What I Learned from a Year of Unemployment after College

woman working in the fields flowers

When I graduated from college in 2012, I thought a world of opportunities would become open to me. I had made all the right connections, held leadership positions, was top of my major, and graduated summa cum laude. Surely, I would breeze through career opportunities like a hurricane of success!


But no such thing happened – at least not in the beginning.

Toughing it Out

In fact, it was a rough year after school ended, even though I gave up my vacation to stay in Jamaica and hunt for a job.

I didn’t want to return after stretching my legs for four months in the U.S., only to find all the good positions taken. But it seemed that for recent graduates, there was just none to be had.

Since I no longer had my college apartment, my rent sky-rocketed, and inflation sent general cost of living up with it.

In a few months, I found myself literally budgeting meals, and using candles in the dark at night to avoid turning the lights on. I didn’t want my utilities to run sky-high too.

I mostly stayed home, rarely ate out, and my only monthly treat to myself was one pound of gummy worms I used to buy at the local supermarket for about US $2.00.


The Silver Lining

I could have spent the year moping and bewailing the cruelties of Third World life. But instead I decided to turn my unfortunate situation into a benefit, by taking the time to work on my writing.

While I’m extremely grateful for my college education, it had made it almost impossible to write. How could I dare to read Anne Rice or work on novels, when I had five textbooks to read cover to cover and three projects to turn in by the end of the semester?

So for the first time in six years, I had all the free time I needed to focus on an inexpensive hobby – and best believe I made the best of it.

In less than a year, I had finished four novels and started on a fifth. I told myself, “I’ll finish this in the next three months” and clearly had very good reason to believe I could.

Then, I found a job.

The Downside of Full-time Employment

I was excited. I had finally entered the world of work, though to be honest, at roughly US $6,800 per year it was hardly anything to be excited about. Thankfully though, my parents continued to help out and I was able to lead a relatively comfortable life.

I worked hard and kept my goals in sight, but try as I might I just couldn’t find the time or energy to finish that novel.

I crept along at a snail’s pace and would sometimes take such long breaks, that I would need to re-read the whole thing before I could write again. Fast-forward to three years later, and I’m still on that last book.

Amazing isn’t it? – how one writes four books in eight months, and then can’t make it through the final book in three years.

Well this year, I plan to finish it by the end of summer the year, for sure. And yes: I’ve said this every year since January 2013 and I’ll keep saying it until it’s done. Mark my words.

Because the fact is, every year I get closer and closer to my end goal. At 79,006 words I’m almost 80 percent done.

What I Learned

I learned two lessons from this experience.

The first is that failure happens when you stop trying. And the second is that in spite of this, success often comes to the people who know when to give up and move on.

We should all keep working towards our biggest dreams and ambitions, but along the way, you will also need to know when to let go of a fruitless venture, and try something else. This is true for both our professional and personal lives.

Most of us will go through unemployment, underemployment, or a financial rut at some point. If that’s you today, have patience, keep looking, and never be afraid of re-inventing yourself or working towards something else.

I truly believe that there is no better time to take risks and try new things than when you have nothing to lose, because if you’re already all the way down, it can only go up from there.

For more college-related posts, check out my website College Mate – your survival guide to college.

Originally published January 25, 2016 on Alexis Chateau.

63 thoughts on “What I Learned from a Year of Unemployment after College

  1. I waited to start university for a few years and just graduated top of my class this past Spring.
    One quarter through the year and job rejection hurts no less, but this post makes me feel a little better.

    I started my blog for similar reasons, to maintain and improve my writing while I continually apply and search for opportunities.

    Thanks for writing this post and cross your fingers for my interview to go well this week!

    1. So sorry to hear you’re suffering through those job rejections as I did. It really sucks, I know.

      Keep improving your resume, and looking for ways to build your portfolio and experience. It doesn’t always get easier, but you can make yourself better equipped to handle the challenges ahead.

      All the best!

      – Alex

    2. Sorry for the late reply! WordPress had this marked as spam for some reason. I’m glad I could provide some encouragement. How did your interview go? I hope you finally landed a job you love 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed reading this! I graduated last year and unemployment scared the socks off of me! I just prayed and worked on myself until God blessed me with an opportunity. The hardest part about working full time, is making time for the things I love (Blog, and writing books), but I vowed to have my books completed by the end of the year and to Blog every other day. Great post!

    1. I’m glad you also spent that time of unemployment as best as you could. I feel bad for the people who waste it moping, partying, or doing nothing at all. They won’t get that opportunity again for a long time…

  3. This is such an honest look at how it really is – both for post-college life and for trying to write. This is very inspirational. I think it’s great what you’ve accomplished and wish you the best of luck for that last novel! You can do it.

    1. Thank you EC. Once again, so sorry to hear so many other writers relate to this, but also a little relieved to know it’s not just me. We will overcome if we keep pushing and focus on our goals.

      All the best and thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

      ~ Alex

    2. Thank you. I try to write honestly and openly. Too many of us want to put on a show. Thank you again for the encouragement. I ended up launching my PR firm and living the life I want, so that’s been amazing. Wishing you success as well!

      Sorry for the late reply! WordPress had this marked as spam for some reason.

  4. Oh my goodness, yes! In highschool, I could write books in a WEEK (I know this for a fact because I dated them.) Now those dates leave me flabbergasted. I haven’t written anything productive in years. My best advances have been when I participated in the National Novel Writing Month every November, and that’s only if I stayed motivated. I work a full time job, one part time job, and just picked up another part time job.

    I will say that despite my workaholic nature, I have managed to self-publish 3 books, and I am very grateful for those opportunities. But still, I haven’t written anything NEW or even worked to finish something old.

    This year I made a choice. I wanted to stop editing and publishing. I’ll wrap up with the sequel to one of my books, then put all that to rest for awhile. I have found that even making the decision and working toward backing off those projects has opened my creativity again. I’m not going to work on anything until NaNoWriMo (this November), but I’m excited to begin again.

    This was inspiring to read, and gave me a bit of courage to keep going. This year it just feels like no matter how hard I work, it doesn’t make a difference. I’ve looked into different avenues of work, but so far nothing has opened up. I will hold tight and ride this out. The storm always breaks. It just takes time and perseverence.

    Thank you for posting.

    1. It brings me both happiness and sadness to see so many other writers relating to this dilemma. It’s sad that we cannot all find a way to enjoy our art and focus on it, like we could in school.

      I too wrote books in a week so I know what you mean. We lived in our heads more then. These days, reality calls very loudly for us with responsibilities!

      I hope we all get back on track soon. All the best, and always a pleasure to have you drop by 🙂

      ~ Alex

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