Jobless At Graduation: Getting An Offer After Your Diploma
Assignments & finals: check
Grad photos: check
Post-grad plans: …
I’ve always been somewhat of a planner. Even when I’m winging it, I do so with a plan in mind. So when professors and professional advice columns told me it’s common for media students to graduate without a job, I planned to beat that statistic.
And I failed.
But for one day, I silenced the nagging voice that constantly reminded me of that failure. I woke up just after the sun, feeling the anticipation in my stomach, a current of excitement running through my bones. I donned the cap and gown I’d laid out the night before, dressing in the symbols of educational achievement.
As I sat in my assigned folding chair on the lawn of my now alma mater, everything else fell away. In that moment, I don’t think I could’ve spelled the word failure. I probably couldn’t place the definition. I’d just completed my most challenging and rewarding goal to date.
If you’re a soon-to-be or recent grad who hasn’t gotten that offer letter yet (and, therefore, hasn’t posted the obligatory “LIFE UPDATE” Facebook status), I encourage you to bask in the pride of this moment. You’ve just accomplished what so many others in the world have not had the privilege or ability to do — if the world were 100 people, only 7 would have a college degree.
It seems cliché, though, right? “Live in the moment” and “enjoy right now,” says the girl who didn’t get secure a job before graduation. Well as I write this, I’m patiently awaiting my bi-weekly payroll check and I just paid my gas bill with no worries about whether the transaction would go through. And now, I’m going to share with you the steps I took to get an offer letter a month after graduation.
Read it, then read it again
Resumes and cover letters and email introductions get redundant. It’s the same words, somewhat rearranged to fit the job description and company culture for each application. But you still need to be cautious about the documents you’re tweaking over and over. There’s a reason you’re not getting called back, and it might be in your application packet.
I’ll let you in on a secret I’ve never told anyone before now: I once emailed a hiring manager at one publication with the cover letter intended for another. Because I’d been referred by someone, he was kind enough to let me know and give me a second chance. But most people would’ve just deleted the email and never responded at all. Moral of the story: read everything over at least twice. Triple check, then check again. The embarrassment of this kind of situation is tough during a high-stress job search.
When you finish writing a cover letter, print it and line edit. Read it aloud for clarity. Make a list of all the points you wanted to make and check them off as you read along.
Each time you reformat your resume, print it and line edit that, too. I’ve come across a typo on a resume I’d sent out a bunch of times — there’s no getting that back.
And please, when you send your materials, make sure your attachments match the email or the job portal. The few minutes it takes to re-check will save you trouble in the long run. I know you’ve heard it before, but first impressions are very important.
Escape the screen
The best job search tactic I used had nothing to do with a job board, updating my LinkedIn or scrubbing my social media. I “pounded the pavement” instead. At some point just before graduation, I felt I’d applied for every relevant job in sight. I started to feel unqualified for the jobs I’d just spent four years preparing for.
So I pressed pause on my virtual job hunt and starting asking for meetings with everyone I knew with a finger on the pulse of what publications were looking for. This was a range of media professionals: a young journalist who’d just been promoted from fellow to assistant editor; the supervisors of the internship program I’d completed the summer before; and recruiters at two major publishing companies.
I picked a week, booked a hotel and hopped a 90-minute train to Manhattan, where most major publishers have their headquarters. In all, I scheduled an appointment or two a day, leaving time for me to get myself to each one often with up to 45 minutes to spare. But I figured the trip was worth the trouble and money if it resulted in a job.
I returned the following week for a formal interview. Two days later, I sent in my edit test (the final step before either rejection or offer). Five days after that — just two weeks after my original trip to NYC — I received a call from HR and an offer letter shortly thereafter.
Sometimes, when you feel like you’ve submitted all the applications you can, stepping away from your computer can be your best lead.
Take it all in
The biggest regret I have about the past year is that I didn’t take time to enjoy just being done with school. I didn’t realize that once you assume full adult status, there’s no turning back.
Admittedly, this comes from a place of privilege: I had parents who were willing and able to let me take time after graduation to look for a job without asking for me to contribute financially; those same parents made it possible for me to have very few bills during my college years.
Not everyone is able to take a breather, and some people have been paying their own way since they turned 18 or younger. But if you can, try to take a few weeks or even months to acknowledge what you’ve just accomplished.
During this time, don’t worry about what you’ll do next. Don’t hurriedly apply for positions. Just be still. When you look back at the time you spent jobless after graduation, it’ll seem like a few days in the grand scheme of your career. Why not enjoy it while it lasts?