So you've graduated and you're feeling ready to conquer the world! You worked hard in college or graduate school and your GPA was on point! You did that! Everything seems to be working out according to plan - except you don't have a job lined up yet. You might be thinking..."why me? I have a lot to offer, especially since I've gained a degree." What's worse is when you see many of your classmates with amazing job offers at top tier companies making bank. It can drive one to an emotional breakdown.
That was me 3 years ago after graduating with my MBA from Georgetown University. I graduated from one of the top 20 MBA programs in the country, one that has a wide alumni network and the reputation to go with it. I assumed it would be a piece of cake to get a job and have one lined up before they handed me my diploma. But it just didn't work out that way. In all honesty it was months before I found a paying job. It was hard to accept that reality, and it led to a lot of frustration, anger, questioning, being broke, and naturally, depression. Def not the type of life adventure I wanted to be on.
My word that I felt reflected my MBA experience was "resilient." I chose it because I had overcome so much before and during business school. I made it through even though there were plenty of moments I thought I wouldn't. For that reason I decorated my graduation hat with the word. What I didn't realize is that my resilience would be necessary in the season I was in right after graduation.
I haven't shared this experience in detail with many people, but I think it's appropriate to do so now, during graduation season. I hope that my getting through the struggle of finding a job post-graduation can help someone who is currently in that position. In sum, the best piece of advice I can give you is: Don't give up; it WILL happen. Let me preface my story by saying that I have since jumpstarted my post-MBA career and I am in a role, in my field, earning more than I ever have. I am blessed! But I didn't think that 3 years ago.
Here is some practical advice that I hope will allow you to find hope and cope in what might seem a dark, disappointing time in your life:
1. Realize that there is nothing "wrong" with you.
I'm referring to those little lies that pop into your head. And believing lies about oneself has never helped anyone. The truth is that there is a job out there for any level of skill or experience. Avoid internalizing you not getting a certain position or interview as there being something personally wrong with you. I fell into this trap, and fell straight into depression. By all means, do the practical things to help you: do interview prep, change up your resume, network...but trust me, I did ALL of that (I probably changed my resume 20 times and spent countless hours doing interview prep)...and none of that worked. There just has to be a match between you and the job. I'm a firm believer that if a door didn't open, it wasn't your door, at least not at that point in time. So don't make it about a personal shortcoming.
2. Do consulting/work pro bono (i.e. free).
This is something I def took advantage of. If you have a skill and want a job using that skill, one way to really prove it is by doing the work for free. There are several advantages to this: a) you prevent yourself from allowing gaps in your resume, b) you continue to build skill & experience in your work field, c) you keep yourself busy/occupied, and d) you are able to build relationship with someone who can vouch for you. It's a win-win. Experience is experience, getting paid or not.
3. Start a business.
I never fully launched a business, but I absolutely worked on a business idea while I had that time - I'm an entrepreneur at heart!! I'm not saying this business will immediately create a way to provide for yourself, but it's a way to take advantage of the time you have to invest in yourself. And if you do start a venture, what great material to put on your resume and discuss in an interview!
4. Stay encouraged, even if others around you don't understand.
If I could write a letter to my MBA student self - it would center around this topic. Listen - do not assume that friends and family will understand your struggle and will encourage you. And you don't have to be bitter about it - if they don't understand, they just don't. If you have supporting friends/family, that's great. But sometimes when your unemployment drags on like mine did, people might start to say things like: you're being too picky or you're not trying hard enough. LIES. I applied to HUNDREDS of jobs. (Yea, you read that right, I said hundreds). I was anything but lazy. I would wake up in a panic and jump on the computer for the next 8 hours or so applying and networking. If struggling to find a job wasn't hard enough, try dealing with unsupportive friends/family or the thoughts of inadequacy in your own head.
Let me tell you something - the only way I survived that battle was encouraging myself with the word of God. There is nothing like the truth of the Bible that will snatch you out of a pit of destruction. And that's a fact. I remember having to force myself to believe God's promises, when I couldn't see anything happening. Some of my fav scriptures that got me through are: Habakkuk 3: 17-18, Psalm 34:18, and Palm 111:7. These aren't shouting scriptures; these are scriptures that I used to cry out to God in my brokenness and asked him to hold me up when I couldn't stand. I made it through, thank you Jesus!
I would also recommend the book: The Power of Not Yet by Donna Pisani. This book gave me fresh perspective on waiting on God for what is mine. "Not yet" is not a "no". It means wait. And you'll be surprised what you learn about yourself while you wait. Trust me, you'll come out of this experience better than when you went in.
If you have the money to travel, this is the perfect opportunity. This wasn't an option for me, but if you've been following me for any amount of time, traveling is like breathing for me: very necessary. Take that cruise you've always wanted to take, go to that Caribbean island...whatever you can afford.
6. Spend some time with family
I moved home after not finding a job right away post-graduation, and while it was challenging because they didn't fully understand my struggle, I got to spend some quality time with my niece. I fully consider my niece as my child and I LOVED spending quality time with her. As a result, we developed an even closer bond. Being at home allowed me to do things like accompany her to her first day of kindergarten, help out with her birthday party at school and at home, help her with her homework or just snuggle after a long day. To this day, those are the priceless moments in my princess' life that I truly treasure.
These 6 things are the best pieces of advice I can give. I know that everyone's experience is unique, but just know that if you don't have a job lined up that you are not alone. Keep striving, stay positive and don't give up. God will open up the right opportunity for you that will be a match and that will make you thankful for all the other closed doors. I truly believe that in the end, you will have grown and learned some valuable things from that season.
Till next time,