We live in a time where a bachelor’s degree no longer guarantees a dream job in your field. In fact, more often than not, it places you in an overflowing pool of applicants against whom you are considered “underqualified,” while simultaneously distinguishing you as “overqualified” for the service and retail industry jobs you inevitably need as a post-grad trying to pay your rent.
I graduated college three months ago and secured a job at a publishing company that began just a week later. But this only surfaced as a result of eight straight months of applications and rejections, some saying “But you didn’t graduate yet” (what am I supposed to do, wait until graduation day?!), others saying “I’m sorry, your entry-level qualifications make you not-as-awesome as all these other really-experienced people” (BUT YOU LISTED THIS AS ENTRY-LEVEL), and others (my favorites) saying “Oh, we’ll hire you without pay” (Could they smell my desperation…?). It involved months of 36 cent account balances and finding means of income in any way imaginable (Oh sure, help with your essay? Birthing your unborn children? Cleaning your apartment?) It followed countless sleepless nights, things chucked at walls, and downed bottles of wine as I lamented the awkward in-between I found myself in.
It’s frustrating to realize that your hard-earned piece of paper doesn’t necessarily mean as much as it used to. It’s even more frustrating to realize that, in our current economy, companies are choosing from unemployed applicants from all levels of experience, and in the whole scheme of life, your fresh-faced ideas and eager 20-something-ness aren’t always what they’re looking for. And what’s more — companies are manipulating our entry-level desperation and throwing around unpaid internships as if that’s actually an economically feasible thing for us to do, yet knowing that they’ll ultimately still get what they want because, at the end of the day, “we need them more than they need us.”
The job I ultimately secured was “just an internship,” but hey, it was paid and in my field, and three months later, here I am, promoted to a full-time position. Still an intern, but money in the bank, nonetheless. My friends are starting to secure positions here and there, but some are still struggling — especially those in the more creative fields. The competition is huge but at the end of the day, you have to sell yourself, and the process of finding just the right gig can be, for lack of better terms, really damn frustrating. It takes a lot of rejection to get just one success, but in times like these it’s necessary for new grads to suck it up, chalk it all up to a learning experience, and work harder than ever before to make those four years count.
My advice? Don’t give up. Apply anywhere and everywhere. Study up for your interviews and dress to impress. Get a LinkedIn. Be willing to take on freelance, on extra side-gigs, anything that will help you build up experience and make some connections. Take the rejection with a grain of salt, and allow yourself some nights to just throw back some whiskey and still enjoy your 20s — everyone understands your frustration, and hey, maybe people will take pity on your wilting bank account and buy you some drinks!
But, more than anything, don’t undersell yourself. Your frustration and our crappy economy don’t define who you are and what you bring to the table. You are indispensible somewhere — you just have to find out where that is.