College Seniors: Why You Shouldn't Stress About What's Going To Happen Next Year

by Elissa Furlong

There are few things that compare to the range of emotions you feel when your college career is coming to an end.

Whether you feel that you are painfully or pleasantly aware of the fact that you’re about to enter the “real world,” which is a whole lot different from a party house full of seven strangers, fact remains that you are about to enter it.

If your version of the “real world” means (as it does for many college seniors) heading to your parent’s couch, I’d like to offer you the following advice: Don’t stress about the future.

For the majority of my senior year of college, I was certain that I would not be facing the (horrendous) job market for quite some time.

I would rather continue my education and study for a master’s degree, mostly because I envisioned myself a highly educated person, partly because I loved school and being a student and not at all because I had researched whether or not I actually needed a master’s degree to do what I wanted to do.

As it turns out, I didn’t (still don’t) really need a master’s degree to have the type of career I want. Upon realizing this, I made the difficult, but logical decision to pass on the huge amount of debt I would have taken on to pursue what was, for me, an unnecessary degree.

Though I was happy with the decision I had made, I definitely had an "FML" moment (or 10) when I realized that I did not have a job lined up and really had no other options beyond moving back home. Reality set in and it was time to start that whole “looking for a job” thing.

It might have been naivete, optimism or a combination of both, but getting a job was much harder than I thought it would be.

I did the minimum wage thing for a while and basically spent an entire year never hearing back from jobs to which I had applied or being turned down after unsuccessful interviews.

Though I was fully aware of the statistics and knew that this sort of thing was the harsh reality for many recent grads, I couldn’t help but stress out and feel like somewhat of a failure. It was easy to feel that way when my education had cost so much money and I had graduated with honors, but couldn’t seem to find a job.

Talking about my situation and the job market with out-of-touch middle-aged people, who meant well but weren’t always so smooth with their words, got really old really fast.

I am happy to report that now, thankfully, I feel that I am out of my rut (at least temporarily) and I have a good job.

Looking back, I know that my first year out of college will forever be branded in my mind as a year from hell, but I can also say with confidence that if you’re about to find yourself in a similar situation, don’t stress about it.

Don’t worry about other people's judgments; be confident that things will fall into place eventually, and don’t feel like a failure because you’re not. For starters, you’re about to be a college graduate.

That alone is a huge accomplishment, and it’s not any less of an achievement if you don’t have a job lined up right away.

Secondly, it’s important to remember that jobs and experiences that seem of little significance can end up being more influential than you had anticipated. A minimum-wage retail job that has nothing to do with your college major can give rise to a passion for sales.

Doing a great job at managing a Dunkin Donuts could inspire you to go get your MBA (or conversely, if you hate managing a Dunkin Donuts, you can be certain that you made the right decision not to get your MBA).

All things considered, you can gain a lot from humbling jobs, whether it’s something that influences what you want to do in the future or just reminds you of the fact that there’s nothing shameful about those types of jobs (which are still essential to society).

Don’t stress about doing jobs that you feel are “below” you. Sure, you worked hard to get a college degree and you’d like a job that reflects so much, but spending six months or a year making someone else’s coffee will lead you to really respect the people who do those kinds of jobs forever.

Another reason not to stress about living at home or being underemployed is that there’s a good chance that even if you feel unsuccessful or like a failure at first, you will, at some point, feel even more accomplished having had a tough time or done a not-so-glamorous job than someone who went to grad school on his or her parents’ dime or took an unpaid internship.

To be clear, I’m not passing judgment on those people or saying there’s anything wrong with that, but there’s something to be said for what you can gain when you are asked to find a way to support yourself financially (fully, or to some extent), especially if it means knowing what it’s like to wake up early and be on time to a crappy job.

There’s no better way to truly experience the real world than by having a variety of experiences and sometimes, that can mean going from an academic and rewarding environment to being underemployed.

One thing that caused me considerable stress during my first year after college was the pressure and lack of understanding I felt from others — namely middle-aged people, who had no idea what it was like to be a recent graduate in the midst of a terrible economy.

Unless times have changed drastically since then, many of you might deal with the same sort of unwanted pressure or unsolicited advice. Well, do not feel like a failure after college, no matter what you find yourself doing.

If you end up working at Starbucks for three years after you’ve finished college, that’s fine, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

In one of the best commencement speeches I have ever heard, author John Green spoke about why you should prepare to be a “nobody,” and there’s nothing shameful about it.

He explains that all of the “nobodies” in the world are the people in our lives who we really have to thank for our happiness, success, etc. It should be required viewing for college seniors, in my opinion.

My education, though it didn’t immediately lead to a job, is of immense value to my identity for a variety of reasons. It heavily influenced my perspectives, the ways I analyze what I read and hear and my opinion on what is happening in the world.

In some ways, I feel I’ll always value that slightly more than any job I’ll ever hold. You may or may not feel that way about your education, but it’s important not to stress too much about the future, or the length of time it takes you to get to where you want to be. You’re already a success.

Photo Courtesy: Flickr