A reader writes:
I'm a new reader of your blog and I'm already fascinated. I had no idea there was such a wealth of excellent career advice out there.
I got my B.A. at a prestigious university over six weeks ago, and since then I've been actively pursuing a job in government, law or policy. But after a few dozen applications and several interviews, I have no offers. I realize that many people go far longer without having a job, but the pressure is on and desperation is beginning to set in.
In fact, I've gotten to speculating about the reason for my failure thus far to find anything. Among the possibilities I've considered are that my major (Sociology) isn't very valuable, that my location (California) is too far from the policy jobs in DC, and that the labor market is simply too loose (I know I lost a $40,000 position to a M.A.) Qualifications and interview performance are of course possibilities as well, but I have good grades and relevant experience, plus interview coaching from the school's career center.
I'm sorry, I know I'm coming off as selfish and possibly arrogant, but the uncertainty is killing me. I'd love to hear your take on this situation.
Not selfish and not arrogant. Normal. Really, your situation is totally and completely normal. It sucks, but it's normal.
Six weeks isn't very long, as job searches go. The job market isn't great right now, and you're competing for the same jobs with people who have been in the workforce a bit longer and thus have more experience. You will find a job, but you need to hang in there.
Things that will help:
* Focus your job search. You don't say what your strategy has been, but if you're like many recent grads, you're applying all over the place to all different types of jobs. Focus your search in and go for quality over quantity with your applications -- meaning at a minimum, a cover letter that is tailored to each position you apply for. (And I mean really tailored -- at least several fresh paragraphs per job, not just plugging in the name of the company.)
* In fact, it's going to be all about the cover letter for you. Go read this post and follow my orders.
* Rework your resume. I took a look, and right now, the first half of the page is taken up by education, notes on coursework, and honors, and your work experience doesn't start until the second half of the page. Move the education information to the end or at least shorten it dramatically (get rid of the coursework section entirely, which takes up a huge chunk of valuable real estate), and beef up the work experience section. Remember, a hiring manager is going to spend maybe a minute (or less) on the initial scan of your resume. What do you want her to see in that minute -- a list of college courses you took, or work experience directly relevant to what she's hiring for?
* While you're at it, drop the high school honors (National Merit finalist, AP scholar, etc.). Nothing before college counts, unless it's something really unusual. I was going to tell you to get your SATs off of there too, but you got a perfect 1600, so I'm going to allow you to leave those on.
* Ask for feedback from any interviewers with whom you felt like you clicked (or even those you didn't click with). It doesn't matter if it's been weeks. Email them right now and tell them you really appreciated their time and ask for any advice they have for you on how you can become a more attractive candidate. Some won't answer you and others will tell you something so vague as to be useless, but someone may tell you something good ... or point you in the direction of a job lead.
* Start networking, if you aren't already. Ask everyone you know if they have any connections to the types of jobs you're looking for. Don't be afraid to exploit the connections when you uncover them. Oh, and ask your school career office to hook you up with some alumni connections in whatever field you're interested in. That is what they do; make them do it for you.
We all go through this. But it ends eventually, I promise.