Couldn't get your dream job once you graduated? Don't worry; all is not lost. It's still possible to find a job—even a part-time, minimum wage one—that serves as a stepping stone to that ideal career you're daydreaming about.
First, cut yourself some slack. Unemployment is still a huge factor in the United States. You're competing with people with much more experience, so you can only do so much as a recent grad. But that being said, you can make yourself more hireable once the right job opens up.
Take Off Your Blinders
Sure, you really wanted to be hired by a fancy magazine as a photographer, but it's just not happening right now. Don't overlook other amazing opportunities that will train you for that position and help you add new skills to your resume in the meantime.
Think about what types of jobs can help position you as a great job candidate down the road. For example, you could work as an assistant to a photographer, as a cashier in a photography supply store, or even as a photographer at a theme park. It may not seem like glamorous work, but at least you're working in an industry you love and want to learn inside out.
Choose a Job With Perks
Even if you're doing grunt work, a particular job may introduce you to big players in your industry, give you access to software or equipment you couldn't afford to buy on your own, or get you invites to major industry events.
Don't take unfair advantage of your access, but do use it. Get to know the customers (who may be well connected, or even your next employer) and gradually guide the conversation in the general direction of your career areas of interest.
For example, if you dream of selling your art in a gallery and you work in a frame shop, you'll likely meet other artists who are doing just that. Ask them for advice about achieving your goal. You might even walk away with a referral to a great gallery.
Keep Pursuing Your Passion
Just because you're punching a clock somewhere that's not exactly your dream workplace doesn't mean you can't keep honing your craft after hours. Patrick Sweeney, president of Caliper Corporation, suggests: "Actively pursue what makes you feel that 'wow, I'm being paid to do this' feeling, while keeping your 'day job' if necessary."
If you're an artist, keep painting on your own. If you're a writer, start a blog. Not only will you keep the creative juices flowing, you'll also amp up your portfolio for when you finally do get called in for a great job interview. Continuing to pursue your passion shows potential employers that you are dedicated to doing what you love.
We've all had jobs we dreaded going to. Sometimes it's simply unavoidable. But don't make a bad situation worse by having a negative attitude about it.
"If you are unhappy in your work, don't let it show," says Sweeney. "By staying positive in your attitude other people will find it infectious and want to be around you, and one of them may be the next stepping stone in your career."
Making the most out of a less-than-ideal work situation will help you pass the time more quickly, and it might be your key to finding a better job.
Nothing's permanent. One day, this job will be a faint memory on your resume, and you'll be spending every day getting paid for what you love doing. In the meantime, make the most out of the opportunities that come up.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.