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Graduating College Without a Job? 3 Moves You Need to Make Right Now

By Maurie Backman – Updated May 14, 2018 at 4:51PM

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No job lined up? No worries. Here's what to do.

After years of cramming, pulling all-nighters writing papers, and enduring some of the grossest dining hall food imaginable, you're finally walking away from college with that coveted diploma in hand. But thrilled as you might be to finally get to enter the real world, if you're graduating without a job lined up, you may feel more stressed out than giddy.

The fact of the matter is that it's not so easy to snag a full-time job while you're still in school. For one thing, if you're studying in a completely different part of the country than the area in which you expect to settle down in after college, going on interviews is a definite challenge. Throw in the fact that looking for work can be a full-time job in itself, and you've had this little thing called your degree to focus on, and it's not surprising that many students graduate college with zero employment prospects whatsoever. If that's your situation, worry not. Instead, take the following steps to get a handle on your post-college finances and job opportunities.

Group of students in cap and gown


1. Sort out your student loans

If you borrowed money for college, you're in good company. But now that you're no longer a student, you may need to start making payments on those loans, and potentially before you have a steady paycheck. The good news is that most federal loans have a sizable grace period where you don't have to start making payments for a number of months post-graduation. Knowing how long that period lasts might inform your job search by giving you a better sense of how long you can afford to spend looking for work.

If you took out private student loans, on the other hand, you may not be as lucky as far as a grace period goes. Either way, figure out when your first student loan payment is due, what that amount entails, and where it will come from if you don't have a job by then, or a savings account to tap.

2. Perfect your resume and cover letter

Though you should plan to tweak your resume and cover letter to the specific roles you're applying to, having a base version, so to speak, of each document, will enable you to jump on openings quickly and increase your chances of getting in the door. Your resume should be succinct, free of grammatical errors, and loaded with action items that highlight your experience. Your cover letter, meanwhile, should be compelling while highlighting your personality. You can follow these tips for a solid resume and these cover letter tips to get your search off on the right foot.

3. Network like crazy

Knowing the right people can often spell the difference between getting hired and struggling through your employment search. Therefore, while it's a good idea to keep checking those job-hunting sites, you should make just as much of an effort to reach out to your professional contacts and see if they know of any openings at their companies.

Now if you're a recent graduate, your business network may not be all that extensive, but you can start by contacting your old professors and seeing if they have any leads. You can also get in touch with your parents' friends and neighbors, many of whom have no doubt been working for quite some time, and see what opportunities pop up.

Leaving college without a job lined up may not be an ideal scenario in your mind, but it's a common one to be facing. The key is to approach that search efficiently so that it doesn't needlessly drag out, all the while keeping tabs on your student loans and other financial obligations. It might make for a challenging transition into full-fledged adulthood, but if you go in calm and prepared, you'll hopefully land a job offer soon enough without falling behind financially.

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