Greg de la Cruz works at NCR Corp's R&D center in the Philippines. He is interested in economic history and current world financial affairs.
You’ve made it through those tough years in college, however long that may have been for you, and you’re finally in a position to apply for a job that’s worth your while. Whether you already had some casual work experience while studying, or you went about your academics full-time, you know that it is a struggle trying to find a job that fits you and one that’s deserving of what you prepared for.
You are ready to take on the world, find yourself, take on new challenges, discover new aspects of yourself that you can grow—but there’s a catch. Or several catches, for that matter. The optimism and excitement you feel after graduating eventually fade, and they slowly turn into dread.
Being new to seeking jobs is terrifying. Maybe when you’re someone who hasn’t tasted rejection yet, it might feel like anything’s possible and within reach. But as soon as the recruiter abruptly dismisses you following a naïve word, phrase, or sentence you said in the interview and delivers the punchline thanks—we’ll let you know, anxiety sets in. Sometimes they’re kind enough to get back to you to tell you that you didn’t get the job—but sometimes, they leave you in a state of application purgatory and ghost you.
I remember the first time I was seeking a job when I had just graduated. I was excited about every interview, and every call from some unknown landline number made me jump to my feet. But throughout the whole process, it was truly a struggle. It is therefore my honor to share with you some of the struggles which, not only I as a new job seeker had to go through but also most neophytes out there, trying to find a workplace where they fit in.
1. Not Knowing Where to Start
Coming from engineering school, there were a few companies around my area that were good places to start. And there was always this big renewable energy company not too far from the university, whose available jobs and word-of-mouth salaries made it the most coveted company to work for.
However, the question wasn’t always which companies were available as an employment destination—it was always about which companies had available jobs. And this was a struggle for anyone because, regardless of where you graduated or what bachelor’s you completed, and unless you were a top-5 student (and despite that, in some cases), you normally didn’t know where to start.
As I’ve learned now through the course of being employed under four different companies, these companies often scout for fresh graduates because they possessed the minimum skills required for the job, plus they were more likely (if not all the time) to take the minimum salary that was allocated by the company for it. Despite all the scouting and sourcing that goes on, a new jobseeker will still have a problem knowing where to start because the jobs that are indeed available don’t normally fit in to what they prepared for according to the curriculum that was tailor-made for their profession.
As an example, a mechanical engineering graduate wouldn’t be so sure to apply for a job posting for the position of ‘Sales Associate’—the graduate would have to check the company or the job description to have an idea. If it’s a sales associate involved in selling solar panels or pollution control devices where some basic knowledge of the subject matter would be helpful, then that would be a solid fit. But if it was a sales job where you call businesses to subscribe to your company’s SaaS, then a mechanical engineering graduate would probably not immediately consider applying.
2. Meeting Expectations of Parents
Another aspect of the job-seeking journey is the pressure coming from parents, or relatives, or people who’ve been close to you when you were still a student. Whether this pressure is overtly manifested, such as when your dad constantly compares you with the son or daughter of his friend from work who was able to land a supervisor position right away; or implied, such as when your parents are financially struggling to keep the family afloat while paying off the debt for sending you to college—meeting their expectations wears on you and adds to the struggle you face as a new jobseeker.
Their expectations may vary or include the following:
- They expect you to land a job right away because you graduated college.
- They expect you to land a high-paying job because your college education cost a lot to finance.
- They expect you to land a job at a reputable company because their investment in your education must be one that pays off, one that’s not worth wasting by working for companies that don’t matter.
- They expect you to land more than just an entry-level job because someone as good as you shouldn’t start from the ultimate bottom.
- They expect you to land a job directly or completely relevant to your college education because that was the point of them steering you into that field in the first place when you enrolled.
Whichever of the expectations enumerated above or one that I missed to list, having them hover over your consciousness while seeking your very first job can be exhausting.
3. Feeling Like Your Degree Is Useless
The harsh and yet very obvious reality is that some college degrees are better than others. Perhaps better is a vague adjective, and the word useful would be more appropriate. Some degrees are more useful than others.
