In 2012, I furiously scribbled the outline of this article onto a notepad.
I never had any intention of publishing it; rather, I think I wrote it simply to maintain my sanity. Nevertheless, rereading this, given the growth I've experienced since that time, was very surreal. To all the recent college graduates out there, I imagine some of this might sound familiar.
The ENTIRE inspiration for writing this started with a letter I received in 2012. Please read it below:
Thank you for your interest in BJ's and for the time you spent completing our online candidate process.
While your credentials are impressive, we will not be moving you forward at this time for the cashier position. We will keep your information on file and contact you should our needs change in the future.
If you applied to multiple positions/locations, you may receive additional communication from us regarding your status.
We wish you the best of luck in your career search.
BJ's Talent Acquisition Team
This letter summed up a lot about my life, my desperation, the economy and of course, the rigorous standards of BJ’s. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in sociology from an accredited state university.
I’ve taken 120 credits of classes in everything from screen writing to accounting. Yet, with my diverse range of experience and a degree, I was not considered adequate enough to hold a job as a cashier.
A classmate of mine accurately summed up the truth about those of us who have graduated, or will soon be graduating, from college: "Dude, a college degree is nothing more than a high school diploma."
This blew my mind. College is a privilege! Yet, she did have a point. I mean, how many people will be graduating this year with a bachelor’s degree in communications? Thousands. Next year? Thousands. Even for decades to come, there will be thousands (to be clear, these are not factual statistics).
Where are they all working?
Today, the very notion of college is becoming increasingly less practical. In fact, for the first time ever, among countless generations, going to school does not necessarily guarantee you a job and more money. Instead, what it may guarantee you is a cloud of loans and an unstable job market.
When I first graduated from college, I was lackadaisical in my job search. I would scroll through career websites, but mostly, I was partying, sleeping, eating and chilling.
This went on for months and soon my family was going crazy. I was a complete "waste product," as they labeled me and it was on full display just how lazy I was capable of being.
This led to some serious pressure from my parents, but I was pressuring myself, too. Enough was enough; I needed a job.
So, I began applying to what interested me and that translated to anything in the creative writing field. I wrote countless cover letters, each penned for a specific company, trying to land a job where I could not only write, but also write in my own style.
I probably sent out 20 to 30 applications. I never heard back from anyone -- not even a rejection. My applications simply went unanswered.
Eventually, I began applying for any job, hence my application to BJ's. I went to career fairs and applied for sales jobs that didn't offer salary-commission only. I got an interview for a company that paid you to go door to door trying to convince people to buy new windows.
I applied to work as a sales rep for New York Sports Club, but again, no salary. I even applied to be a personal trainer at NYSC and to be clear, I had absolutely no business even contemplating the idea of being a personal trainer. Finally, I applied to work at a nursery, but was rejected due to a lack of experience. A nursery. COME ON.
As the rejections piled high, my applications continued to get more and more obscure. I applied to be a skateboarding instructor despite never riding a skateboard in my life.
I applied to sell vitamins for a no-name herbal company, and I applied to be a life coach with that same company. I even applied to be a salesman for a company that distributed medical marijuana.
It took me a LONG time, but I finally came to a harrowing realization. I wasn't going to land a desirable, full-time job or really, a career anywhere. This epiphany led to a swift drop in my ego, as I finally realized having a college degree wasn't all that special. I was willing to do anything.
I applied to work at a local supermarket and I approached every restaurant in town looking for work as a busboy. Soon, I was delivering food for a local pizzeria. I felt terrible. I was 23 years old and I had spent the last four years getting a degree, FOR WHAT?
In the end, I hardly scratched the surface of "the real world," but it quickly taught me a series of difficult lessons.
Today, I am pursuing a master's degree in psychology, but if I could offer some tips on how to dive into the real world post-graduation, it would look like the following:
1. You need to get "a job," before you get "the job."
Ultimately, don't do nothing. Drifting is detrimental and it can quickly depress you. Find something to occupy your time and get some cash in your pocket. Just find a job, no matter what it is. You have to start somewhere.
2. Scour your connections.
Your Mom's cousin's boyfriend's brother owns a dog that a sheep herder once used to herd his sheep and said sheep herder has a sister who works where you want work.
Perfect. Get introduced and make something happen. It doesn't matter how far you have to reach because in the end, knowing the right person can get you a job.
3. Reconsider your career path.
While my sole focus in college was enhancing my social life, the practical reasons we attend college are to get a better job and to make more money. So, it would make sense to study something that will give you the best chance of accomplishing that goal.
One avenue that should not be overlooked is blue-collar jobs. These days, engineers, plumbers and electricians are doing very well. Sure, I have studied some interesting psychological research, but guess what? I don't know how to fix a burst pipe, a toilet or a boiler, and people with those types of skills are employable.
Furthermore, given the nature of our generation, anything involving computers and software development is promising. Not to mention, accountants are making a killing.
