Still Unemployed After College? What the Job Search is Really Like

by Brianna Allison

finding a job after college

This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s fall editorial intern
Brianna Allison. Find her on Instagram at @ballison7. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at thezillennialzine@gmail.com.

I knew that finding a job after college was going to be hard, but I didn’t realize that it was going to be THIS difficult. You spend hours filling out application after application but hear nothing back. Finally, you receive an email from a company! But of course, it’s a rejection. You reflect for a moment, only to start the cycle over again. It’s a never-ending process that is similar for most recent graduates, whether you received your Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, or even Ph.D. I should know since I graduated in May of 2021, I’ve applied to 250+ jobs, and I’m still searching.

Where do you even start?

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After I graduated, I didn’t even know where to begin with the job process. I was clueless about what I really wanted to do with my degrees, so it was overwhelming to start looking. I originally started by just googling, “Journalism jobs near me.” But that brought up some sketchy websites and didn’t really lead me in the direction that I wanted. 

So my next step was to make profiles on professional networking websites like LinkedIn and Indeed. Once I had my profiles created, I started browsing. I wasn’t looking for anything too specific, so I just typed in journalism to see what would come up. Now, this is when I started to slightly panic. I was looking at entry-level jobs, but they were all asking for 1-3 years of experience or even 3-5 years! I just graduated from college, so my only experience was sitting in a classroom and learning from lectures and books. So how do I get experience? I soon realized that I really had to sell myself on my resume if I wanted to get a job.

Build your resume

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Your resume is typically the first thing that companies look at to decide if you should be their new hire. Now, that was scary for me because I felt like my resume was lacking. I only had one internship during college, so I had to work with my limited experience. I included not only my internship experience but my current work experience as an office assistant. Even though it was not in my field, I didn’t want any long gaps on my resume. I also wanted to showcase the unique skills I’ve required that are still relevant and useful to the position.

If you don’t have a ton of work experience, the skills section of your resume is where you can show off your qualifications. In this section, you need to sell yourself and include the expertise you’ve acquired through your classes, projects and extracurriculars. To make this section of your resume even better, you should include skills that are highlighted in the job description. Doing so will show your potential employer that your skills and experience align well with the position. Even if you don’t have the experience some positions require, there are different ways to showcase your strengths, values and passions!

Make a Portfolio

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After I declared my majors in my junior year, everyone kept talking about how important it is to have a digital portfolio. But no one ever told me how much I would need one. Every application asks for the link to my website or portfolio. Now it’s not a required field, but I knew that it would only benefit me if I had one. So, after applying to a few jobs I came to the conclusion that I needed to create a website that had some of my favorite written pieces and projects that I created in college. Maybe this would show people that even though I don’t have career experience, I still know what I’m doing. So when I got COVID-19 right before Christmas, I figured that my two-week quarantine project would be the perfect time to design my digital portfolio. It may not have helped me to get a job immediately, but it’s definitely helped to encapsulate my work, skills and who I am to employers.

Cover letters are essential

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Cover letters are another key piece of a job application that I never put much thought into before my job search. I remember writing one in high school for my senior job-shadow project, but that had been the first and last time that I had written one. So I needed a major refresher. I read many articles on the internet and read some examples before crafting my own. I struggled with making it sound professional but also letting my personality shine through. After hours of writing, deleting and starting over, I finally felt that I had written the perfect letter for one of my applications. I submitted it and started my next job application right after. 

That’s when I realized that the letter that I had just written didn’t work for every application. I noticed different jobs highlighted different skills and qualifications that others may not include in their job description. One letter wasn’t going to fit every job. I needed to make each of my cover letters unique to every application because they all were looking for something different. Making an individualized letter takes a lot of time and effort, but they are a great opportunity to elaborate on your skills or experience that doesn’t necessarily shine through on your resume.

Dealing with the rejection

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The most frustrating part about the entire job search process is the rejection that you face with each application. I expected rejection emails stating that they were looking for someone with more experience or going in a different direction. However, what I wasn’t prepared for was the number of companies that just never reached out at all. I felt completely overlooked by these companies, especially after I spent so much time tailoring my resume, cover letter and other materials specifically to the company and job description. But after each rejection email that I received or didn’t receive, I started to doubt myself more and more. I started to wonder how I was ever going to get a job. And all you see is everyone talking about how everyone is short-staffed and looking for employees. Maybe there are lots of openings, but that doesn’t mean that it is easy to find a job.

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The job search is never-ending, but it’s okay to feel defeated sometimes. When this happens, I try to remind myself to stay hopeful each step of the way because it will work out eventually. I apply to anything and everything that interests me, whether I think that I’m qualified or not. I sell myself on my resume and let my personality shine in my cover letter. I use a picture of myself on my resume so that the company can put a face to my name. I name all of the documents that I upload to my application with my name and not just “resume.” 

To gain the necessary experience, I took two internships this summer. Internships are a great opportunity to network and build relationships with different people in my field who may help me in the future. Now, all of these things are a lot easier said than done, and it’s okay to struggle finding a job after college. Just know that if you’re feeling hopeless, stressed or lost in this process, you’re not alone. 

If you could relate to any of these experiences during your own job search, can you please share some of your most helpful tips below?

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