Why it’s okay to take a break from your resume
Graduating without a job was the best thing I could do for myself.
Two weeks ago, I did the unthinkable.
I walked across the stage at my college graduation, accepted my diploma, and then went home…without a job.
Somehow, I always imagined that the version of me who was strong and smart enough to graduate from college would be strong and smart enough to figure out a job for myself before graduation. But there I was. Despite all the time I spent searching, applying, interviewing, I still didn’t have a job.
My friends and family were kind. They told me I should go home, take a well-needed break. That I’d be able to regroup and figure something out that would be even bigger and better than before.
Even with their support, I was still frustrated. For all the jokes I cracked about starving artists and unemployment, graduating without a job offer in hand still felt like a failure.
More than anything, I think that I was afraid.
I was afraid of stagnating. Losing my direction and my drive. Every day of my life up until the day of my graduation, everything I did led into an obvious next step. I went to middle school to go to high school, high school to get into college. Activities would help me get into internships, then internships into jobs.
Each time I accomplished something, I took the time to puzzle out how to fit it into my resume, spin it into part of my marketable persona. I was building up my accomplishments to justify my worth to future employers, in a shorthand of who I really was.
But there’s a problem with linking your worth to your resume. If every single employer passed on my resume, did that mean that I had no worth?
These were the thoughts I was forced to confront when I came home two weeks ago. The idea that maybe I wasn’t valuable. And the fear that without the structure of school or work, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything worthy.
For the past two weeks, I’ve lived in a different space than any other time in my life.
There is a tremendous stillness in not actively moving from one goalpost of your life to the next, one that forces you to slow down. Forces you to think.
I’ve been home for two weeks now. And oddly enough, I’ve been anything but still.
During college, I kept a growing list of things I always wanted to do but put off for other responsibilities. Blogging consistently. Working on freelance projects I actually enjoyed. Making my own website. Projects that I could start whenever I wanted, but never actually did. For all the other activities I worked on in school, these were the ones that seemed more selfish. Less immediately marketable.
The first day I arrived at home, I went straight to that list. For the past two weeks, I’ve checked off almost everything on that to-do list.
I’ve started blogging again. Wrote for some causes I actually care about. And it’s taken me a week to work out most of the kinks, but I have my own website up and running.
Sure, some of the work I’m doing now might help me shore up whatever career I’m planning on building. But I’ve surprised myself with how much I enjoy the freedom of being able to work on projects without having to prioritize something that helps me fit into the lines of a job description.
Of course, I speak from a privileged position. Financial strain is real, and I’m fortunate to have a home to stay at for the moment.
But right up to graduation, the stress I could feel from my fellow seniors didn’t just come from being able to feed themselves. Instead I sensed the humiliation of not having a path laid out before them, of not knowing what they were doing with their lives after putting so much effort into a degree. Not being able to make the smooth transition from school to job meant that we were admitting our own uncertainty to ourselves.
My fear of coming back home wasn’t just a fear of unemployment. It was the fear of being forced to take a break from work with a clearly defined purpose. If I wasn’t building up my value through work, then how could I remain valuable?
In a way, working on personal projects has helped me reconnect with the kind of work that excites me far more than filling out job applications or updating bullet points on my resume.
Even if translating Chinese web literature isn’t something that will earn me a full-time living in the future, it’s not something I want to abandon for the sake of a grown-up career. If musings on anime and culture don’t get me hired, so be it.
When I was younger, I dreamed about the perfect employer. They had the perfect job for me, one that would let me use all my skills and challenged me in exactly the right way.
Spoiler alert: that employer doesn’t exist. There’s only one person who can do that, and that’s you.
I’m still at home now. Still working on my projects, and still applying for jobs.
I have no delusions about finding the exact perfect job for me. I’m sure that there are amazing, meaningful opportunities out there for work that I’ll love doing. But when it comes to doing everything you’ve wanted to do creatively, no one else can push you to do that except for you.
So if you’ve graduated recently, if you are living the unstable, uncertain life without a job, a career, a five-year plan just like I am, I have something to say to you.
First of all, congratulations. You’ve made it so far.
There will be some days you’re seized by the urge to apply to every single job out there, to pick up every side gig possible for the sake of filling that gap in your resume. You think that you must not be worthy of any kind of real job, and that maybe everything will be okay if you settle.
I’m not saying there’s any shame in doing work you might not 100% love. But when you feel that compulsion, I’d urge you to think about it for a moment.
You’re a person, not the bullet points under a job position description. Whether you have a job or not, you can still work on the stuff you love.
Just because you don’t satisfy an employer’s sense of worth doesn’t mean that you’re not worthy.
So whether you have a job at the moment or not, maybe consider sitting down and going back to your list of things that you’ve always wanted to do, and never really had the time for.
It may not be worth putting on your resume. But maybe it’s worth far more than that.