In the end, don't get caught up in the romanticism of a degree because you saw "Midnight In Paris" and now you want to study art history. Rather, focus on what can help you sustain an income that you can one day raise a family with.
4. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty.
I think a big mistake of mine was not taking a commission-based sales job upon graduating. Sure, not getting a base salary stinks, but so does not working.
Plus, being a salesman can teach you valuable life skills, thrust you out of your comfort zone and expose you to what exactly the "real world" entails.
Of course, I don't mean to "sell" the idea of being a salesman, but what I'm ultimately saying is, don't ever be too good for a job. Don't be the unemployed dude hanging onto the idea that you have a college degree, and therefore, you are something special.
Be the guy who possesses the humility to roll up his sleeves and tackle the tasks that might make others hesitant.
5. Get an internship.
Obviously this suggestion isn't going to blow anyone's mind. We all know internships are a great way to get your foot in the door, and it is not uncommon for internships to lead to full-time employment.
Of course, don't be surprised if your internship is unpaid, which should be illegal, but that also comes from a former, unpaid intern who failed to transition to a full-time job.
6. Learn how to utilize social media.
I am so tired of hearing the phrase "social media," but its power in today's world cannot be denied. If you haven't already, make a LinkedIn profile. When you first start, connect with or "friend," anyone you know, like you would on Facebook. By building your network of friends, you increase the web of connections you have access to.
Then, start messaging employees and hiring managers of companies you have interest in working for. Ask them for advice. You would be amazed at how willing people are to help, and before you know it, you won't have to search for connections because you will have made your own.
7. Don't give up.
I know it sounds corny, but the job market can be very discouraging. So, don't send out three job applications; send out 30. If that doesn't work, send out 300.
A friend of mine sent 500 applications across the United States after receiving his master's in adolescent education. He now works as a teacher, but even with an advanced degree, it still took insane effort for him to land a job.
8. Don't be intimidated.
I quickly felt overwhelmed as a new graduate who spent too much time partying and not enough time considering my career. Start simple: Create a generic cover letter, update your résumé and begin researching companies.
Once you have the outline to a cover letter, it's not very difficult to edit it for different companies. Just make sure you don't leave a name or company information from another job application.
9. Consider relocating.
I live in New York and many fields are saturated, but there are cities that are far less competitive, have a higher employment rate and offer a generally lower cost of living. Arizona is a perfect example.
Building upon that, why not work abroad? For example, English teaching is fruitful in Europe, Asia and even the Middle East. In fact, the demand is so high in some countries, many employers will offer assistance with flight costs, apartment furnishing and acquiring a visa.
The major prerequisites to teach English abroad include being a native speaker and acquiring certification. Certification can be completed online for less than $300. Before you know it, you can be teaching English on the beaches of Thailand.
Not only does this offer a means to a quick job, but travel can be a soulfully enriching experience and that in itself is worth pursuing.
10. Pick a direction and go.
It's that simple. I spent a great deal of time drifting because I was too hesitant to commit to a career. I felt that once I started, I would be stuck wherever I ended up and that terrified me.
Generally I detest quotes like, "whatever happens happens," or anything that places our lives in the hands of fate. I do believe, however, that choosing a career is a discovery process, and if you start a career and find you hate it, that's okay. Now you can move on with experience under your belt, money in your pocket and the knowledge that your destiny lies somewhere else.
Admittedly, I am addicted to Reddit, and not long ago, a 27-year-old posted a comment about how he felt he had wasted his life. In despair, he asked, "Is it too late?" A 47-year-old responded.
Listen up, Generation-Y, because no one on this site is going to say it better:
Too late for what?
If you slept through your 26th birthday, it's too late for you to experience that. It's too late for you to watch "Lost" in its premiere broadcast. (Though, honestly, you didn't miss much.)
It's too late for you to fight in the Vietnam War. It's too late for you to go through puberty or attend nursery school. It's too late for you to learn a second language as proficiently as a native speaker. It's probably too late for you to be breastfed.
It's not too late for you to fall in love.
It's not too late for you to have kids.
It's not too late for you to embark on an exciting career or series of careers.
It's not too late for you to read the complete works of Shakespeare, learn how to program computers, learn to dance, travel around the world, go to therapy, become an accomplished cook, sky dive, develop an appreciation for jazz, write a novel, get an advanced degree, read "In Search of Lost Time," become a Christian, then an atheist, then a Scientologist, break a few bones, learn how to fix a toilet, develop a six-pack ...
Honestly, I'm 47, and I'll say this to you, whippersnapper: you're a fucking kid, so get over yourself. I'm a fucking kid, too. I'm almost twice your age, and I'm just getting started! My dad is in his 80s, and he wrote two books last year.
You don't get to use age as an excuse. Get off your ass!
What you are isn't a person who has wasted 27 years. You are a person who has X number of years ahead of you. What are you going to do with them?