December 23, 2013

A Guide to Finding the Silver Lining for the Unemployed. ~ Paige Donahue

Fresh graduates experience the first taste of the real world when their job applications get rejected.

As for my case, it happened not just once but three times. It was disheartening, and it really made me consider just taking on any job, even ones that’s not in line with my passion and ones that downplay my talent.

Failure isn’t the welcome fresh graduates want. But it’s something even students from Ivy League schools need to consider as a possibility. It’s not about being pessimistic, it’s about being open to probabilities. It’s easy to think lowly of yourself when it happens. Heck, it’s what I did. It made me question my capabilities as a writer, and it made me ask whether I was already good enough to graduate from school.

The most difficult thing about being an unemployed graduate is that you end up forming so many questions but aren’t really getting a satisfying answer. If this happens, there’s a chance that you’re merely asking the wrong questions.

When my application for my dream publication got rejected, I moped for a good week. It may seem short, but for an unemployed person, it means seven days of doing nothing. Seven days of trying to fill the time with activities that will make me forget of my failure.

The one question that kept popping in my mind was this: What have I done wrong?

This is the last thing I should have asked myself. Telling myself that I did something wrong discredits what I’ve done right. To know that I make mistakes is a perfectly human thing to do, but to dwell is just a self-imposed punishment. I realized that I should stop asking questions and finding solutions instead.

The first thing that one should do is realize that unemployment may actually be a blessing in disguise. When you think about all the time you suddenly have, then think of all the activities you can do. Of course, finding a job that’s right for you is a priority, but it’s not the only thing you can devote your time into.

Think of the time you suddenly have in your hand and the chance to do the things college education prevented you from doing. After all, there were too many essays to write, too many exams to take and too many group projects to attend to think of anything else. But now that you’re unemployed, you can do anything on your whim, and nothing can stop you.

I can’t tell you to do the things I’ve done, but here’s an idea. Do the things you’ve always wanted to do but just didn’t have the time to do so. Because that’s what I did, and it opened numerous possibilities for me.

Get back in shape

College offers a gazillion temptations, and adapting an unhealthy lifestyle is one of them. But now that time is the only thing you have, you can’t resort to sitting on your couch 24/7. When I realized that I was gaining weight due to all the lying around I was doing, I put on my sweatpants and went for a run. I’ve been running every day ever since.

Get up and do something worthwhile, like jogging every morning or in the afternoon. Gradually slip into the habit of being more active. It’s not easy at first, but that’s why you’ll do it slowly.

If you’re not interested in working out, then try a sport. Playing sports can be fun since it fosters friendship and teamwork. It’s the easiest way to meet new friends as long as you’re not overly competitive. It also strengthens a person’s body and improves one’s mental capability. It has more benefits than any sketchy diet plan can promise.

Read for fun

Required readings in school are met with eye rolls. I think I fell out of love with reading a bit due to the required three novels a week back in college. But I picked up a book after graduation and realized that reading just because is the most enjoyable way to appreciate literature. Just because I no longer have to write a critical paper for a book doesn’t mean I can no longer think critically about it.

Somehow, Sylvia Plath isn’t so depressing when my passing grade doesn’t depend on my understanding of her poems.

Reconnect with friends and families

When students are tied up with so much school work, calling home is the last thing on their minds. It sure was far from mine when I was too busy finishing my undergraduate thesis. Once you have nothing else to do but sleep, calling old friends and bonding with parents are pretty good options. After all, aren’t relationships even more important than careers?

Once you get a job, your mother will once again go complaining that you never have time to call back. While you still have the time to build connection, why not make sure that you build strong ones?

Learn new skills

A bachelor’s degree makes you an expert in one field, but there are things you want to be good at without having to go to college. For example, I took Creative Writing in college, but writing isn’t the only thing I like doing. For an entire week during my unemployment period, I learned about domain hosting and a little bit of HTML and CSS. With that new knowledge, I managed to put up an online writing portfolio. It’s an additional boost to possible employment. Eventually, it opened up a lot of writing opportunities for me.

It’s not just skills that you can use for your career, of course. Learning a new language, no matter how basic, can always give an individual an advantage. Maybe it’s time to learn how to ride a bike. Crocheting and knitting are two skills that anyone can find useful specially during gift-giving seasons. It can be as simple as how to change a light bulb or how to do some organic gardening at home.

Unemployment and the feeling of rejection that comes with it are neither positive nor happy. But they can’t stop you from turning things around and finding something worthwhile in the circumstance. I can’t tell you to not feel sad, but at least try to not let it break you.

Besides, sleeping in is something an unemployed gets to do on a regular, almost daily, basis. Isn’t that enough to make you think that it’s not so bad after all?

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Editor: Dana Gornall

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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