I love advice like this (h/t College Insurrection):
1. You need to take a job, any job. Every time you leave your house, or otherwise make contact with the real world, you create opportunities for something good to happen to your career. Leaving the house also keeps you from falling prey to depression, which tends to plague the unemployed like, well, the plague. Also, it’s easier not to look completely desperate when you have a little money coming in. “Desperate” is not a good look to wear to a job interview.
2. Don’t say you can’t work a lesser job because you won’t be able to focus on your job search. After the first few weeks, your job search is not taking you 60 hours a week. There just aren’t that many prospects out there. Don’t give yourself excuses to stay home and sulk and/or sponge off mom and dad — who will, incidentally, be much happier to have you in the basement if you’re visibly working hard.
via 13 Tips for Jobless Grads on Surviving the Basement Years – Bloomberg.
My career is going well right now, but how I got to where I am owed to a chance encounter with an old acquaintance in a bar neither of expected to be in the night we were there. His recommendation got my foot in the door, and seven years later I get paid well to travel around the country and help people in difficult positions. It took a metric ton of work for me to get to where I am, but I’m in no way unique – most successful people, at least in the private sector, tend to be ridiculously hard workers.
The first piece of advice is the best piece of advice: you need a job, any job, and you are not better than any job if you don’t have one. If I lost my job tomorrow, I’d be at McDonald’s or some such place on Saturday putting in applications and pressing the flesh. When I was 30, I had a successful business I created from scratch, but mental illness and The Drink took it away from me. I then bought another business with a friend, but hated it, wound up in (another) mental hospital, and by the time I arrived at my parents’ home in the Fall of 2005, I’d pretty much hit bottom. I began looking for work immediately, although I had some money saved and my parents, knowing I was going through an humbling time, were kind enough to lay off the guilt.
I worked at Hasting’s Entertainment as the night manager for fewer than $8 an hour, and I did this for seven months as I applied and interviewed for job after job – I even applied for jobs with the government, work I consider as bad as accepting unemployment. I had my first interview with my current company in early March, but I didn’t start until the beginning of May. I wasn’t naturally suited for my job, but it was a helluva lot better than living with the ‘rents and making $7.65 an hour. Although I’m a scary-fast learner, it took me three years to get to the point of being average at my job. I was plagued by poor management and my performance was awful at times. Then, something happened.
When I got a new manager three years ago, the game changed. He recognized that what I lacked in natural skill in my profession I made up for by doing crap that no one else wanted to do – working on weekends, traveling to shitty little towns and staying there for weeks at a time, never requesting off The Big Holidays, asking for vacation time during periods no one would even think of requesting (February and August are typical for me – the only Federal holiday I’ve requested off in more than seven years has been a trio of Independence Days). He knew that one big managerial stress was taken off his table: he didn’t have to “make” anyone do something they didn’t want to do, because he knew I would do it, and he knew I would volunteer for it.
When I received the biggest promotion of my career last spring, the notice he sent out to people in our business unit looking to move up was that they had to do the same stuff I did – weekends, holidays, nights away from home, etc. My position didn’t officially exist, but so helpful was it to the organization that such behavior was required for my replacement.
I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but it’s not unusual and it’s certainly not earth-shattering. What it is, though, is the development of a particular set of behaviors that have treated me well. Since I was 19 I’ve spent exactly one month without a job/jobs – I refuse to not have work, in part because I like working, and in part because I hate accepting help from my parents, even when they can afford to help me. Them paying my rent for one month in the Fall of 2000 was an humbling experience and one I have no designs on replicating.
My sister uses a phrase that is popular among people who are good at corporate life: work smart, not hard. I think it’s good advice, but I think many people, especially younger people, think of that as “I’m clearly the smartest person in the room so I don’t have to work that hard.” Just as “there are no girls on the Internet” doesn’t mean what you think it means, “Work smart, not hard” isn’t as obvious as it looks.
To me, the sage advice has always meant play to one’s strengths, and play to those strengths so well that they make up for or even disguise one’s shortcomings. One of the early tragedies of Millennials isn’t that they’re entitled, it’s that they’ve never been imbued with the idea of work as a moral quality. Volunteerism is good they’re told, but no one should have to work at a lowly job, and many of them don’t start working for profit until they’re well into college.
It’s called a work ethic for a reason, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. That said, I feel sorry for anyone in their twenties who is unemployed, even though Twitter is rampant with dubious members of this same generation bragging about using their government food card ie modern food stamps on things like Starbucks and Whole Foods.
Enjoy it while it last, kids, because that train isn’t infinite.