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Stop Looking for a Job: Three Alternative Choices For Recent Grads

If you just graduated from college, congratulations! It's a huge achievement and you should be proud of yourself. Normally there would be plenty of job opportunities just waiting for raw and eager talent, but this is 2009. Finding a good job is not going to be easy. The way I see it, there are really only four possible outcomes:

1. Get your dream job. If you are one of the best and the brightest (you know who you are), you may just land your dream job. Obviously if this is you, stop reading this blog and go get that job.

2. Remain unemployed. Despite your efforts, you may find yourself unemployed for some time. There are many experienced workers getting pink slips and having a hard time finding work, so don't be surprised if a) it takes you a long time to find a job or b) you can't find a job.

3. Get a crappy job. With some determination, you may be able to find a job. It won't be your dream job, but it might pay the bills (assuming you move back home with your parents). The problem with working in a sub-par position is that you won't be learning much, making much, or growing much. When the economy turns around and employers start hiring, do you really want to list Chuck E Cheese on your resume? Think long and hard about taking a job just because it's a job. Ideally you'd want each of your jobs post-graduation to support and build on one another. Settling for just anything might do more harm than good in the long run.

4. Check out. This is my favorite approach -- assuming you can't land your dream job and you can mooch off your parents a bit longer. Instead of being a victim of the times, this puts you in control and can boost your resume if you do it right. Here are three ways you can check out and check back in when employers are looking to hire again:

  • Start your own company - Why settle for fry-guy when you can be CEO? If you have an idea and are entrepreneurial, get a few partners (i.e., other friends who can't find jobs) and start something. Worst case, you don't make a dime, but you'll learn invaluable skills and you'll have a story and something to share on your resume. Best case, your little venture succeeds.
  • Travel/Create. Backpack for a year across Europe or Asia. It doesn't have to cost that much, and it will be an experience you will never forget. Plus, when it comes time to get a job, at least you did something with your time you can be proud of and talk about. If travel isn't your thing, what is? What would you love to do that won't cost a lot of money and that you won't be able to do once you get a full-time job? Start a charity? Walk across the United States? Join the Peace Corps? Climb a mountain? Write a book?
  • Go back to school. Why bust your butt trying to get a lame job that will certainly look lame and desperate to future employers when you can use this time to get a master's degree? Think about what you gain with this approach -- no stress trying to get a job, no empty space on your resume for a year, and, oh yeah, a master's degree. The only downside with this is the cost. As long as the degree will get you closer to your dream job, it's worth it to get a loan. By investing in yourself, you might make a nice return.
Don't be a victim and don't make excuses. You have options. The economy will improve and you will find a job. You'll probably work at least 40 years, so if you have the ability, use this time to do something special.

UPDATE: Read what Seth Godin thinks grads should do who can't find a job. There's a reason I love this guy!

(Graduation image by, CC 2.0)
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