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28Jun
June 28th, 2011,
Career Advice for College Graduates

By Noël Rozny
Web Editor & Content Manager

Finding a job and starting your career after college graduation is never an easy thing, but it’s been especially difficult in recent years. With the economy still in the toilet, the competition for those entry-level jobs is fierce and many graduates are contemplating moving home to make ends meet until they can get their career started.

But this is where that high school or college job can come in handy. Believe it or not, the skills you picked up in that position can provide a lifeline until you can land something in your chosen field. It’s what I like to call your career back up plan.

I’ve changed jobs a few times since I started my career, and each time, my career back up plan has saved me during those transitions. Whether I was switching industries or dealing with my company’s sudden loss of funding, I always went back to the job that helped me through high school, college, and graduate school: waiting tables.

Waitressing was a great option for me because it was flexible and allowed me to make the extra income I needed . And it not only not helped me feed myself when financial times are tough, it’s helped me career. Here’s how.

College Graduates: You Need Time to Find What You Really Want

When you’re young, broke, and unemployed, you may be so stressed that you’ll take just about any job that’s offered to you, which is totally understandable. The danger of being in this position, though, is that you mind end up in an industry that’s not your first choice, and before you know it, you’re working your way up in a company or field that’s not really a good fit for you. But if you’re getting a comfortable salary and nice benefits, it becomes extremely hard to turn those away. Sooner or later, 5 or even 10 years have passed while you were in that same job and you’re wondering where the time went.

The beauty of a career back up plan is it provides an income that gives you plenty of time to find that job that you really want. And in the meantime, you’re free to volunteer, freelance, or pursue other activities that will help build your resume and provide the networking you need to find a job in your chosen field.

Career Back Up Plans Are Flexible
When we talk about a career back up plan, we’re often talking about a job you picked up when you were younger or a student for the very fact that it was flexible and worked around your school schedule. Jobs in the service industry – waitressing, hostessing, bartending, and working in the kitchen – all fit that description to a “T.” I’ve also known college graduates who have also fallen back on their barista skills, IT knowledge, and graphic design expertise to find work. Some have run their own freelance businesses, while other pieced together a mix of temporary gigs and part-time positions to help pay the bills and fund their job search.

Whatever you choose to do, the beauty of a career back up plan is that you have a certain degree of flexibility with your schedule, allowing plenty of time for job interviews, networking events and other activities that will help you find the job you really want.

Career Back Up Plans Can Lead to Unexpected Opportunities
After graduate school, I had been interning at a start-up with a possibility of a full-time position at the end of the summer. When the company lost funding, that option was out the window, and I found myself applying for waitressing jobs to help pay the bills.

During the application process, I stumbled across a waitressing post for a company that was hiring servers and an editorial associate (which was the kind of job I was actually looking for). I applied for both, got the editorial position, and ended up not having to tie on my waitress apron after all. And I’m not the only one – a former co-worker who began waiting tables after a lay off was quickly promoted to a management position, which allowed her to build her resume while she looked for a job in her chosen field.

Career back up plans not only buy you time to find the right job; they also buy you the piece of mind that you’ll be able to support yourself while you look. That assurance alone can make a huge difference in the success of your job search.

Do you have a career back up plan? Tell us about it in the comments below!


  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing your story! I’m glad the article was helpful. Good luck on the overseas position — keep us posted on what happens next!