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What I Learned from a Year of Unemployment after College

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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.

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