I didn’t get out of bed until the afternoon today. And it’s becoming a pattern, along with staying up late on the Internet watching the “funniest moments” of my favorite actors as well as (amazing) fan videos of my favorite characters. I mean, what’s the point of going to bed at a “reasonable” time, just to get up at an “unreasonable” hour and do nothing all day? I am an university graduate with no job, and writing this was supposed to be my way of waking up to do something, yet it still took me a week to finish it (did I mention that I’m a major procrastinator?). I guess you could say that I am in a rut—big time.
But enough of this pessimism. What I really wanted to say is that during these “nothing” days, I’ve had a lot of time for reflection, and I’ve thought about some things to help me (and you) get through these ruts:
I know that this piece of advice is overused and can be VERY annoying to hear, but it really does help during the tough times. (Believe me, I’m going through them right now.) When I say “keep trying,” I don’t mean in general. I mean, keep trying at EVERYTHING you do. Keep emailing or calling that company that you want to work for. Keep sending them letters. Keep doing it until you get a response from them. Don’t assume that because you haven’t heard from them, that they’ve rejected you. It might just mean that they’ve just missed it and may not be aware of it. I had to email two publishing companies at least three times until I got a response (and I ended up interning with them for a bit). I even had to pitch to HelloGiggles a few times. Just remember, if you haven’t heard from them after a couple of weeks, try again.
“Staying productive” can mean anything. It could mean looking for new jobs daily or researching the kind of work or job you would like to do—anything that will make you feel like you’ve done something with your day and help you to feel good about yourself. If you’re a writer, just write anything you feel like writing. If you’re an artist, draw anything you want. Don’t think too hard about it. As a writer, I know how difficult it can be to get going in the artistic process and how annoying it can be when people tell you to just do it. It’s that fear of failure that makes us procrastinate, but “just doing it” is really the best advice. Just try to do what you love and think about “perfecting” it later.
Don’t be hard on yourself
I think that it can be good to be your own critic. You’re the only one that knows your own limitations, and that fear of self-loathing (well, for me, anyway) can give you that extra push to do something you really want to do. I know that when I whisper to myself, “If you don’t do this, I will kick your butt,” it usually gets the job done. However, there can be a fine line between healthy motivation and coming down too hard on yourself. Always remember to not be so critical of your abilities that you end up giving yourself crippling anxiety. Instead, be critical of your motivation and try to find a way of disciplining yourself.
Focus on what you CAN control
This kind of goes with staying productive: instead of worrying about not being able to get “that job,” focus on what you can do to change that. The magic word: EXPERIENCE. Even if what you want to do does not lend itself to experience, it’s always helpful to have experience close to it. Just think of it as something that will make you stand out during your interviews. If you’re an artist, it could be interesting to try getting work experience at a design company, for example. Even if you don’t get to do the exact thing that you want to do, you’ll be surrounded by it, you will improve your abilities, and you never know what might happen. Stepping stones, people.
If you’re in high school or university, my advice would be to get as much real world experience as possible. Obviously, you might not know what you want to do that early on, but it can take some of the pressure off later on. I didn’t do any internships until after I graduated and I regret it. It can be daunting when you go from constant education structures (elementary school, high school, university, etc) to suddenly being at home with nothing to do. So, I suggest getting some experience as soon as you are able to. It can be comforting to have that when you enter the work world and it helps you get on your way to finding a job you love. Find out from careers advisors about the possibilities out there. And if you’re not at university anymore, there are great organizations that are determined to help graduates find PAID internships that actually give valuable experience and work prospects if you look for them.
Ultimately, it’s important to surround yourself with like-minded people. If you’ve studied a creative subject, then you’ve probably made some friends for life who may also be in the same boat as you at this moment. Help each other. Ask them to critique what you create and do the same for them. I asked three of my friends to look at this piece and it was really helpful. Champion each other to do the work that you want to do. As I told one of my friends, “If we bully each other into it, it should work.” (But, you know, nicer and more supportive.)
Don’t let rejection get you down. Recruiters are just looking for the perfect people for what they need. Don’t let these rejections dampen your spirits and make you feel like you’re not good or talented enough. Don’t give up, stay productive, and work hard, and maybe you could be perfect for the next job that comes your way.
Nabeela Ali is a Scottish writer, occasional blogger and a semi-mature child trapped in a woman’s body. An ex-English and Film student, she loves films, is a cake-loving TV addict, and is nerdy for all things Marvel and DC. She loves spending her days scrolling through Tumblr, writing advice for herself and crying over fictional characters. Follow her ramblings on her Tumblr and her blog.