I came out of it alive, and 4 years later I’ve actually seen some success. Here are some tactics I used to get back on track.
GET A DAY JOB
This may seem like a ‘duh’ statement, but work with me here. I had to intern, wait tables, and work a part-time job while I was trying to find my dream job. Little did I know that the part-time gig would provide me with some of my best references while also fleshing out my résumé. Taking any job may seem like a waste of time now, but believe me, it’s not.
CALL YOUR FRIENDS OFTEN
Even in the era of Facebook, it’s easy to lose touch with your comrades. I was surprised how quickly my friends and I began to grow apart, but I stayed in touch with a few of them. They really helped me remember that I was not alone. Skype was a big help: those face-to-face conversations seemed much more personal than text messages.
GET A PROJECT
One of the best decisions I made while on the job hunt after college was learning how to build a website. While that may seem irrelevant or time-consuming, it made all the difference to me. It gave me the chance to learn new technology skills and brush up on my writing. It also gave me the opportunity to talk about my experience and personality. I had a lot of employers find my work impressive, and the fact that I started the blog myself showed that I was tech-savvy.
BE READY FOR CHANGE
It takes a long time to find a really good job—a fact that wasn’t in my curriculum at college. While I was doing an internship, part-time work, and waitressing, I started to feel stuck. I’d ask myself “Is this it? Is this what my life is going to be?” At one point, I even assumed that I wasn’t ever going to make much more than minimum wage, and that I should just get used to it.
Looking back on it, it’s hard to imagine how I ever thought that way. It took a few good friends and mentors to help me regain focus. I ended up moving in with my in-laws to save up some money and started a graduate program in management. Not a month after the move, I was given the chance to lead a start-up company that needed my skills in web content development.
This is just my experience, of course. Your transition out of college may be easier or harder than mine. But don’t give up, and above all, don’t let your current situation dictate your potential. Give yourself goals, stay active, and be ready for the opportunity that’s coming your way.
Have a tip for beating graduation depression? Let us know in the comments.
(Photo: Flickr/Lee Haywood)