My graduation with a degree in philosophy was tainted with trepidation about the future. With a six-month deadline before my student loan payments kicked in and the threat of living with my parents for life hanging over my head, I was eager to start earning a paycheck. For months I fretted over my computer screen, grasping at every opportunity and sniffing out any leads.
Those who were kind enough to respond to my applications admired my enthusiasm, but they were usually looking for someone with more experience. I felt devalued and unappreciated. I was stuck in limbo, waiting for a job so I could begin the next chapter of my life.
After four months of stress and self-doubt, I finally received an offer. My whole life changed, but I realized I had been waiting for a job to start living. All I had to show for the past four months was an expanded knowledge of Netflix, a head full of split ends, and a seriously messy room. I had missed out on a rare opportunity with which many postgraduates are presented: free time.
If you’re a recent grad still waiting for your big break, don’t waste this time. Though finding a job is a priority, it doesn’t have to completely overshadow every aspect of your life. That being said, unemployment coupled with living at home can be tricky, so here are a few tips to help you keep your head while finding your way.
01. Start a Routine
For the past four years, you’ve had a crazy schedule. Balancing classes, friends, clubs, sports, internships—no two semesters have looked the same. Now, it’s time to put those honed scheduling skills to use. Set aside times for job searching, eating lunch, perusing social media, spending time with friends, working out, doing laundry, and whatever else you need to accomplish that day. Sleeping in every day may sound appealing at first, but you will want to start setting an alarm in order to make the most of the free—though limited—time you have before you hop on the 9-to-5 wagon. You don’t have to assign activities for every minute of the day, but keeping some semblance of a schedule will make you more productive. Plus,the familiarity of a routine—whether eating healthily or doing a bit of exercise—will keep you calm and focused on your most stressful or discouraging days.
02. Get Ready
Along with having a daily schedule, be sure to include a morning routine that will boost your productivity and put you in a good mood so you’ll be ready to tackle your projects, like job hunting. It is extremely tempting to lounge around in sweatpants all day, but this definitely won’t motivate you to get to work. Whenever I find myself going to bed in the same clothes I woke up in, I feel disappointed in myself. According to a recent study, what you wear and how clean it is greatly impacts your productivity. So put on clothes that meet the needs of your day, even if it’s just jeans and a T-shirt.
03. Take Care of Yourself
After graduation, I fell into a routine of unhealthy eating and little to no exercise. Though I was home alone most days, I often had no desire to make healthy meals or exercise in any way that required me to get off the couch. But, according to this article by the American Psychological Association, one way to feel better about yourself mentally is to treat yourself better physically. “The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong,” the article says. “Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.”
When I started actually making nutritious meals, drinking enough water, and doing some physical activity, I noticed immediate benefits. I was less lethargic and more optimistic. If you have trouble with this too, try planning out your meals in advance. If you hate working out (like I do), try a new exercise routine. I started doing YouTube videos of yoga in my living room, and it really helped me relax and got my blood pumping at the same time—check out these free workout videos. On days when you just can’t work out, try taking a walk around the neighborhood or the grocery store—you could even volunteer to run errands for someone. Anything to get off the couch and away from the screen—computer, TV, or otherwise.
04. Be Joyful!
This is your time to spend with family and friends. Don’t let it go to waste obsessing over your inbox. Good things are coming your way, even if you can’t see them right now. Keep in mind that this may be the last time you live with your family or in your hometown. The possibilities are endless. Schedule catch-up sessions with nearby relatives, or reconnect with childhood friends who might also be back at home.
It may seem like everyone else is busy, but the beauty of having a flexible schedule is that you can work with others to find a slot of time. You don’t have to spend money either. There are a number of ways to stay social on a frugal budget. If a friend wants to go out to dinner, suggest having a picnic or barbecue, or invite them over to help you cook a new recipe. If you want to spend the day with someone, hiking, biking, or reminiscing over old photos are free. There is a lot to do when you put your mind to it.
05. Help Someone Else
It may feel like you are the one who needs help, but it’s always beneficial to devote time to others. Sign up to volunteer in a nursing home, or offer to do some extra chores around the house. Work once a week at a soup kitchen, or babysit the neighbor’s kids over the weekend.
Try to pick something in your field, If you studied science, try volunteering at your local hospital. If you studied liberal arts, offer your time to a nearby school that hosts after-school programs or a camp. You can use sites like Volunteer Match to aid your search. Not only will it give purpose to your day, but it may also provide you with recommendations and opportunities for employment.
06. Pick a Self-Improvement Project
Have you always wanted to start a blog but never had the time? Now you can. Been eyeing your friend’s guitar that he never plays? Ask if you can borrow it for a while. Wish you were stronger/more flexible/could run longer? Set aside some time for a workout. Do you want to be well-versed in classic literature? Check out a book at the library—it’s cooler than you think. Not only does this help you set goals and use your time productively, but it will also improve your self-esteem during a time when it may be taking a beating, which brings me to my last point.
07. Don’t Lose Faith
You have value, and you are worth someone’s time and attention. Don’t let yourself get dejected if potential employers don’t see that in you. There is a job out there for you. It may not be the job you expected or the job you dreamed about, but it will be a step in the right direction. When you believe that you have something to offer, employers are more likely to believe it, too.
The job that I have now has truly been a blessing. As a philosophy major, it is difficult to find work within my field outside of teaching. The nonprofit that I work for is arming me with knowledge and skills that will be applicable to any job I may work in the future.
Though I didn’t follow my own advice, I wish that I had, especially when it came to spending time with my family. Now that I live away from my hometown, I cherish the quality time I was able to spend with my family and friends. I wish that I had made it more of a priority. Looking back, I would have spent less time worrying about getting a job and more time embracing that season of my life.
If you’re in the same boat, stay positive. Everything will work out—just keep trying.
Photo Credit: Erynn Christine