In honor(?) of having left my job about a year ago, I thought I’d share some (unqualified) advice on how to cope with post-grad unemployment. Yes, I am technically still unemployed. However, I’m fortunate enough to have used the past year to travel, learn new skills, and reflect on my first job experience out of college. I’d be lying though if I said this hasn’t been a particularly scary chapter of my life.
In the beginning, I was incredibly productive with my time, immersing myself in online courses and learning as many new skills as I could. Within a few months, however, I lost this rhythm and began wondering whether I’d made the right decision after all.
Over time, I realized that I had to shift my mindset. I had to stop feeling bad for myself and instead, focus on creating the life I wanted to live. I wasn’t going to let the societal and self-imposed pressures of having it all together paralyze me anymore.I had to stop feeling bad for myself and instead, focus on creating the life I wanted to live. Click To Tweet
Regardless of your specific situation, my guess is that you’ve felt some variation of the “postgrad blues.”
Maybe you’re taking a gap year and have no idea what you’ll be doing when it’s over. Maybe you decided to quit your previous job to pursue other interests and feel a little directionless. Maybe you’re not exactly jobless by choice.
Whatever the case, I’ve found that being intentional with this newfound free time can help combat the anxiety and stress of being an unemployed recent grad.
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1) Follow your curiosities and fears.
You’ve probably heard this one already, but now is the chance for you to expand your skillset and pick up new hobbies. Why not take some online classes? Why not learn a language on Duolingo? Why not list all of the roles you’re interested in applying for, write down the skills you’ll need, and start acquiring them today?
Here are some great online learning platforms for the entrepreneur/creative individual:
Do your curiosities overlap with your fears?
In that case, do something that takes you out of your comfort zone. Think of an activity you’ve been curious about exploring but were too scared to try. For instance, I signed up for a free improv class because I’ve always wanted to try improv at least once in my life. I found the class to be absolutely terrifying (as expected) but enjoyed how it kept me on my toes.
It’s quite easy to fall into a pattern of doing things when you’re unemployed, so the point of #1 and #2 is to find something that will get you out of bed every morning. If not that, how about something new to look forward to every other day? Or every week?
2) Find a part-time job, internship, or freelance gig / side hustle / etc.
Things I’ve tried: selling clothes on Tradesy.com, selling used textbooks on Textbooks.com, finding remote odd jobs on Craigslist, opening an online shop through Shopify.com, creating designs for my Society6 shop, doing paid surveys on the Dscout app.
The Internet is full of resources on the topic of passive income, side hustles, and everything in between. So if you don’t know where to look, start with a simple Pinterest search. You’d be surprised how much information you can find!
3) Get out of the house.
Break the pattern of staying in all the time. There’s nothing wrong with being a homebody, because I am definitely one myself and therefore, biased AF. But I’ve found that there’s a fine line between “homebody” and “hermit.”
If I stay at home for several days in a row, I find it harder and harder to leave the house. Be sure to vary your days by giving yourself a change of scenery. (E.g. Try a new cafe every week.)
If you have money saved up, why not take a small trip somewhere outside your country? Go backpacking if that’s what you’re into. Or if you can’t afford international travel, do a staycation and explore your surrounding neighborhoods. Always keep an open mind, because you might just discover a hidden gem.
5) Find a creative outlet.
This goes back to #1. I think it’s important to create as much as you consume (i.e. binge-watching TV shows on Netflix).
Reflect on your hobbies for a moment. Do you like photography? Do you like blogging?* Do you enjoy scrapbooking? There are so many ways to channel your creativity and express yourself these days. My guess is that you already have some sort of creative outlet in your life. And if that’s the case, don’t stop!
In my opinion, feeling stuck is one of the worst parts about being unemployed. And having a creative outlet is a great way to get those feelings off your chest. Writing in my journal is one thing I do consistently to examine my thoughts and express my creativity. (And to vent of course.)
*SIDE NOTE: If you want to start a blog, I highly recommend Career in the Making. The reason why I suggest this ebook—out of all the blogging resources out there—is that the author is a fairly new blogger herself. But don’t let the “new” part fool you! Krista Aoki made $2,200 in her first six months of blogging, and she’s killin’ the game as we speak. I’ve read countless articles about monetizing your blog, but I constantly find myself going back to Krista’s blog and ebook. What I like about her content is that she offers actionable advice for aspiring and new-ish bloggers like me. The ebook only costs $25, and it’s definitely worth every penny!
6) Build a website or portfolio.
If you’re seeking a job in a creative field, why not start your own website or portfolio to showcase your work? Perhaps you could even start a podcast* to discuss a topic that you’re passionate or knowledgeable about. These are all things that you could do to give potential employers and/or clients a window into who you are.
*(If you’re interested in starting a podcast, I can help you launch one. Click HERE to find out more!)
7) Set goals and a schedule. But don’t overdo it!
Without goals and actionable steps to achieve them, your unemployment can feel like an eternity. Or if you set too many goals and to-do lists like me, you’ll end up feeling unfocused or overwhelmed to the point of inaction. That’s why I’ve found that the simpler I keep my schedule, the easier it is for me to achieve my goals.
8) Get to know who you are.
I keep a special Word Document on my computer called “My Personality Profile.” It’s basically a statement that describes what I’m like as a person, as well a list of my strengths, weaknesses, interests, skills, talents, values, goals, etc. I don’t do this because I’m a raging narcissist (hopefully not).
I do this to keep a record of what makes me “me” and what matters in my life as I grow and I change. It’s a great tool to have when you’re prepping for an interview, filling out an application, or going through the occasional “quarter-life” crisis.
Believe it or not, keeping a “personality profile” or even a journal can help you craft your personal brand and remind you of the qualities that set you apart from the crowd.
9) Get your finances in order. (Or at least, your outlook on personal finance).
Maybe you’re not making any money right now, but you can always read up on how to manage your money and develop smart financial habits. That way, when you do start making an income, you’ll know what to do with it.
A few good resources:
10) Stop job searching every day.
This is something I struggled with for a while. I think it’s good to be on the lookout for job opportunities that align with your skills, interests, and experience. However, this can become an unhealthy habit if you’re not doing it in moderation. The more time you spend searching for jobs and submitting applications, the less time you have to invest in yourself and expand your skill set.
But if you’re dead set on landing a full-time job, be sure to read my blog post on the 14 best job boards for millennial creatives. And don’t forget to sign up below for a free PDF of even more of my favorite online resources:
11) Make time for others.
Unemployment “shame” can make you feel terrible about yourself. The more you let it bother you, the harder it is to get out of the downward spiral.
I’ve experienced it firsthand. In fact, there was a period of time where I started isolating myself from friends and family because I felt embarrassed and ashamed that I wasn’t “working” (even though I was working on something every single day). I had quit my job to explore different career paths, and yet I still fell victim to self-imposed unemployment shame.
After a while, I started to reconnect with family and friends and realized how much I had been living inside my own head. Spending time with other people and volunteering every other week helped me to regain perspective on life.
12) Schedule time for social media.
If a social media detox is not your thing, block out time for social media every day. Log out of your phone apps, download SelfControl, or try other productivity applications that help you focus on the stuff you want to accomplish. It may not be easy, but leaving off all the social media and Netflix-binging to the end of the day can be so much more rewarding and beneficial to your work flow.
Post-grad unemployment can be a stressful time, but it can be a chance for you to invest in yourself and create your own opportunities.
Hopefully you can implement some of the tips I laid out above. Stay strong, and let me know if you have any other suggestions! <3