What To Do If You Can’t Get the Job You Want

what-to-do-can't-get-job-you-wantThis post is part of an “after college” series for the launch of my upcoming free ebook “Money After College.”  You can sign up for my email list to receive your free copy when it’s released in early May.

The job market is still tough right now for college grads, meaning that you may not have your dream job lined up before finishing college. Even if you’re a great candidate, the companies you want to work for still might not be hiring.  But that doesn’t mean you have to sit around and feel miserable while searching for the job you really want. Here are some great (and productive) alternatives to lounging on your parents’ couch while you can’t land the job you want.

1. Take a part time job, even if it’s something you’re not super excited about. You might feel that it’s beneath you to do this if you just earned your degree. But what good is sitting around and doing nothing? At least you’d earn money while continuing to apply to better job opportunities.  There are some decent part time options out there, too (I’m thinking Apple Store or Trader Joe’s). Word of caution: make sure that you still apply to jobs you want.  Don’t get stuck at this part-time job long-term; this is merely some way of earning money while you’re searching for a full-time job.

2. Take a class. I went with “take a class” instead of “attend graduate school” on purpose. Graduate school isn’t the best option if the main reason is difficulty of finding a job. Grad school school is a serious commitment of both time and money, and you should be certain that the graduate degree you’re seeking is something you’re devoted to and truly interested in.

There’s a lot to be said for taking a class in something your interested in or a topic that can increase your marketability as an employee. Community college classes are often inexpensive compared to a year of college tuition.  My local community college charges $450 per class, and costs vary based on where you are.  Perhaps there’s s class you didn’t get to take as an undergraduate that you’re interested in or, even better, something that will help improve your job prospects.  I’m looking into taking a course in computer programming or web design to improve my skills in those areas.  Often times these individual classes can be added to resumes to help bolster your skill set.

3. Work on other skills or interests.  Aside from taking classes there are numerous ways that you can improve your skills or increase your knowledge.  Spend time learning a language using free online resources and podcasts from iTunes. Check out personal finance books so that you know what to do with your money once you start earning it. There are many free sources of education out there that will help to improve your quality of life. Even if there’s no obvious professional benefit from learning these types of things, there can be a big impact on your personal life.

4. Intern at a company your can learn from. You might not be getting paid, but you can still gain a lot of valuable and rewarding experience.  Interning offers a great opportunity to learn valuable skills and make personal connections that pay off in the future.  Also, a barrier that college grads face when job searching is a lack of experience. Interning can definitely help grads overcome this.

5. Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to help others by giving back to the community.  It can be a resume builder, too, and will show future employers that you have the motivation to go out and do something even when you’re not employed. If there’s an opportunity in your community that you always wanted to get involved in, this is a great time to do it.

6. Start a small side business and find other ways to earn money. You don’t need to launch a Fortune 500 company here. There are a lot of things you can do to with only a small time or money investment to earn a decent amount of cash. With a wide array of freelance opportunities out there, such as writing for a local newspaper or online blog, you shouldn’t have trouble finding work based on your skills and strengths.  If you have a graphic design background, contact local business about designing a logo or other media they can use. You might not earn as much as you would at a full-time job, but freelancers can earn $15 per hour or more, depending on what the work is. Check out Elance or Craigslist for ideas of what freelance work is in demand.

If you can’t find a freelance gig, you can sell your college stuff on eBay and Craigslist.  Selling things is a great way to reduce clutter and earn extra money from things you don’t really need.

7. Travel. It’s a great time to do it if you’re able to afford it, and many college students travel after graduation, job or not. If you’re short on money, find some shorter trips you can take by car or bus. There are cheap ways to find accommodations. Camping is relatively cheap and can be a lot of fun, too. If you want to be a in more populated area, consider Couch Surfing and stay for free with a host.

All of these options can be done while you are simultaneously looking for the job that you really want. Doing unproductive things all day like playing video games or watching YouTube videos are about the worst thing you can be doing for your life. Find the motivation to do something of value while job searching and you’ll be a lot better off for it in life and maybe even for your career.

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photo by: The Consumerist


  1. I didn’t get a job fresh out of college. I took a few months off to really sit back and think about my career path. Sometimes it’s not such a bad idea … everything happens for a reason 🙂

  2. Margo Mosher says

    Absolutely travel! When else do you have a chunk of time, no required return date, and the challenge of shoe-string travel!

    Volunteering is also a great idea and can lead to job opportunities and also help build your network.

    • I guess I know what you’re doing when you graduate next year 🙂

    • I guess I know what you’re doing when you graduate next year 🙂

    • I am with you totally Margo and seriously having saved up money from certain jobs to have a lifetime trip to new places in India and visiting Nepal for 1st time from November 2015-February 2016 was a blessing and I wouldn’t have been able to travel if I had a regular job before traveling or still had the hotel front desk job in USA which I got let go from on good terms in June 2015.

  3. Jenna, Adaptu CM says

    Volunteering can lead to great networking opportunities as well.

  4. I second (or third, I guess) volunteering. You can get work experience and meet people in your field. It’s better to get out there and do something rather than sit behind your computer.

  5. I like what you are saying here… basically, do something productive! Honestly, I couldnt agree more. I did some of the very things you mention here when I was laid off for a couple months last year.

    I would also suggest that you continue looking for a job about 23 out of 24 hours each day…you’d be surprised what persistance alone can accomplish

  6. Quality Material Jeffrey. A lot of people get stuck when they can’t get the career they want weither it’s after college or after they find themselves stuck in a job they don’t like or unemployed. The most powerful thing to do is take action.

  7. SchoolandUniversity.com help me find a School,University and College.http://www.schoolanduniversity.com

  8. Nice tips – especially volunteering, interning, and taking a part time job – all things that don’t take up as much time as a 40-hour job, but will help people become more marketable to get a job like this. Has the eBook come out yet?

  9. What are some good, valuable and legitimate volunteer opportunities abroad to build up resume and learn well which offer free housing and food besides PeaceCorps which is too darn competitive even for passionate, interested wannabe volunteers with great qualifications?

    It is not fair or right to pursue volunteering with passion abroad and yet pay out of pocket for room and board.

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