Coping with Unemployment After College

Ashley Norman
Coping with Unemployment After College

So you've recently graduated. You're thinking, gone are the days when you're forced to speak in front of the class, write 200-page papers, and stay up all night to study for tests (well, maybe you've never had to write a 200-page paper, but nonetheless, distinguishing between MLA format and AP style are no longer your concern). You are free to jump right into the career your major has prepared you for.

WRONG! As Scooter Magruder put it, "The chance of you getting a job related to your major [immediately after college] is the same chance as you being selected as tribute in The Hunger Games." According to the Economic Policy Institute, as of May 2015, the unemployment rate for young college graduates was 7.2%, compared to the national unemployment rate of 5.5%.

Why? As a recent graduate, you might have already realized that the job market is not ideal; job openings are few and far between, and many require a few years' experience in the field. And no, your four years of college do not count as experience to most employers. While some recent grads are willing to enter the workforce underemployed (taking jobs that do not require a college degree, typically for less pay), some graduates are unwilling to accept minimum wage jobs or jobs outside their major.

If you fall into the category of recent graduates who want to hold out for that dream job, or a job related to your major, you are going to have a lot of tough decisions to make, and these decisions need to be made carefully in order to help you in the future. Below, you will find information and advice on how to cope with unemployment after college.


Postgraduate Blues

Man in suit sitting on ground holding a cardboard sign

As you venture on your journey to finding your dream job, or maybe even just full-time employment within your desired field, you're bound to become frustrated- and maybe even a little depressed. This depression is commonly referred to as postgraduate blues, a very common experience in which recent graduates feel worry or depression in the reality of the professional world and tight job market.

As Dana Johnson from Gen Twenty put it, "I lived in a constant state of regret, dwelling over all of the things I should have done to better prepare myself for the "real world."

And while it can be made worse when you see your friends scoring positions right out of college, and it all happens for your peers faster than it does for you, the key is to remember that you are not alone. Use your time to identify your passion and look to Thought Catalog for tips on how to get over your postgraduate blues.


Benefits of Unemployment After College

While the frustration of not being able to find full-time employment in your field can make you depressed, there are several benefits to being unemployed. Though you will have to explain the employment gap to your future employer, if you use your time wisely, you may end up with a wealth of impressive things to put on your resume. Here are just a few of the benefits of temporary unemployment.


Woman meditating on beach at sunset

Time to Recharge

After years of working (and partying) hard in college, you might be feeling a little burnt out. This can be especially true if you took on an unusually large work load, were heavily involved in student life, and/or held a part-time job.

One benefit of being unemployed is that you now have time to relax. In relaxing you will find it easier to focus on the kind of job that's best for your career path, and you'll get the chance to power through the mountains of resumes and cover letters.



Trying yoga or other exercises, picking up a hobby/skill or establishing a resolution.


Figuring Out What You Really Want

Maybe you're still not sure what you actually want to do with your life. While other students were thinking, "Will I get a job after college?" you might have been more concerned with your schoolwork or extracurricular activities. Maybe you no longer want to pursue the field in which you majored.

Both of these situations are very common, but now you have the chance to think about what you really want. Try taking a Myer-Briggs or similar personality test to gauge what professions are most suitable to your personality type. In doing this, you will be able to find a job that you are passionate about.



Visiting your college career center, an adviser, mentor, or local job center to help you sort things out.


Planning Your Move

Planning your move does not refer to packing your belongings into boxes and moving to a new city or across town. Instead, it refers to you taking the time to set realistic goals (both large-scale and small-scale) and list out how you are going to achieve them.

  • First, create your "big picture" goals. These should be things you plan to achieve in the next 5 to 10 years.
  • Next, break these down into smaller objectives- and include the tasks you need to complete in order to achieve them.
  • Finally, don't just set a deadline for accomplishing each objective; instead create a specific schedule of tasks and stick to it. This strategic planning will help you figure out how to make your next move your best move.


Calendar or task-checklist apps, or physical planners.

Check out our 6 tips for graduates with no work experience

Ways to Spend Your Time

In figuring out your purpose, applying for jobs, and setting goals for yourself, you're still going to find days where you have a lot of time on your hands. You should use as much of this time as possible to better yourself, which will ultimately improve your chances of finding the job you want. Here are some things you can do to build up your resume, stay involved, and develop your own interests.


