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On average, it can take three to six months for a college graduate to find a job.

In the grand scheme of things that may not seem like a tremendous amount of time. My opinion, as a recent college graduate, is different. This is a simplified version of my personal experience in landing that first job. Everything started the moment I walked the stage. The second the cheers died down and the cap and gown came off, I came to a sudden realization. Those years of hard work and long nights studying that lead to this shining moment are over. With that, an unsettling thought crossed my mind. How do I get a job?

Considering how utterly unprepared I felt after that split-second realization, it should be no surprise that I had done little to prepare for post-graduation. I would have liked to be able to say I had all my ducks set nicely in a row. That I knew exactly where I was going and where I was working. That the transition from college student to working adult was smooth sailing. The reality turned out to be the exact opposite. The truth is I felt like nothing more than a small, anxious bean. I was lost. I felt scared. The most I had decided on was: A) I did not want to go back to my hometown or stay in my college town, and B) I definitely wanted to pursue a career that would put my degree in graphic design to good use.

I dove into researching the best strategy for finding a job. I sought advice from the career development center on campus. I scoured through any resource I could think of for direction and came up with what seemed to be the best way to get hired. My schedule in between my final classes consisted of optimizing my resumé, applying to places, working on my portfolio, applying to job sites, getting on LinkedIn, applying some more, editing everything I’ve worked on before, applying some more, and, just for funsies, applying again.

From April to July I followed this routine. Eventually, the lack of interest coupled with the stress of moving with no income started to wear on me. The days grew monotonous and dragged on. There were times when I contemplated returning to my hometown and settling for whatever was available. Still, I was unable to bring myself to call it quits. With a loving shove from friends and family, I realized I needed to be willing to step out of my comfort zone. I needed to go talk to people.

I spoke with a couple of adults for guidance. The result was a bombardment of ideas and advice. Often, information conflicted with what I had been told before. I interpreted everything I was given the best I could and hoped for the best.

  • “Why not try to get an internship that could turn into a job offer?” – As I was actively living off of savings, I concluded that adding another internship to my resumé was off the table. Most of these were unpaid or required active college enrollment. Ideal for a college student, maybe. Not for a graduate with things like bills to pay, food to buy, and a dog to raise.
  • “You could go get your masters or a specialization school” – Please see above. I only have so much savings.
  • “Just get a job somewhere in the meantime. That way you can save up” – Listen. I really want to use my degree. Not a bad idea, but I want to push myself. I did end up deciding that if there was no progress by October I would go with this plan.
  • “What about freelancing?” – Friends and family knew I was willing to take on a job for them. I tried my hand at being a fulltime freelancer. And Even though I was able to add to my portfolio, there just weren’t enough jobs for me to take. So, the search for a real solution continued.
  • “Networking?” – One friend even pushed me to ask strangers for assistance. I tagged along for a meeting or two about tools like LinkedIn and networking. She connected me with people who worked at advertising agencies and set up informational meetings.

When I met the people at these agencies, I was not looking for a job interview. I was networking. My goal was to glean any knowledge from people working in the positions I wanted. Until then, all the advice I had received came from outside sources. And most would say something along the lines of, “this could be different for your area.” These meetings were different. Every person I met during these informational meetings was incredibly helpful and understanding. Often, I was told that they were in my exact position at one point or another. I was blessed with an inside look at the way an advertising agency functioned, the experience of finding an office within a large building, and tips on what they would look for when hiring. Each meeting left me feeling more secure in my search. And, believe it or not, an informational meeting is what lead to my first step into the world of advertising.

At the end of the day, the time I spent looking for a job was on par with the average. The time may have been relatively short, but it felt like a whirlwind of possibilities. I felt lost for the most part. I questioned my actions daily. And, if not for the support of my family and friends, I might have settled for a job I hated. After five months of endless applications, constant revisions, and pushing my social comfort zone to meet with strangers, I was able to breathe. I took my first steps through the doors on my first day at work and started to work on answering my next question. How soon can I move and shorten my commute?