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What's a Graduate to Do? Advice for College Graduates Seeking Jobs in a Bad Economy

To all the recent graduates out there: Congratulations. You have worked hard, and your accomplishments are well-deserved. Now, welcome to the jungle of reality. And this year, it really is a jungle out there. If you don’t have a job lined up yet, don’t despair. Here are a few ways to put your job search into high gear and make the most of your time before you officially enter the working world.

Finding a Full-Time Job is a Full-Time Job. If you’re after a full-time, career-track position in your area of interest and want it A.S.A.P., then make your search a full-time job. Especially in a down economy, finding work is a numbers game. The more resumes you send, contacts you make, and interviews you land, the faster you’ll land a gig. You may put in long hours week after week only to face countless rejections, but I promise that you’ll find work faster than somebody who hits the beach most days and applies for a couple jobs here and there.

That said, take a day or two to hit the beach, travel, or otherwise enjoy yourself. For most graduates, once you enter the working world, you may not get out.

Limit Your Expenses. Whatever you do, try not to go into debt while you look for work. This is the time to live at home and avoid eating out or shopping. If that bothers you, the more aggressive you can get with your job search.

Expand Your Horizons. Consider working in any number of fields, even if you didn’t study them in college. Most young professionals change jobs many times in their first ten years, so there’s nothing wrong with experimenting with your first few positions.

If you can, broaden your search geographically, too. Some states and cities are weathering the recession far better than others. Kiplinger’s recently released its annual best cities list, and this year, it’s all about where the jobs are. Topping the charts are Huntsville, AL; Albuquerque, NM; Washington, DC; Charlottesville, VA; Athens, GA; Olympia, WA; Madison, WI; Austin, TX; Flagstaff, AZ and Raleigh, NC.

Build Your Resume in Other Ways. Just because you’re not working full-time doesn’t mean you can’t add to resume. Seek out volunteer opportunities, find part-time work, or start your own business. Even a simple hourly job can give you customer-service skills that future employers will find valuable. Plus, it will help with the old cash flow.

Make Sure You Have Health Insurance. Unfortunately, accidents and sudden illnesses don’t care if you’re working or not. Although unlikely, a serious medical condition developed early in life and when you don’t have insurance can bankrupt you and, even worse, might make it difficult to get insurance in the future. Many states allow dependents to stay on their parent’s insurance into their mid-twenties. Make it a point to know exactly where you stand in regards to your parents’ health insurance and, if you’re not on it, find your own plan. For more, read some tips on finding health insurance when you’re unemployed.

Stay Positive. The economy will recover and jobs will return. In the meantime, be happy if you finished college. College grads still have a better shot at employment than those with only a high school diploma. In April the unemployment rate for recent college grads was 6.1%; it was 19.6% for high school diploma holders the same age.

For more advice for recent college graduates read my article 5 Financial Tips for Recent College Graduates at the Qvisory Tools for Life Blog.

Published or updated on May 28, 2009

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


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  1. M.Wanzer says:

    Pretty good article. I graduated from college in 2006, when the economy was a little better so I was fortunate, but I definitely feel that the students that are graduating now are having a hard time. Anyhow, I have to fully agree with you on the need to build your resume in other ways, especially through entrepreneurship. If someone is having a hard time finding a job in their field there is nothing wrong with trying to create tjeir own job in that field; even if it fails you learn valuable lessons, get experience, and potential employers will definitely like the initiative you have taken. Great post and Blog!

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