From time to time, I’ll click through to an article that a friend has posted on Facebook that isn’t stupid human news (see terrible parents, more terrible parents, and even more terrible parents). My friend posted this article the other day titled “7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Graduated,” and it got me thinking about things I wish I’d knew (or things that people told me and I wish I’d listened to).
Post-college life, or what I like to call the real life Arrested Development, can be rough. I don’t have many friends who can confidently say that they like their work, which was supposed to be a guarantee after college. You pay $xx,xxx (or in my case, $xxx,xxx+undefined amounts pending how long I continue to let Sallie Mae rape my credit with late fees), and graduate with the assumption that your degree is worth something, thus your life validated. When I finally ended up employed about a month after graduating, making minimum wage at a shitty organization that had ethical standards that would make John Edwards say “hey, hey too far,” I was beyond crushed. Crushed to see that my degree was essentially useless, crushed that I wasn’t doing what I thought I wanted, and crushed that it seemed like everyone else’s post-college life was taking off and here I was stuck at the port-o-potty of the job industry.
At 26, I still don’t know what I want to do employment-wise, but have finally had the profound realization that this doesn’t mean my life is on hold. There are things to do. People to see and people to mock. Bourbon to drink. Life changing meals to be had. And while I do all of that, I’m not going to let the pressure of having everything “figured out,” shit all over my people watching, bacchanalia parade. I wish I’d had that profound moment before I made useless emotional investments in situations that weren’t worth emotionally investing in.
I wish I’d believed someone when they told me…
1. That person who appears to have it all figured out and is shouting from the rooftops that they love their job, probably doesn’t. As a recent graduate, you’re just trying to keep morale up. Unless you’re me. I’m a glass half empty girl and when that glass is half empty I just ask the bartender to bring me a bottle instead of trying to rationalize how great a half-empty glass is. So when this friend or acquaintance is on Facebook or Twitter using offensively excessive punctuation and CAPS sayings things like “OMG MY JOB IS SO INCREDIBLE YOU GUYS I LML <33333!!!!!!!” they are likely experiencing one of two things: temporary denial or the occasional good day. What they’re really trying to say is “I didn’t have a shitty day. My boss didn’t yell at me. I didn’t cry in the bathroom on my lunch break. And I only spilled one cup of coffee on myself. And it wasn’t even that hot. Now I’m going to the bar to celebrate.” When put in perspective, the good day in post-college life is your very worst day in college. Sure, I imagine there are some people who are between the ages of 22-29 and really liking what they’re doing. But they’re not screaming about it on social networking sites because they don’t have to keep morale up and get some kind of validation from mere acquaintances over the interwebz. This is why it is important to not make comparisons between yourself and other post-grads. Comparisons are dangerous, especially when they’re based on false assumptions.
2. Find a hobby. And don’t try to force it into a profession. Once you graduate, napping and pre-class cocktail hour are not hobbies. Neither is online shopping. Happy hour, maybe. You tend to forget how to hobby when in college because in between classes, internships, real jobs and partying, who has time to keep up on what new scrapbook techniques Martha is pimping out? As you near graduation, maybe start to explore those hobbies that fell by the way side or put a little more focus into the ones you’ve developed in college or zoom in on your interests and find a hobby. I taught myself how to cook in college, at first out of necessity and then kept up with it out of pure interest. I like reading recipes. I like buying cookware. I like the smell of onion and garlic cooking. I like that even after my worst day, after I’ve really screwed up, I can go into the kitchen, create something and not let the day be a complete wash. Find something that drives you, but don’t let that “you must love what you do” idealism pressure you into believing that you should turn a hobby into a job. Just because you like something and you’re good at it, doesn’t mean that you should necessarily turn it into work.
3. That lazy shithead in your group in that one class that one time, he’s gonna get hired somewhere, and you’re going to work with someone just like him.Been there. Done that. Still doing it now. I honestly had only one incidence in college in which I had an inept group partner (in a two person group project), who, by reason of intellectual deficiency was unable to bring anything useful to the table in executing the project. I complained to the professor who basically told me to suck it up and come up with alternate ways to “motivate” her to get her share of the work done. There was no motivating. She just didn’t care and even if she did, she, again didn’t have the brain power to contribute. She was going to get hired by her dad when she graduated and she only had to to do just that for the job: graduate. To her, getting a passing grade on a project was great and to me, it was just that: passing. I just didn’t believe that she, and other characters in the group work horror stories my friends were telling me, were actually going to get hired. I mean, who would hire these lazy fucks?
