So you’ve graduated. You spent four, maybe five (or more, no shame) years working toward a degree that would launch you into a career — so you hoped and planned!
If you weren’t like Paris Geller and you didn’t have a massive chart plotting every resume buffer available, then you’re not alone. When graduation came around, my plan was, simply, to write. Which is about as specific and unspecific as you can get.
Despite my “plans”, my Post-Grad life in a nutshell looks like this — see any similarities? I graduated in 3 years, I hold 2 degrees, I’ve spent 9 months applying to anything remotely English-related, and I work 5 out of 7 days as a barista.
Needless to say, my post-grad life isn’t exactly what I planned. And I’m willing to bet your post-grad life isn’t what you planned, either.
After 9 months, I’d like to say I’ve figured everything out and have the answer for escaping the Post-Grad Wasteland (an endearing term for this period of time).
Nothing could be further from the truth. But I have learned a lot of lessons that have helped ease some of the helplessness, and I think they can help you too.
Admit Your Arrogance
It’s like missing a step on the stairs and falling flat on your face. You’re bruised and embarrassed and hoping no one saw that.
It’s easy to act like it didn’t happen and move on. But now you’re saying you’re fine when your body aches from the wipeout.
This is what I did. It took me months of denial to finally look in the mirror and admit that, yes, I am hurting.
I blame this on arrogance.
We go through college expecting to come out and change the world. Some of us may not even realize we think that until we no longer believe in it. Whatever the case, this belief is arrogant — but it’s not necessarily bad.
To be arrogant enough to believe you can change something is what facilitates change. Without this, we wouldn’t discover or grow.
But it is necessary to realize that this belief for change can also create cynicism when things don’t go the way you plan.
Hello, post-grad wasteland.
For me, this arrogance led to anger. I felt overqualified as a barista and would go to work angry about it. Then I would get fussed at by customers, and I would fume, thinking I didn’t deserve any of it. I have a degree, after all.
After months of cycling through these thoughts, I became livid with where my life was.
And, though I tried to get work elsewhere, no one was interested in hiring me, so I just got angrier.
And it kept going until I realized it wasn’t my job making me unhappy. There were many times I’d be at work, laughing and goofing off with co-workers, or connecting with customers, and I’d catch myself enjoying the work.
When work wasn’t fun, it was because I was angry about being there. It wasn’t the job. It was my massive arrogance saying I shouldn’t enjoy it because I was a college graduate.
I was making myself miserable.
Love What You Have
When I finally realized this, everything didn’t magically fall into place. I was still a barista, which was still not my choice of career, and I still couldn’t find work elsewhere.
However, making this realization suddenly allowed me to love what I had.
No, maybe you didn’t plan on working the job you have right now. And yes, you’re still applying to places in search of the career you planned for in college.
But it is okay to find enjoyment in your not-planned-for job! Allow yourself the mercy of taking pleasure from being successful in it.
There have been many moments of unexpected joy in this post-grad life, moments I never would’ve thought to include on my way to making a career. But there are closing shifts spent entirely in laughter. There are openings shifts put on pause to watch the sun rise.
If I was still fixated in my anger, I wouldn’t see these moments. But I’m glad I do, because I can now love them; doing so supplies my soul with energy to keep on searching for what I love.
Which brings me to the last point.
This is probably the hardest, yet most important, thing to realize as a recent college graduate.
It’s important to be inspired — to keep pressing toward your goals in search of work you love in order to create a life you take joy in.
It can seem counterintuitive — if I’m supposed to love what I have, what reason do I have to look elsewhere for work?
Remember: you’re human. You can love what you have now, but it takes effort to consciously love something you don’t always love. You run the risk of tiring out.
So it’s crucial to keep looking to get on the path you dream of, and to supply yourself with the fuel that will sustain you on the way.
Personally, I’m trying to make it in freelancing. But this takes time. Months could pass between deciding to make the leap and actually landing successfully, which calls to question how to stay motivated.
My belief is that you must stay inspired! Do what you love, even when you have no energy to love it. It could be reading, hiking, working out, baking, cleaning — anything that helps you nurture your spirit.
Because that’s the goal — to feed your soul and make the life you want to live.