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Yeah, that’s what I’m going through right now – the post graduate blues. It seems like everyone else is breezing right past you. You log onto Facebook and see all your friends with job offers and you’re still on the dole. Or maybe you’re still stuck working at a shop or restaurant while your friends all have “real jobs”. It seems like you’re the only one who doesn’t have a job in your field. What do you do?
Sure, after turning in my thesis I was going on my honeymoon, but that’s not going to last forever. It was inevitable that I would come back to Ireland and start the soul-sucking job search.
What do you do in the meantime? There are only so many jobs you can apply for. You can quickly catch up with the job alerts and then what?
So many articles about what you do between graduation and work are written in such a privileged way and full of platitudes like “stay positive” or “it gets better.” These articles suggest to take classes, go to the gym, take a year out and travel, volunteer, and go to therapy if you’re really depressed.
This is not going to be one of those articles where I’ll tell you it gets better or any of those platitudes. My aim with this article is to be realistic and helpful.
I will divide this list of things to do after graduation into different categories for different needs like taking action, self-care, and entertainment.
Let’s See Action
1. If you’re not on the dole already, get on the dole!
People sometimes look down upon welfare recipients and that isn’t right. There is no shame in applying for social welfare, it’s there for those who need it and right now, you need it. The amount you receive will depend on your age, if you have a partner/spouse and if they work, if you live in a high rent area, and if you have a disability. You can find information on how to apply on the Citizens Information website.
Nobody likes to budget, but it is necessary. It’s not like you’ll be saving up money while on the dole, but you can figure out how to make the most of what you’re getting and make the most of your savings. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of budgeting now.
What expenses do you have? Is there anything non-essential that you can spend less money on? Any way to save on the essentials? This might mean cancelling subscriptions to streaming services, switching to a cheaper phone plan, making coffee or tea yourself at home, switching to shopping at Aldi or Lidl, or buying clothing that’s on sale and not full price.
3. Have a routine.
When you’re unemployed, it’s easy to sleep in and sulk around the house. When you do that, you might spiral out of control. Just because you don’t have a job, doesn’t mean you can’t have a routine. Get out a calendar, a planner, your phone and set aside time each day for different tasks.
4. Take advantage of resources your university offers.
Most universities have a career centre, which you can still use as alumni. Career centres offer CV advice and critiques, mock interviews, and sometimes they have a jobs board. Keep an eye on the jobs board. If you moved back to your hometown and you can’t easily access your university, the Intreo office have counsellors that advise you on your CV and interviewing skills.
Universities also have career fairs. These may be helpful depending on your field. You can still register for a career fair as alumni.
5. Build up skills, and yes, you can do it cheaply.
If you don’t keep your skills sharp, you might forget what you’ve learned. That’s why you should review what you learned in university. Keep your notes from old classes and read through them. Practice your skills. Can’t find your notes? Read an open textbook. This website has all kinds of open textbooks.
Your university might allow alumni access to the library and sometimes it includes borrowing privileges.
Keep an eye out for online courses on websites like Coursera.
Skillshare.com is a website with lots of tutorials on different topics by experts. You can get a 30-day free trial. After that it costs $15 a month or $99 a year.
Skillnets.ie has a list of training courses that are free for the unemployed. Some training programmes have work placements. Springboard+ Courses (springboardcourses.ie) are also available for unemployed graduates, but you must be looking for work for a year. ICT Skills Conversion courses are open to recent graduates.
The Intreo office can also refer you to free/cheap courses for social welfare recipients. You can learn a new language, learn computer programming,
Don’t have your licence yet? Do the theory test and get your learner’s permit and then get your licence. Borrow a theory test book from a friend or maybe the library (make sure it’s the newest version and with the accompanying CD). A lot of jobs require you to know how to drive. You don’t have to get a car to get your licence. While lessons are expensive, at least get your permit and make steps toward getting your licence. Take the lessons at your own pace.
Self-care and not the flowery version of it with bath bombs and face masks.
These are all things you can do if you have the energy. Don’t push yourself too much. Sometimes you need a lazy day and that’s okay.
1. Get some sleep.
One step to good health is getting a good night’s sleep. Setting a proper bedtime is good for having a routine and having enough energy to get through the day.
2. Eat healthy and proper portions.
When you have depression, you often either eat way too much or not enough. Neither is healthy. It is not that expensive to eat healthy. Lidl and Aldi have some great deals on produce. You can find lots of healthy foods at those stores.
The Tumblr blog, No More Ramen, has a good list of affordable recipes to make for all diets. Many of these recipes are very simple, with little prep time.
3. Get dressed, do your hair and makeup, and leave the house.
Just because you aren’t working or in school, that doesn’t mean you can’t leave the house. Try your best to leave the house every day to get fresh air and it feels good to look your best.
4. Take a break from social media.
Seeing your friends’ seemingly perfect lives can hurt your mental health. Don’t be afraid to unfollow people who make you feel bad about yourself. You might even want to take a break from social media entirely to focus on yourself. It’s okay to do that.
It might also be a good time to clean up your social media pages. Get rid of any partying pictures, any embarrassing posts, delete people you barely know or talk to anymore. Cleaning up your social media feels good and it’s important to make sure you look presentable on social media for the job search.
5. Clean your home.
It’s probably been a while since you cleaned your home. Take a little time out to clean. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment and it’s nice to have a good home environment. It’s always nice to come back to a clean bed that has been made.
Entertainment: A few things to keep yourself occupied in the meantime.
1. Get caught up.
We’ve all been there. A friend tells us about a movie or a TV show and it’s on our list of things we’ve been meaning to watch and we never end up getting to it. Now is your chance! Cross off all the movies and TV shows on your list of things to watch.
You might also have a bookshelf full of books that you haven’t read yet. Or check out your local library for some good reads.
2. Get a hobby.
This includes playing a sport, starting that YouTube channel you’ve been meaning to start for ages, writing blog posts, making art, and more. It’s good to try new things that you’ve been meaning to for a while. It’s a great chance to do this because you have some free time. You might even make some new friends because of a hobby.
3. Exercise… for free/cheap.
If exercising outside isn’t your thing, there are plenty of YouTubers who make workout videos. I like Joanna Soh and Adriene Mishler (Yoga With Adriene). You can do this in the privacy of your own home and not worry about strangers judging you.
Check with any place that you volunteer for that you can get reimbursed for travel/other expenses. You’ll have to save your receipts, of course. Volunteer roles that involve working with children or people with special needs require Garda vetting.
5. Get in contact with friends.
Friends can help you in so many ways, whether it’s putting in a good word for you at the company they work for (might at least get you an interview), being a listening ear or shoulder to cry on, and of course they’re who you like to hang out with. It’s important to spend time with your friends even after you’ve graduated.