'You Are Not Your Job': How To Handle Post-Grad Anxiety And The Myth Of The 'Perfect Job'

by Aleister Wong

Imagine you're on a roller coaster ride.

When the attendant finally straps you in, the car moves and you tread along the brightly colored track. You slowly ascend. You feel the wind against your face.

This is how Icarus must have felt when he flew to the sun.

When you reach the peak, the car stops. Your pulse increases and blood flows to your head. As you look down and examine the park, a pit opens in your stomach. Anxiety boils your stomach acid.

You see the tracks before you and you know that when you descend, it will feel like your skin is ripping off. Your body shifts at every twist and turn; occasionally, you'll slam into the person next to you, but he or she doesn't mind. At times, you remove your hands from the bar and raise your arms high.

There might be loops and sometimes, you'll even move backwards.

That's how I felt at my college graduation. Most people were taking selfies in their caps and gowns or screeching with excitement between their friends. I felt like every one of them deserved a drop kick in the gut.

I sat stone-faced as every speaker regurgitated some hackneyed "You are the future!" speech and everyone subsequently clapped. I felt a noose around my neck and repeated the question, "Now what?" in my head.

I know that there were people like me at graduation, people who didn't buy into that feel-good facade and worried about the future.

Let's face the facts: In May 2013, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that only 27 percent of college graduates had a career that was related to their major.

So, there's a pretty good chance that unless you have a vast array connections — especially if you have liberal arts degree, like I do — you should prepare to hear more and more scathing comments about your "useless" degree.

Fortunately, I found Mike Rowe's response to a fan letter about career advice. I recommend reading the whole thing, but my favorite part is when Rowe states, "Happiness does not come from a job."

I also like Rowe's comparison of finding the "perfect job" to finding a soul mate: Both are pipe dreams that everyone wants immediately. Everyone knows those guys who say, "Why don't girls like me? I'm a nice guy," and yet, those same guys are picky over who they date.

The career equivalent of that is "Why is no one hiring me? I'm a hard worker!" And yet, most people who complain about these things refuse to do manual labor under the hot sun. We’re generally a picky, insatiable and inflexible bunch.

What should you take from all of this? Don’t fret about whether or not your future necessarily relates to your degree (unless you are overcome with passion about your degree). Instead of moping around about this seemingly depressing fact, view it as liberating.

You need not be chained to a certain field due to your major. You're free to explore uncharted territory. Hell, you can even be a trailblazer and employ yourself.

Apply to a bunch of different jobs if you're desperate for work, as Rowe states. Especially in this economy, beggars can't be choosers. Going back to the roller coaster analogy, you can't jump out of the car just because you're afraid of that sharp descent. Embrace that pit in your stomach as you plummet down.

You might not enjoy your job, but you’re not alone. I know this might sound counter-intuitive, as you're always taught to "follow your dreams," but this is for people who are facing reality. If you have a clear idea of what you want to do, then that's great. You're already one step ahead of most people; don't ever slow down.

But, what about the rest of us? When someone asks you what you want to do, don't just mumble, "I don't know" and look down. Look in their eyes and say it with confidence. And please, strangle them for me if they ever utter, "You'll find something!"

Only you are responsible for your shortcomings and successes. Welcome the unknown with open arms instead of running away so you don’t have regrets when you're old. Even when you do mess up, at least you'll learn from the experience.

Don't bother with this idea that your quality of life should be correlated with your job ("You are not your job," Tyler Durden once said). That's why we have the arts and hobbies. Create your own escapes from the mundane.

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