When you first enter the job market, it can seem like the whole system is against you. It can be frustrating to lack the qualifications because you lack experience, especially if it feels like you’ll never get enough experience because you can’t get hired anywhere!
Here are a few tips on how to utilize your time:
Don’t underestimate the value of paid internships. Most people think that internships are just for college kids and mostly consist of getting coffee for executives and doing all the “grunt work,” but not getting paid for it. Actually, internships today are very different from their stereotype. You’ll not only find more paid opportunities these days, but also older, more experienced folks taking on these jobs (the average age of a paid intern at one of the companies I used to work for in San Francisco was 27). Internships have replaced entry-level positions at many companies, and is the best chance you’ll have of getting your foot in the door to eventually being hired full-time.
Use your downtime to explore networking and volunteer opportunities. Just because you haven’t been hired yet doesn’t mean you should wallow in self-pity on the couch all day. Instead, use your extra time to meet people in the industry by attending mixers and social events (you can usually find out about these through Linked-In and other career-oriented sites). If you want more experience, consider volunteering your time at a local non-profit to beef up your skillset and, again, meet people in the industry. No matter what it is you decide to do, be sure you have something to say to a recruiter or hiring manager when they ask you what you have been spending your time on since graduation / your last job.
Reach out to your college network. Most colleges have alumni programs that focus on getting graduates in touch with each other. Without exaggeration, I can honestly say that I receive an email from a fellow Denison alum at least twice a month…and it makes me very happy when I am able to help them get in touch with someone in their field. Just remember to prepare your correspondence in a respectful manner and have a specific objective for the next steps in your career that you can communicate clearly. This will increase your chances of getting a response!