Tales of a Disgruntled Graduate: A View from the Front Lines of the Post-College Job Hunt

This Just In: Unemployment Sucks

For those who graduated college and opted out of grad school and professional training programs, for those who are still figuring out what you want to do with your lives, I have two words: unemployment sucks.

It sucks, and it is inevitable if you are intelligent, capable and trainable, but lack experience due to your age and the fact that summer jobs – which probably make up the majority of your work experience thus far – rarely boost your resume.

As someone who has been through several periods of unemployment after graduation, I will add that this awkward transition from student to working adult is somewhat demoralizing.  On one hand, it is certainly eye-opening to the difficulties people face when searching for jobs, struggling to support themselves, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to understand first-hand the daily grind of the unemployed.

On the other hand, it’s hard to think of yourself as unemployable, especially when you’re paying off student loans.  Your education has to be worth something—and you hope it amounts to more than your monthly bill.  Entry-level jobs requiring skills you clearly have (Microsoft Word, Internet research, ability to follow directions) should not be so hard to get.  Or so you think.  But when fifty or more people apply for one position, the employer must categorize and eliminate candidates Goldilocks-style: overqualified, underqualified, and just right.

I admit to having a very limited job history at this point in my life.  But after being rejected from entry-level office assistant positions, retail jobs, waitstaff and bank teller positions—all of which I’m certain I could do, since I’ve held similar positions in the past—it is clear that employers must make cut-throat decisions placing direct experience over potential.  Bookstores prefer applicants who’ve already worked at bookstores; banks prefer applicants who’ve already worked at banks.  Even if your skills are transferable, your experience is not.  And that sucks.

Being rejected from such a variety of jobs is more discouraging than you would imagine.  Combined with the unusual amount of time you spend loafing around, waiting to be hired, you start to feel like a useless, unskilled, unintelligent, and undesirable putz.  Apparently you have nothing to offer anyone, you have no marketable skills, and no one recognizes your potential for success.  In short, no one seems to believe in you, and you start to agree.

After all, what have you been doing with the time off? Isn’t that what everyone wants more of—free time?  But, just as Mama Bear’s bed was too soft for Goldilocks, sometimes too much of a good thing is just too much.  The days stretch ahead, empty as your refrigerator, without purpose or direction.

This is about when the depression sets in.

I’ve seen it happen over and over in the generation of recent grads attempting to find their place in the world.  No matter how good the campus career center, at the end of the day it is your decision where you want to go and what you want to do.  The trouble is supporting yourself while you figure it out.

Sure, there are some who dream of being a drifter like Goldilocks, testing people’s beds and breakfast cereals.  But most of you want more.  You are passionately striving for some sort of purpose and actively taking steps to get there.

But you can only go so far if no one will hire you.

< back to Disgruntled Undergrad page