My Year Of Job Searching: 15 Things I've Learned From [F]unemployment

by Kelsey Welke

They say being unemployed is a job in itself, and I couldn’t agree more.

You have to tailor your résumé to each job, craft clever cover letters (but make sure it doesn’t look like you’re trying too hard), attend networking events, connect with industry professionals and colleagues from your alma mater, keep yourself busy with volunteering or a job, stay on top of industry trends and prep for interviews. The list goes on.

Unemployment is absolutely miserable.

I was unemployed for four months following my graduation from UW-Whitewater in December.

I do have a full-time, paid internship now, but these points are still as relevant as they were three months ago, as I’m starting the job search once again.

This is what I learned (and am still learning) from 2015: My Year of Job Searching.

1. Getting a job took longer than I thought it would.

I made deadlines in my mind: 1) Get a job by January; 2) start a job in February; 3) find an apartment and move in by April; 4) save money.

It’s June, and I’m way behind on my schedule. I still don’t have a real job, an apartment or any savings.

It's funny how life works, huh?

2. A degree does not guarantee a job.

I feel like many college students are brought up believing that a college education guarantees a job after graduation. We’re taught if we attend class and get good grades, we can easily land a job after graduation. But, that’s not good enough.

We have to not only be involved in extracurriculars, Greek life and organizations, but also take on leadership positions. That’s not good enough.

We have to get internships, part-time jobs and do freelance work; then, we have to get recommendations on LinkedIn. That’s not good enough.

We have to network, stay on top of our fields and connect with professionals. And, that’s still not good enough.

3. I had no idea moving back home after graduation would be so difficult.

It’s sad how I’ve lived in my parents' house for almost 20 years, and now it doesn’t feel like home.

My dad repainted my bedroom walls to stark white and hasn’t put any photos or decorations up, so it feels like I’m living in a hospital room.

I think it's just as hard on my parents as it is on me. I haven’t lived at home for four years, so I felt like I was invading a space that was once my own.

4. My (f)unemployment was both glorious and awful.

I stayed with my boyfriend in downtown Milwaukee most weeks and weekends.

While he was at work, I applied for jobs, watched terrible daytime TV, cooked, baked, cleaned, napped and felt like a housewife.

But, I also had a lot of "me time" during those four months, which was fantastic (something an introvert can never get enough of).

I started exercising; I watched a lot of documentaries; I read books. I was also extremely unhappy.

A lot of my unhappiness was attributed to how awful I felt about myself and my life; I felt like I had lost myself. Those were some dark times. I was depressed, unmotivated and down on myself most of the time.

I knew I had to stay busy, whether it be through writing in my journal, photography, spending time with friends or watching movies to stay on track.

5. Networking with strangers is exhausting for introverts.

Introverts hate small talk. And what powers networking? Small talk.

Of course, I forced myself to go to a couple networking events. I did what I was comfortable with.

Baby steps are key when you’re entering an uncomfortable situation because you know it will help you out in the long run.

6. It’s hard not to feel worthless.

I get it: You’ve worked so hard the last few years in college — in your internships, jobs and classes — and, now, you have nothing to show for it.

Bills are piling up, dreams you had about post-grad life seem far out of reach, and personal deadlines pass.

It’s hard not to compare yourself to other graduates or young professionals. I stalked my dream companies like crazy. I checked company websites and online job boards like it was my religion. I applied to jobs at least once a week.

I checked in with my peers I graduated from college with to see if they got jobs. I always had LinkedIn open on my computer.

I was doing everything right, and it was very frustrating not seeing any results.

7. Apply for jobs you want but might not be qualified for.

This piece of advice I got from my boyfriend. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you apply for a job you are 90 percent sure you won’t get?

They’re not going to reply to your email or ask you in for an interview? Big whoop.

I had a great experience when I applied for a job I knew I wasn’t qualified for. I met with the CEO of the smaller agency, and we talked for almost an hour.

I went in knowing I wasn’t going to get hired for the position, but I was flattered the CEO wanted to get to know me in case any future positions opened up.

I had an open mind throughout the interview, and in the end, I learned a lot about the company and its needs, which was more than I ever could through its website and social channels.

8. Remember what your parents told you about putting your personal information on the Internet.

By this, I mean your phone number and address. When you upload your résumé to job boards with your phone number, you will get phone calls from strangers.

I learned this the hard way. I should have written, "I prefer to be contacted via email" because I cannot tell you how many random calls from recruiters about sales positions I’ve received in the past five months.

9. Get organized.

I kept an Excel grid of all the jobs I applied for, if I had heard back, contact information and any other relevant information.

This helped me out so much when I would apply to multiple jobs at the same company, or if I had forgotten if I applied to a certain job.

10. Don’t be afraid to follow up with contacts.

I don’t know why, but I hate talking on the phone to strangers. If I didn’t hear from a company soon after I sent in my application, my boyfriend suggested I follow up with a call.

People can ignore emails, he said, but they can’t ignore a phone call. Good point.

Companies get a ton of emails regarding job openings, especially if it’s a coveted company or position. Calling the office and following up with your application, interview or hiring process is a smart way to stay on top of what’s going on.

Again, what’s the worst that could happen?

11. It’s hard to be creative when you’re unemployed.

I couldn’t write. I couldn’t sleep. I didn't blog for months. All of my creative energy went into writing cover letters, updating my résumé for each job position and soaking up information in career-related articles.

Instead of blogging and tweeting about journalism and public relations-related articles, I leaned on my past experiences to shine in my résumé and cover letter.

I leaned on Ideas That Evoke, who graciously let me work part-time from home a couple of months after I graduated from college. I leaned on my parents, friends and boyfriend.

12. Get used to talking about your unemployment.

When I would see my parents, go to a family gathering, visit my boyfriend’s parents, hang out with my friends or basically be in any social situation, I always feared someone would ask me how the job search was going. I cringe even thinking about it.

"It’s going," I’d always say, not wanting to elaborate. You’ll get used to hearing, "Well, I’m sure you’ll get something soon," and "Keep your head up."

It’s hard not to feel like a failure when all of your friends, boyfriend’s friends and people who graduated from college with you all have jobs. It’s hard thinking everyone will define you by your lack of a job.

13. It’s scary not having a game plan.

All I wanted was some sort of security, reassurance, guarantee or a contract. And all I got were unreturned emails and unwanted phone calls.

It was scary not knowing in what kind of place I would be come summer. But, then again, I had the whole world. I could apply anywhere, live anywhere and do anything.

I even applied at the Peace Corps (something I’ve wanted to do for forever) because at what better time could I jet off for two years? Having that freedom is equally exciting as it is terrifying.

14. Connect with recruiters.

I had a friend from college who connected with me on LinkedIn while I was in the middle of my job hunt.

We met up; I took a typing assessment; we talked about my strengths and weaknesses, and she suggested a job for me.

Usually, recruiters will reach out to you if they see your résumé on LinkedIn or a job board, but I was lucky to knew her in college.

Never underestimate the power and connections of a recruiter!

15. Never stop learning.

I worked for a year and a half at my university’s career center, so I knew a lot about job searching, but I still wanted to learn more about interviews, workplace culture and résumé and cover letter building.

I’ve seen so many people’s résumés and online portfolios, and I learned something about every single one.

Never stop updating your résumé, researching interview tips, Pinning appropriate office outfits, tweeting relevant information, learning about different companies and crafting your skills.

And when you do get that job, kick butt.