Everyone knows how difficult that job market is right now, especially for young people who are just getting out of college.  Most college students are told that they can do anything they want and be anything they want.  Throughout college, they are on a path of self-discovery where they figure out their ideal path and career.  Little do most college students know that when they get out of college, what they figured out was their “ideal” job isn’t usually attainable for a number of years.

My Experience as a Young Job Applicant

When I graduated from college in May 2009, I went through this same process.  All throughout college, I spent time figuring out exactly what I wanted to do.  I studied anthropology and I knew that I wanted to do something big to change our country’s education system and make our world more equitable for racial and ethnic minorities.  Those are huge lofty goals, but in college, you really do believe that you can do anything.

So I graduated from college, spent a few months teaching English at an indigenous university in Nicaragua, and then came back to the United States unexpectedly, and I had to navigate the job market.

Things I Learned from being a Young Job Applicant

  1. Realize that you might not get your dream job:  This was a hard realization for me since I am such an idealist.  I wanted to do great work and make an impact on the world, and I was frustrated that it seemed like there weren’t opportunities to do so.  In the non-profit world, you still really have to prove yourself and your skills.  You also might need to settle for something to gain the experience that you need to be a successful at your “dream job.”
  2. You may want to take a temporary job while you are searching:  I’m sure you have heard that you are much more likely to be hired if you are currently employed.  The same reason why it is difficult for the unemployed to get work applies to first time job seekers.  I took a temporary fundraising job while I was planning to continue my job search.  Who knows you may end up liking the temporary job, and you might learn some great job skills in the process.
  3. Apply for anything you are qualified for and semi-interested in:  I was looking for work in the NYC metro area, so there were 40-50+ job openings daily in the non-profit sphere.  At first I was being very selective in what I applied for, and later I began to spread my net much wider.  When I started applying for a broader range of jobs, I started getting more interviews.
  4. Apply for jobs where you live or move to where you want to work:  With the economy how it is, employers really do have the pick of hundreds of applicants.  When they are weeding through applications, the first thing they are going to see is your address on the top of your resume.  If it says a location that is in another state, they are very likely going to push it aside, so they do not have to worry about relocation costs.  When we were first looking to move to the NYC metro area, we were applying for jobs from Michigan.  We weren’t hearing anything. When we finally bit the bullet and moved to NJ, we immediately started hearing back about job applications.
  5. You might need to work for less money now to gain the experience for a higher paying job later.  For example, I really wanted to break into the non-profit scene which can be very hard to do, especially if you do not have a lot of work experience.  Therefore, I took a position with AmeriCorps for one year which paid me 105% of the poverty line for my county.  At the end of my year of service, my organization hired me to work full time for them.  I am now making 4 times as much money as I did during my year of service.  Plus, I love my job!
  6. Don’t get discouraged.  It only takes one application.  It only takes one person to read something in your resume that stands out.  It only takes one.  Sometimes it is difficult after so many applications (I think I applied for over 100 before getting the AmeriCorps job) to believe that you will EVER get hired.  However, it only takes one.

What advice do you have for young job seekers?

featured image provide by bpsusf via flickr