What to Do If You Can’t Find a Full-Time Job After College

What to Do If You Can’t Find a Full-Time Job After College
portrait of Melissa Venable, Ph.D.
By Melissa Venable, Ph.D.

Published on April 27, 2021

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Graduating into a weak economy and high unemployment can be challenging. Just ask the class of 2008, whose graduates entered the job market during the Great Recession. Many experienced underemployment — working fewer hours, in jobs outside their fields of study, or in positions not requiring a college degree.

Today's college graduates face similar employment challenges due to COVID-19, though there are signs that the economy is improving.

If your goal is full-time employment in your field of study, you might have to wait a bit. But don't think of it as downtime or even lost time. While you can't control the job market, you can control the value you bring to your next employer.

Here, we look at the different paths you can take after college to help you land a full-time job.

Gain Professional Experience

College grads can further develop the skills they learned through a variety of activities. As you seek new opportunities to gain experience, think about transferable skills that can be helpful in an array of industries and the job competencies that employers are looking for now.

true Part-Time Jobs

While these positions generally offer lower wages than full-time opportunities, they help you avoid a glaring employment gap on your resume. Some employers even provide benefits for part-time employees (e.g., health insurance, public transportation plans, paid time off, etc.).

Internships

Most internships are designed for college students, but recent graduates have options, too. Look for programs in fields with specific hiring needs, such as the federal government's Recent Graduates Program. Did you complete an internship as a student? Contact that employer to find out about other programs they may offer for recent grads.

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer activities can help you not only learn new skills but also expand your network. Want to find work in your area? Join a local nonprofit's volunteer program to immerse yourself in the community. Consider virtual volunteer opportunities as well.

Gain Knowledge

We're all lifelong learners in the modern workplace. Many careers are continuously evolving due to factors such as changing economic conditions and technological advances. Consider how you can continue learning after earning your college degree.

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are low- or no-cost options that allow you to keep learning, often at your own pace. Explore the vast course catalogs on MOOC sites like Udemy and Coursera. LinkedIn Learning, another online learning platform, focuses specifically on workplace skills.

Membership in a professional association can be beneficial, even if you're still looking for a job. Many of these groups offer job boards and networking events, in addition to training programs, webinars, and conferences. Find professional associations in your field while keeping an eye out for student and new professional membership rates.

Do employers in your field look for applicants with specific certificates or certifications? If so, completing one of these programs may increase your value to a hiring manager. Be cautious about the financial obligations of these programs, however, especially if you're already managing student loans.

Review Your Job Search Strategies

If you've been looking for a job for a long time with no success, it might be a good idea to take a step back and reassess your approach. What can you do differently to attract the attention of the companies and organizations you're interested in working for?

Online Presence

Take inventory of your social media accounts. Close any you don't use anymore, and make sure your other profiles are up to date and professional-looking. Your online presence represents you, but what exactly is it saying? Try Googling yourself to see what recruiters might find when they search for information about you online.

Job Search Skills

Tailor your resume and cover letter for each job application you submit. And ask someone already working in the field (e.g., a friend, teacher, or mentor) to provide a resume review. Be sure to spend some time practicing for interviews, too.

Search Criteria location-marker

If you've been focusing on a specific location or a specific job title, it may be time to expand your search. Explore opportunities in other cities and remote positions. Consider jobs that aren't directly related to your major but that may match your skills and work values.

Stay Connected With Your College

Graduation doesn't mean you're no longer able to connect with your college's support systems. In fact, most schools establish services and communities specifically for alumni. One smart step to take is to find out more about your college's alumni activities.

Career Center Services

College career centers increasingly offer services to new alumni. Some even maintain separate centers to assist alumni with career planning and job search needs throughout their careers. Look for events, coaching, and resources by going to your college's alumni or career services website.

Alumni Associations

Most schools have an active alumni association focused on networking and encouraging connection with the institution. These groups typically offer a variety of resources, which may include mentoring, job boards, and regional chapters.

Network to Get Referrals

You're likely familiar with the saying "It's not what you know but who you know that counts." This can often be true for job searches. You might've also heard that referrals are a top source for hiring managers. The more people you know, the more likely you are to get a referral.

Most of the activities included in this article will result in getting to know more people in a professional or educational context. Don't be afraid to ask for referrals from people who know you and who work in organizations and industries you're interested in joining. As many as two-thirds of companies have employee referral programs.

Don't give up! There's no single right way to land a full-time job. Be open to the possibilities, and take the initiative to continue to grow, learn, and improve your approach while expanding your professional network.


Feature Image: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

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