Whether it’s nepotism, idiocy on the part of the hiring manager or the offender just does a really good job of hiding his laziness, these people get hired. They get real jobs at real organizations with real responsibilities. Sometimes you’re going to have to rely on them in a team-based settings. They will half ass it. They will never take responsibility. They will always place blame. They will almost never turn in anything that resembles work. They will get promoted (and you won’t). And they will always leave at 5. On. The. Dot. Sometimes they get fired, but in the case that they were hired because their parents regularly vacation with one of the executives, you’re just going to have to deal. Even if their immediate supervisor knows what a fuck up they are, it’s out of everyone’s hands. Accept that they were hired not because of merit but because of connection. Remember, this is a person with no interest in developing himself professionally and should he be in the unfortunate position to not have a connection at some point in his life, he’ll be in the truest sense of the word, fucked. Don’t waste any energy trying to burn this person-it’ll almost never pan out. I currently have no helpful solutions for dealing in the meantime as my remedies always utilize passive aggressive tactics which work 3% of the time.
4. Networking could be your lifeline. The article from which this was inspired listed networking as an essential part of post-grad life and it is. I’m learning the hard way as my social interaction skills never really developed and I find that talking to strangers only flows if there’s an open bar involved, and I have been at said open bar for no less than two drinks. For me, putting myself in a situation where I have to interact with people I don’t know is like someone who has a fear of heights throwing themselves out of a plane unassisted, possibly with no parachute. The potential of getting stuck in a conversation about market fluctuations, potato farming or worst case scenario, trying to make conversation with someone who abstains from alcohol is my nightmare. However. You have no idea who is floating around at networking events. While you might have to wade through the sludge of human refuse to get to one socially developed person, that one person could be a valuable contact that was worth the wading. It’s true, networking events are the worst. The absolute worst. But try to look past the weirdoes, fuck-ups, boozers (it’s ok to drink at networking events but don’t use that time to put your drinking problem on blast), and go beyond holding out for hope that you’ll come across someone you can add to your Rolodex. Be smart about networking. Now. Go look up an article about networking the smart way.
5. It’s ok to not have it figured out. For a while. Not many people are going to be up front and honest about what it’s like to suffer from the post-grad blues or be stuck in post-grad limbo. It is a poopy. And it can be absofuckinglutely terrifying. Sometimes you’ll get lost in a whirlwhind of “whatthefuckishappeningwithmylife” thoughts and get stuck in the hamster wheel of your mind. It’s scary. You start to doubt yourself and your abilities. You could start to doubt whether or not you even have marketable job skills. What if you want to start over and do something else? Starting from scratch is difficult and not a guarantee. Again, scary.
If you haven’t gone through it yet, you don’t believe me. But when it happens you’re going to want to call me because I know where all of the good happy hours are. There’s nothing unordinary about being a little directionless at this time in your life. I know that “you’re not alone” is a useless statement. I know this. I hate it when people say it to me because it’s one of those things that you say when you’ve run out of things to say. But there is truth to it. Whether or not it makes you feel better…..meh. Recognizing that there are others out there in varying states of panic over essentially the same thing should make you feel a little less uneasy.
This isn’t going to be one of those feel good moments where I say “hey, it’s all going to work out!” because it’s still not working out for me right now. When it comes to career, I don’t know what I’m doing. It isn’t the basis of my existence. Sometimes I forget that and find myself paper bagging it. But overall, knowing that is what’s getting me through and preventing me from driving my car into a sound wall on the freeway.
Lastly, if you know a a recent grad or a post-grad who is in post-grad limbo (there are a lot of us), the best thing you can do is not offer unsolicited advice and invest in a care package of their favorite liquor, favorite snack and and favorite TV series and/or movie. Don’t underestimate the value of those three things because when shit gets real for that person, the entertainment will give the good laugh or cry needed, the alcohol will further define the laughing and/or crying and the snack will prevent the recipient from becoming belligerently drunk at 10am on a Sunday.