The day I graduated from university was such a significant stage and transition in my life. It wasn’t only because of getting the degree but rather, my perception of myself and the world changed.
When I was in school, I thrived. I participated in numerous organizations and held officer roles. I was featured in my university site. I had good grades. Teachers showered me with compliments for my work. I was admired by some peers. I basked in my school achievements. I felt powerful in school. I then graduated and stepped out into the world not shielded by the comforts of the classroom and student clubs. I was not as powerful as I thought. I did not know as much as I believed. I was struggling to find my place and worth. Completing university and trying to enter the workforce was a humbling experience for me.
My first job after graduation was a part-time role as a Media Relations Coordinator for an NGO. I wanted to obtain a full-time job then but I couldn’t. After I left the job, I was unemployed for 5 months. That’s when I came back to Nigeria and then started the National Youth Service Corps. After I completed the service corps, it’s taken 6 months till I now have a full-time role.
So I understand the difficulty in searching for a job. It is not easy. It is frustrating. It takes a negative toll on your mental health. Below, are my tips on how I survived through my period of job searching.
Stay Organized by Having a Plan of Action for Your Job Search
The first thing you need to do while on the job search is to come up with a plan of action. As you apply for jobs, keep track of the applications sent by listing things down. I would use an excel sheet to know the places I already applied for.
Also, consider what you can do to keep yourself productive? You can attend networking events. You can take classes. You can take up volunteering or involve yourself in a trade/small business. It’s better to keep yourself a bit busy than idle because it will dampen your mood if you don’t have other things to do apart from applying for jobs.
Attend Networking Events to Learn, Mingle and Gain Advice
I always enjoy attending networking events. It helps to broaden your mind. It keeps you informed. You meet new people who you can learn from or gain advise. It doesn’t matter whether the person is younger or the same age and stage as you, there’s always something someone else can impact on you.
Attending networking events during my job search kept me motivated because I was not just sitting at home. It also encouraged me because I met people who could give me some advice. Networking matters especially when unemployed because you never know what useful information or resource could be passed on from someone to you. That’s why you have to brush up on your networking skills. Trust me, networking is not as scary and intimidating as people assume. It’s a matter of how you present yourself and how you approach others.
Take Classes to Develop Your Skills
Taking up classes to develop your skills helps you to improve on yourself. I decided to take a creative writing class after leaving my first job. This helped me to strengthen my writing skills. This also brought a lot of joy to my days. I was surrounded by other writers trying to improve on different pieces they were working on. I enjoyed reading their stories, critiquing literature and learning how to improve my writing.
Volunteering While Looking for Jobs is Helpful and Productive
You can make time to volunteer for organizations that pique your interest. This will help you to be doing something. It will also boost your mood through interactions with other people. In addition, being a volunteer is productive because you’re spending your time making an impact. For people like myself who seek greater meaning in all the things we do, volunteering is that source to light up our humanitarian spirit.
The organization you volunteer for could even end up being the place you work at because you can be informed about job opportunities through the people who are employed there.
Make Time for Fun While Job Searching
When you’re searching for a job, it can consume you. You apply and wait. You go on interviews and you wait. You wait and wait in uncertainty. It drained me at times. That’s why I needed to schedule some fun. Fun is making an effort to spend time with friends or family with positive energy to lift you up. Fun is doing activities you love such as going to movies, museums, eating out, reading or being in nature. Whatever fun is for you, as long as it does not harm you, go ahead and do it. Give yourself a break from staring at your inbox.
Take Up a Form of Physical Activity to Boost Your Mood
Taking up a physical activity is good for your health and especially mental state. When you are unemployed, it can have a negative impact on your mental health. It lowered my self-esteem. I felt embarrassed because as a student, I worked hard yet after I graduated, I felt inadequate. Unemployment also made me feel bitter because I had been going on interviews with no luck.
What helped me to stay strong was making time to exercise. It was making time to run. It was attending a yoga class. It boosted my mood because that’s what exercise does.
Encourage Yourself to Keep At the Job Search
We always have to encourage ourselves when life gets hard. I understand that things feel bleak when you’ve been searching for a couple of months. I understand you feel embarrassed when you can’t attach a title or position to yourself but you can’t focus on the job woes 24/7. You have to encourage yourself through the way you speak about what’s going on in your life.
What I mean is rather than beating yourself up, you have to come up with a plan of action. You have to change the way you talk about your unemployment so you can attract opportunities for yourself. If you talk about it like you’re washed up and desperate, then that’s how others will see you. Rather, talk about things from a position of strength especially when networking and interviewing. There are certain ways you can talk about yourself even though unemployed to attract opportunities. When I wasn’t working, I introduced myself as an aspiring PR Professional because communications is the field I want to be in and I’m currently in. You have to not put yourself down even when you’re not feeling great about things.
The job I currently have as a Communications Officer, when I went on the interview, it was a different position I interviewed for. Yet, I was offered a new role because I discussed and elaborated on my skills and experiences apart from the initial role I applied for. My point is the way you talk about who you are and your capabilities matters.
I’m sure that maybe for someone reading this, your months of searching might have been longer than 5-6 months. We could be different in our process of waiting but I still understand some of the frustrations that come with unemployment. Don’t give up. Keep trying and putting yourself out there. I know that your challenges will pass because nothing in this life is permanent. Let me know if this post is helpful and thoughts or challenges you might have?
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