There is a discussion going on between students who will graduate university soon. With current unemployment rates in the European union some are likely not to get a job for quite some time after graduation. Now the discussion is about the best way to deal with this situation.

My question is: would it be better to be unemployed for quite a long time (say a year) and search for a job in the field of education OR should someone who doesn’t have a job in the desired field be working as e.g. waiter until some fitting position turns up? What are the pros and cons from an employer perspective?

Note: some students are arguing that if you start working in a job that you don't like it is very hard to change fields once you started and you'll be stuck with the decision you made - i wonder if that is true. The counter argument would be a steady course of income.

  • 1
    "would it be better to be unemployed..." - What do you plan to be doing for the year you are unemployed?
    – Brandin
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 8:29
  • that's actually a good question. the lack of money would prohibit me from doing certificates so i guess ther is only the option of self-education and keeping up with current events. possibly another (additional) degree (education is close to free where i live)
    – sam
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 8:31
  • 3
    doesn't matter what job you had, they each add experience and prove that you can actually work. Unemployment proves nothing.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 9:07
  • 4
    Yep, thought so. The answers here apply to your situtation equally as well. workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/44421/…
    – Jane S
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 9:28
  • 1
    When I see this sort of question, I wonder how people plan to pay rent/mortgage, eat, etc. if they don't take some sort of job...
    – shoover
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 18:51

7 Answers 7


Treating it as a lesser of two evils: all way in better employed somewhere else.

Suppose you are in 2018 interviewing for a position on the desired field and you have two candidates: Candidate A that graduated in 2017 and is unemployed for a year and Candidate B that has just graduated. A is suspicious (is he lazy, has he worked somewhere and they fired him? is he hiding something), while B is blank (I would say "no criminal record") - he just graduated.

This argument was from a UK newspaper on research about how our graduation year affects our salary.

Now as a hypothetical interviewer think of Candidate A: graduated in 2016 and has one year of experience on something else or one year of charity work overseas or something from which he has gained working experience vs Candidate B who has just graduated. Whom would you prefer all things equal?

By working anywhere you get some skills that cannot be taught in academia mostly the so called soft skills and also experiences in the workplace. For all that I would advice to prefer to get to a job, a one-year contract better on anything else and then go back to the job market for your field.

Another (last) food for thought: what if the field of study never picks up again? What if only 80% of the graduates will have the chance to work on that because it is shrinking?


In my opinion, it is much better if somebody shows willingness to be productive. I would prefer a person doing something over waiting anytime.

There are some drawbacks if you already worked in a job in your desired field and are eligible for unemployment money. If you take on a waiter's job, unemployment (if necessary, because you lose the job) will be less (if your profession pays more). That is not true in your scenario, because as a student, your unemployment money will most probably be minimal.

On applications, let them know why you did what you did and what you profited from it that would be beneficial for the job you apply for.

For you personally, it is always better to have a day structure and something to do than just sit around. The only reason why changing fields could be hard: you like working in the field.


Being unemployed is always a scar on a person's resume. Being employed in a different field should only be beneficial towards a person's resume.

When you're unemployed the main benefit is that you don't have to take days off when you go to interviews for jobs you DO wish to have. However, aside from this it's not very useful.

Being employed as a waiter for example could indicate you as customer friendly. Being employed as a super market stock filler could indicate teamwork. These are all competencies that an employer appreciates.

It's always a good idea to fill up any unemployment holes that you make.


Doing something is better than nothing.

As Migz stated:
"Being employed as a waiter for example could indicate you as customer friendly".

Say after a year you finally get an interview, it is going raise some questions if you did nothing for a year and only had your sight on one field, when you could have been developing other skills.

A colleague at my old work she finished university and ended up being a receptionist at our workplace. There were no jobs in her field but she was keeping busy.


To answer the contention that it is hard to change fields once you start. That is not true. People change fields all the time, particularly when they have a degree in the field they want to change to. Further, you can use your off time to build up your qualifications for entering your field by taking more classes or doing freelance work or in the software development world, working on personal or open source projects. I have changed career fields more than 7 times. Hardly anyone stays at the same career their whole work life.

Can it be more difficult, yes at times but not generally when you are entry level in any field.

What can be harder is that sometimes it means you have to cut your salary to get into the field you want. So if you take that job as a Day Trader on Wall Street as a stop gap measure, it may be hard to quit to become a teacher because you would lose probably 2/3 or more of your pay. If you truly want the lesser paying field and take something that makes more as a stopgap, then handle your money as if you were only earning at the lower level as much as possible.

Working is almost always preferable to not working, from the standpoint of the hiring official. There are even companies that simply toss the resumes of everyone who has been unemployed for more than 6 months. Working is also preferable because, well personally I like having a roof over my head and food to eat.


Being unemployed while waiting for that perfect job calls into question a person's work ethic. Taking a less-than-ideal position until you find the right one is respectable. In both cases, if you get the interview, expect to answer questions. In the latter case you will have a much better chance of getting the job because it shows initiative and responsibility.

Also, keep in mind that you could take a position in a different field, but in an organization that has room for change. Many larger companies open up positions internally, and if you are a good, proven employee, you have an advantage over someone submitting a resume off the street.


would it be better to be unemployed for quite a long time (say a year) and search for a job in the field of education OR should someone who doesn’t have a job in the desired field be working as e.g. waiter until some fitting position turns up?

As a hiring manager, I like to hire people for whom work is important. I feel this makes for better employees - people who want to work, who might take pride in their work, who care.

So for me, I think you would be far better served to be working in whatever role you can get while you seek your education job.

You'll have a good story to tell that shows you are hard-working, and you'll be less inclined to jump into an education job that you don't really want due to financial pressures.

When I asked you "why are you working at X, when you want to be in education", you'll be able to impress the hiring manager with your work ethic.

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