And for some new job seekers, they will feel like the degree that they so endeavored to complete—the sleepless nights writing and rewriting a thesis, the inconvenient blocks of time they had to block off to accommodate for a ‘group project’, or the weeks spent hunched in a desk to prepare for an exam worth half the entire grade—ends up being useless.
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Let’s elaborate on why you would perceive it as useless. You look for companies, online or along your walks or through referrals, and you establish connection with them—only to find out that your degree in whatever Science or Arts isn’t even considered an essential qualification for the available position.
You’ll find that an x number of years of experience is more valuable, or to their liking, as opposed to your diploma bearing the name of your Bachelor’s. And to add salt to the wound—you find out that applicants who didn’t even finish college are being weighed the same as you, just because they had some background with the industry that the company plays in.
Perceiving that your college degree is useless can be frustrating, especially if you can’t find a job posting around whose qualifications explicitly spell out the degree you majored in. In a way, companies have been able to adjust to this phenomenon, and they no longer try to alienate members of the job pool by specifying very strict college majors for applicants to have.
For example, in posting for entry-level technical jobs, companies don’t spell out ‘computer engineering graduate’ for computer hardware development positions and instead just place ‘engineering graduate.’ And some companies don’t even bother which college degree you graduated in, such as for some BPO firms—their higher-level positions require you to be a college graduate rather than explicitly looking for a communications major or a process control engineer.
4. Comparing Yourself to Fellow Classmates or Peers
And then there’s the struggle with comparing and contrasting. As was indoctrinated in the school system, which ranks students and hands out awards and accolades for high-performing students, comparing yourself with your fellow peers becomes too ingrained. This tendency to compare with other people similarly situated extends beyond school, and you feel it when you’re looking for your first job.
You ask yourself, ‘Which job did Jim land?’ ‘Which company did he apply for?’ ‘How much does John make for his starting salary?’ And once you learn the answers to these questions, you can’t help but pressure yourself into looking for a job that somehow does better than them, even if it would just be marginally better.
The problem with this mindset is that it would be easy for you as a new jobseeker to miss great opportunities. There will be some hesitancy in taking on a job with a terrific career pathway or one that would help grow your skills, just because the starting pay is lower than what one or two of your classmates will be making out of the jobs they took.
Comparing with your fellow classmates or peers while looking for your first job can be a good benchmark—you shouldn’t settle for awful working conditions or for starting pay that sells you short—but it can also work against you by blinding you with discontent.
5. Willingness to Change Zip Codes
Sometimes the job that fits you isn’t within your locality. Once you find out that really awesome jobs available to fresh graduates are out there (especially ones that offer good pay) but are just too far away, you can easily get discouraged and start settling for the jobs that are available around your area.
Preparing for relocation is a topic for another day—but the prospect of working at some faraway land and not personally knowing many people in there can be a source of either excitement or terror. Excitement because there is beauty in a blank canvas, and you would have the opportunity to establish your own living away from the comforts of your home. And terror, for the very same reason.
6. When the Labor Market Is Against You
For the final struggle of a new job seeker, this is one that’s completely out of your control. If, say, you graduated in 2009, you would have been in such a disrupted labor market because of the Great Recession. Finding a job in real estate would have been almost impossible. And if you were seeking your first job around the time that the Covid-19 pandemic caused lockdowns all over the world (around April–May 2020), you would have been in such a tough situation.
In both of the scenarios stated, there was a severe net loss of jobs in the overall market, meaning there were immensely more people losing their jobs than there were any gaining jobs. If you happened to graduate or be available to the labor market in those times, it would have been insanely cutthroat. Some struggles are just there, and you can’t do anything about it—and only time and the fate of the world will help you land your job, not necessarily your brilliant degree and academic performance.
You Are Not Alone
If you are a struggling new job seeker, I hope that what I’ve written here helps you in some way. I’ve gone through the same struggles as outlined above, so these are not things that I completely assumed—some of it, if not most of it, I’ve felt firsthand.
I hope that by articulating these struggles in this article, I’ve been able to help you gain some awareness. An awareness that, indeed, many new job seekers are going through the same struggles as you are. And so, hang in there.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.