Young girl with group of volunteers


Perhaps you were a member of a student organization in college and had opportunities to volunteer and serve. No matter what your past experiences are with volunteer work, your unemployment would be extremely well spent volunteering. You should consider volunteering on a regular basis with the same organization, rather than working with multiple organizations just one or two times.

Your commitment and excitement will make you a valuable asset to the organization, you will feel good for giving back and advancing a cause, and your dedication and consistency will stand out on your resume.

If you are a devoted volunteer and become friendly with any full-time staff members, ask if you may put them down as references when you begin applying for jobs, and certainly add your volunteer experience to your resume or LinkedIn profile. Volunteering is a win-win situation; an organization finds the help it needs, and you gain contacts and experience.



Utilizing to find great volunteer opportunities.



Have you ever wanted to take off and explore the world? Now that you've graduated from college, this is your chance. Whether you want to go backpacking in Europe, take a road trip across the country, explore the wonders of the world, or volunteer abroad, traveling expands your view of the world, which leads to excellent experience, therefore giving you an advantage over other potential candidates.



Utilizing cheap travel websites for deals and tips for budget traveling.



Yes, you probably did a ton of reading while you were in school, but how much time did you have to read books of your choice? Now is a good time to get back to pleasure reading. Throw in some books written by people in the industry you hope to work in and check out books about searching for jobs. Think of these books as having two purposes: inspiration and knowledge.



Reading articles and magazines from within your industry; joining a book club or starting a blog.


Business man telling joke to group


If you are having a hard time getting a call back for a job within your field, then it's probably time to start networking. As you have graduated from college, you are now a part of your college's alumni association- this should be the first place you look to find connections within your field.

If you want to explore opportunities outside of your school, almost every city around the world has opportunities for you to network and meet new people. Some of these people may work in your desired field, though those outside your interests can still prove valuable.

Either way, these networking opportunities are great ways to make connections and learn more about the job market and various industries. For networking ideas, check out Business Pundit's "25 Best Places to Network."



Keeping up with alumni association communications, the local newspaper, and online events.


How to Pay Your Bills While Unemployed

Going after your dreams is great, but one of the trickiest and most difficult aspects of being unemployed is making sure you have money to pay your bills. If you do not have some sort of savings built up by this point, then you are probably going to struggle keeping up with your payments. Here are some ways you can save money and keep your bills under control.


Young girl unpacking car, moving home after college

Move Back Home

The simplest and most cost-effective way to keep your bills down is to move back home with your parents. This may not be your favorite solution, but if your parents are understanding and will allow you to live at home rent free, you can reduce your monthly spending by quite a bit without rent or a mortgage to pay.


Take Out a New Loan

You can always try to take out a personal loan to cover your expenses while you are unemployed. Realize, though, that this loan will add to the debt you may have already accumulated from your student loans.


Defer Your Student Loan Payments

You can minimize your monthly bills by deferring your student loan payments. Usually, you must apply to do this by providing proof of your unemployment or underemployment. If you do not qualify for deferment, you may qualify for at least lowering your monthly payments. Investigate your options and find out what would work best for you.


Health Insurance After College

Due to the Affordable Care Act, you can stay on your parent's health insurance plan until you turn 26. If this is not an option for you, or you are almost 26, you may qualify for a special enrollment period after college, or qualify for Medicaid or other state-based programs. Alternatively, short-term health insurance may be the best option if you are healthy and just need a temporary, low-cost health insurance plan while you look for full-time employment.

NOTE: Short-term medical (STM) is NOT ACA compliant, so if you choose to only purchase a short-term policy for the year, you will have to pay the tax penalty. If you have an STM policy (or go without ACA-compliant coverage) for no more than 2 consecutive months, however, you can avoid this fee by claiming a "short gap in coverage."

It's not always the most ideal situation to be unemployed after college, but it doesn't have to be the worst, either. If you occupy your time with meaningful experiences, you can make yourself more desirable on your resume- and you will be well on your way to landing the job of your dreams.

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