I originally wrote this post (and a follow up of "10 More Things I've Learned") for my old blogs, Locked Out and Ellipsis. I have continued to learn things since I graduated from college--can you believe it was 5 years ago? I feel like that's not possible, but it is. Danny and I have been dating for 5 years; we've been married for 2. Where did the time go? Here's my revised list of things I've learned since graduating college in 2011.
It should be easy to be young, but it really never felt like that. I'm an anxious person and it's always been my greatest downfall. I spent so much time worrying through college and even after I graduated. I felt like I always had to follow the rules; I had do so specific things to succeed. But the truth is: life is way more complicated than that. Sometimes you follow all the rules and things just aren't going to go your way. My experience after graduation is shockingly typical, but I've learned a lot and I'm still learning every day.
1. Nothing will go how you think it will... even if you get a job. A lot of people I knew who got jobs ended up quitting shortly afterward. That plan you've had for after graduation forever? Prepare for it to change. My plan was to get a job; go to grad school; or move to New York or Chicago to become a magazine editor, whichever was more reasonable at the time. Obviously, none of those things happened. After I graduated, I worked at a deli, a car dealership, and finally, a residential care facility before finally being hired as a copywriter. That was over 3 years after a graduated too.
2. Not being able to find a job effects your self-esteem in ways you never thought possible. I had on my imaginary armor after I graduated; I really did think I was different. "I'm so talented," I told myself. "Clearly, I will get a job! I'm special!" I am not special. Getting a job these days really is legitimately about luck. Are you the most qualified person who applied? Most likely, no. There are tons of people applying for jobs now. And that kind of sucks. Getting a job doesn't necessarily mean you're the best candidate anymore, because there are literally 200-300 applications turned in for every single job opening. And there are tons of college students, just like you, who are super talented, hardworking, and awesome. And among you are older people with 20-30 years of experience who deserve a job just as much. It must really suck to be in HR is what I'm saying. These are all facts, but it doesn't stop it from being soul crushing to send out your resume 10+ times a day, go to two interviews, tops, and hear back from zero.
3. You will feel crushed after being rejected, but it's better to get back on the horse (even if that horse sucks). You know those days when your best friend is mad at you, your boyfriend breaks up with you, you fail a test, your favorite dress rips, you break your phone AND your camera, and your car breaks down!? Imagine having one of those days every day when no one will hire you. It sucks. All you'll want to do is lie in bed and watch movies forever. The last thing you'll want to do is make follow up application calls or write more cover letters. It's soul sucking, but ultimately necessary for your survival. I had a professor tell me once that every time she received a rejection letter, she immediately sent the poem or resume or whatever to a new option. That same day. This is the best advice I ever received, even if it meant that sometimes I cried for 12 hours after receiving rejection emails a record-breaking 15 minutes after an interview.
4. All that free time can add up to something. When you're unemployed (funemployed?) you might end up renting a lot of movies, buying a lot of stuff online, and perfecting your party dance alone in your bedroom. (I know I did.) But you know what you should be doing? Building a portfolio. You might as well work when every day is your weekend, right? When you do get a job, you'll wonder why you didn't blog more, or learn karate, or take up painting, or read all those books on graphic design. So spend time perfecting your social media presence, starting a blog, building networking opportunities, or learning a new skill.
5. No one stops liking you when you work a terrible job. Remember those five months I worked at a deli? Remember how it made me feel humiliated and stupid every day? If you get a weird part-time job to make a bit of extra money (and fill some of that time), you might feel like some kind of weird, out-of-place alien, but I promise, no one who loves you is judging you. Unless they are a real jerk, in which case, why would you care?
6. Paying bills is hard. This is still the number one fact about my life: paying bills is hard. Establishing a saving account is hard. The minute I started assessing all the things I am required to pay, I realized that I vastly underestimated how much I cost as a human being. Add in a house, a husband, and a baby, and things are even more expensive now. This doesn't even take into account fun, unnecessary things, like internet or a cell phone.
7. When it comes down to it, the trivial things don't matter. When my grandfather passed away, I realized how much time I had spent waffling away the time: watching Hulu mindlessly, lying on my bed staring at the ceiling. We only have so much time, so don't spend it making yourself miserable over the little things. The things that matter most in life aren't related to the economy. I'm not saying getting a job isn't important (it totally is), but spending time with your family and friends, doing something you love, is way more important than worrying about if you'll be able to afford a cell phone when your parents finally cut you off. Some people have to work to survive and that's a horrible, awful reality. If you have people who can support you when things get rough, you're in the minority--so suck it up, buttercup.
8. You'll want a job so bad, and when you get one, you'll want all that free time back. I'm... not kidding. I wake up at 5am every day, start driving at 6:20am, and get home around 4pm, just in time to make dinner, feed myself and a baby, and then put said baby to bed. This does not a social life make. Go see your friends--I wish I had.
9. You will get a job... eventually. Sometimes, it seems really hopeless. You'll read these articles about how people under 25 have something like a 55% unemployment rate, and then over 50% of those employed are underemployed and barely making minimum wage. You'll start to wonder if it's hopeless. Maybe you should have gotten a degree in something else? Maybe you should, I don't know, apply for jobs in something else? But I promise you will get a job eventually. A real one. Okay, you might be a receptionist, or a data entry clerk. But it's better than slicing deli meat or making burgers, right? The truth is, there will be a moment where everything clicks and falls into place and the world will seem to make a spot just for you. That happened to me two years ago: one day, I got, like, 5 job offers in one day. How crazy is that?
10. It's not you. It really is the economy. For a long time, I started to wonder if something was seriously wrong with me. Maybe I was flawed in some way and had never known it. All those people telling me I was talented or would make a good editor, or writer, or social media marketing assistant... maybe they were lying or just trying to be nice. All the interviews where the HR manager praised my achievements and told me I had tons of skills they liked to see at the company -- they were lying, clearly, because they didn't hire me.
I gave up more than once. I resigned myself to working minimum wage jobs for the rest of my life -- on my feet until 11pm at night -- never being able to afford a brand new car, or a house, or even a child. More than anything that made me super depressed and not very fun to be around. It took a lot of time, but eventually, I realized it wasn't me. I still have moments where my confidence hits the floor and a lot of it has to do with, well, what I went through. It's exhausting to know you're good and to be rejected over and over (and over and over) again; it's a hard feeling to shake. But you'll get through it. I promise. I'm in such a better place now: I got through all of that, and guess what? I can afford a house, and a new car, and a baby, and a husband who does his best to help. It's not easy, but I got there. Five years later, I got there.