What Do I Do if My College Grad Doesn’t Have a Job?

Welcome to the club. Your college grad is unemployed or miserably underemployed ($8 an hour does not a career make). It’s stressful for you. It’s stressful for your kid. And neither of you quite know what to do next.

I know how it feels to be unemployed after graduation. My mom was so supportive while I was looking for a job after graduation; she was always ready to dispense advice and share job leads with me from her friends. But as I grew more anxious about my job prospects, her support and advice felt less useful and more like pestering. I blew up at her in angry fits on the phone. When employment came up during conversation, I would resort to my old standby, “I don’t want to talk about it!” more times than I’d like to count. She was trying to be helpful while I was feeling completely helpless.

It’s tough to speak objectively with your parent the issue of employment is so emotional – you feel like a failure and you’re more confused than grateful by the advice you get. And not knowing the answers to what I was going to do next or the details of my “Plan B” made my conversations with my mom all the more frustrating. She would ask, and I wouldn’t have an answer.

Looking back on it all, I wish I’d created a plan for dealing with the job search after college – something that I could have reviewed with my mom when I was at my lowest. So here it is: the plan of action I wish I’d had when I was a twentysomething. This will hopefully provide you with some structure when you talk to your kid about jobs.

(This information was originally posted on my article at YoBucko.com – a personal finance website dedicated to helping young adults manage their money. You can read more of my articles on YoBucko here.)

1. Decide where you’re going to live.

Do you have some savings put aside to hold you over for a few months? Do you already have a place stay? Great! A bit of money in the bank can hold you over until you start earning a consistent income, while living in the city or town that you eventually want to work in. Just be sure to keep your housing costs in control. For recent grads, rent is usually your biggest expense. If you live in a major city – like New York or San Francisco – you’re at risk of blowing your entire budget on an apartment.

If you don’t have a place to live or enough savings to last you a few months, consider moving back in with your parents until you start earning some money. I know, it sounds mortifying, but it’s definitely not the worst option (and you’re not alone: a survey found that 85% of new college graduates are moving home after graduation). If moving back in with your parents isn’t an option, consider reaching out to your network of friends and family to see if anyone is looking for a roommate.

2. Get your finances in order.

First, get a copy of your free credit report. This could affect your chances of renting an apartment, taking out future loans, and even getting a job. Make sure there are no red flags on your credit report that could hurt your chances to advance your career and your life, and learn how to dispute credit report errors.

Next, check on the status of your student loans. How much do you owe? How much will you need to pay each month? When do you have to start repaying your loans? You might not need to immediately start paying back your loans, but you should start planning for the day that you’ll start making monthly payments. Consider consolidating your loans if you can. If you’ve borrowed from the Federal Government, consider signing up for the income-based repayment plan. Income-Based Repayment is a repayment plan for the major types of federal student loans that caps your required monthly payment based on your income and family size. This is especially important if you’re unemployed or have a low income relative to the size of your student debt payments.

3. Keep looking for jobs (and don’t give up!)

Be persistent. It takes the average person eight months to land a good job after they start looking (and most people give up after five). If your current job search tactics aren’t working, try some unconventional job search strategies, like working for free and reaching out to high-up people in interesting organizations.

Finally, don’t drive yourself crazy. Be sure to exercise, eat well and do the things you love while you keep looking for a job. A happier, healthier person always does better in interviews!

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9 thoughts on “What Do I Do if My College Grad Doesn’t Have a Job?

  1. Daisy @ Add Vodka

    Definitely don’t give up! There’s always this fatigue that comes from applying on too many jobs. People start taking shortcuts and stop customizing their cover letter, etc. Don’t do that! Power through.

    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      I hear ya. Fatigue is a big issue. At the same time, sometimes you need to stop, reassess what you’re doing and try a completely different strategy. Resume blasting and customized cover letters can only get you so far.

  2. jefferson

    hi there stephanie.. i am visiting from yakezie.
    your new site looks great!.. i love the design and the concept.

    my oldest is eleven and college is only (potentially) 7 years away.. i certainly want him to go, but will try hard to steer him into a major with real world job potential. i went to college and it has served me very well in my life and career.

    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      Thanks for visiting! I’m glad you’re planning ahead with your little one. College has served me well, too… I wouldn’t be where I am without my degree. At the same time, there’s no guarantee that any kid will get a job after school, even with a degree that has real world relevance. But if you help your child think like an entrepreneur and build a savings cushion to use after graduation, it won’t matter what the economy is like.

  3. Jai Catalano

    It’s about patience and persistence. It takes time to get your foot into some doors. Once you are there you can make a big enough splash to make up for lost time while looking. I know it’s scary but it eventually happens.

  4. Money Beagle

    I was lucky enough to enter the job market at a time when jobs for grads were plentiful (1996). I actually had multiple offers to choose from, something that I’m sure many grads today simply can’t fathom. I realize how lucky I was, but I think nowadays you can make your own luck. Make sure to network, use your career guidance office before you graduate (and they’ll even help you right after graduation, after all they want to see their job placement numbers as high as possible for future admissions brochures).

  5. Tackling Our Debt

    Job hunting is very stressful, whether you are a new grad or someone that has not worked for several years. We always said that looking for a job is a full-time job.

    I graduated from 2 different colleges. The first time I was living at home for the 3 year program. Very little was done during those 3 years in terms of preparing for looking for job after graduating and many of us didn’t find one. At that point I just continued to work in retail since I had been doing that since I was 12.

    When I went back to college a few years later for a different program I was living in a different city on my own. Paying rent, working some retail, but the biggest difference was that this program included a co-op work term where we actually went to work in our chosen field for 8 months (and get paid). So when we graduated we had work experience and myself and most of the grads had job offers immediately. The co-op term made a huge difference for us.

  6. DM

    I’m not graduating for another two years, but my mother is already desperate for me to get a job. She even has it in her head that somehow I can get a full time job in junior year. As if it’s not hard enough for graduates! The pressure is very frustrating both from parents, the media, and various work industries.


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