While planning the content strategy for this blog, I thought to write to my peers, soon-to-be-graduates, about how to enjoy the job search. But who am I kidding? This is miserable. Take it from me, there’s a lot I wish I had known before I had started hunting for an “adult job.” Here are some of my toughest challenges and my lessons learned from them.

Show, Don’t just Tell, your Story

With new job applications posted every day on multiple job sites every day, you can expect that there are dozens– no, even hundreds– of other candidates fiercely fighting for the same position you are. Recruiters review resumes on average for six seconds each. Unless you have incredible buzz words in bold, it’s hard to stand out from a traditional resume’s page.

In addition to creating an attractive resume, consider making a physical or digital portfolio to showcase all your work. You’ll distinguish yourself as a unique, fresh professional in a heartbeat.

Networking is an Underrated Tool

You can spend hours on job search sites and come away with no decent leads. This is because most reputable organizations hire mostly based on referrals. They want to filter out the hundreds of applications they would get online through receiving recommendations from credible people.

More often than not, doors will open for you from relationships with weak ties, or people that you do not know closely but are within your expanded network. Friends of parents, former colleagues of your professors, strangers at events can all open unexpected doors for you.

From my experience, I recommend utilizing your networks far beyond spending extensive hours on job search websites. You’ll get a leg up on applications and be able to connect with experienced professionals along the way.

Story time: I met my closest business partner through a woman I had met once before at a bookstore. After a frankly depressing interview at for an HR position that I didn’t even want, I wandered into a metaphysical-themed bookstore to clear my head. There was a young woman reading oracle cards there, and I just started to chat her up. When I told her I wanted to work in music, she enthusiastically invited me to meet with her and some of her music industry contacts later that week. One thing led to another, and I wouldn’t have my dream job today if I had never chatted up a stranger in a bookstore.

Utilize your University’s Resources (even after graduating!)

For most universities, you are allowed one year afterward to still have access to their resources. We pay for a lot with our tuition, so don’t neglect to look into all that there is to offer! The University of Oregon, for example, provides free resume support, interview prep, networking events, career advisers, and even Microsoft Office. It could never hurt to tack these under your belt!

Show Gratitude

We may have been taught to always show thanks from a young age, but in the hustle of job hunting, we can sometimes forget this simple courtesy. More often than not, an interviewer or professional connection doesn’t have to give their time and attention to you. As a job seeker, you’re being granted a significant favor in these busy peoples’ lives. Make sure they know how thankful you are for it!

More than sending an email, handwritten cards make a positive impression that’ll withstand time, and potentially give you a helping hand later, too.

Stay Productive

No matter how long you remain unemployed for, hiring managers will want to know how you spent your time. While finding a job is a full-time job in itself, it creates a favorable impression about your work ethic when you tack on an additional resume boost.

Take online classes to get specialized certification through sites like Coursera. In particular, Google Analytics is a valuable online course attractive to employers. Be open to accepting freelance work or professional projects. It’ll prove you’re ambitious, independent and hard-working.

Don’t Sacrifice your Humanity

This is typical millennial of me to say, but if you’re not the person to be content in a cubicle from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm every weekday, don’t force yourself to. We’re pressured from the conditions of older generations to follow this semblance of a “right of passage,” and thus slowly climb the corporate ladder to “success.”More often than not, people regret on their deathbeds that they didn’t follow their dreams. While this may be an extreme comparison, we’ve already learned so far that time flies fast. Blink and you’re suddenly 30– just how we all feel like we were 18 yesterday. How you spend your time matters.

More often than not, people regret on their deathbeds that they didn’t follow their dreams. While this may be an extreme comparison, we’ve already learned so far that time flies fast. Blink and you’re suddenly 30– just how we all feel like we were 18 yesterday. How you spend your time matters.

Be mindful and strategic about the roles you take on. Consider how much they’ll bolster your career, and how much you’re willing to sacrifice for it. Granted, your first job is probably not going to be the most favorite position of your career, but it can help you reach your dream role. Be smart about what positions you take: it’s an average first job if you’re bored, but it’s not worth it if you’re miserable.

Keep your Chin Up!

Searching for a job, especially an entry-level one to kick start your career, can be a deeply discouraging process at times. I had moments where I actually screamed in frustration. It’s difficult to always stay positive about a process you can’t control. It doesn’t feel fair: you go to school for 12-20 years all in an attempt to succeed in your career, but there’s still no promises. All the work I had put in over the years to place me in a lucrative position felt fruitless. I finally understood why adults miss college so much.

However, like any other rejection, it’s important not to take it too personally. Employers rely on brief impressions of candidates to make their choice, and they may not always be right in their pick, either. However, they’re looking at people for what value they can give to their organization, rather than a judge on personal character. Keep kissing job frogs and turning those stones over– you’ll find your perfect company with just an extra dose of optimism, confidence, and enthusiasm.