I graduated from a well-known, prestigious school in May of 2017. All I heard during my undergrad years, and even just after graduating, was how “easy” it would be to get a job once I had said school on the top of my resume.
This felt a little unfair — not because I didn’t work hard, but because first of all, I felt that most of my learning experiences stemmed from outside the classroom: internships, jobs, side projects. Second of all, I never truly felt that a degree deemed me worthy of a be-all-and-end-all job, especially when I knew how many people in my graduating class were in the exact same boat as me. So, the one lesson that began before my search even started was to humble myself during this process, and I truly believe each lesson following stemmed from this initial shift in perspective.
1. Working hard at a job you hate will pay off when you get a job you love
My first job out of college was the cliché one that I held while I lived at home: waitressing. This was my first time in the service industry after my previous retail jobs, and I quickly found that I was not cut out for it at all. My coworkers were awesome, luckily, which made going to work a little easier. The customers, on the other hand, exposed me to the worst treatment I’d ever received in my life. I’d have people shouting at me from across the room to bring them more water, and would try remaining patient while thinking to myself, Why did I even get that degree? I still worked hard, though, because I knew deep down that it would pay off in one way or another. If anything, it lit a fire under my ass to find another source of income. Now I feel that even if I had a terrible, mundane desk job (thankfully I don’t), I would still appreciate it, because nothing would come close to the humiliation I felt running around getting drinks in above ninety-degree heat. If you can push through the lows, you will really appreciate the highs.
2. Paying for convenience is (almost always) an absolute waste of money
Having groceries delivered, asking the bartender to make you a drink you just as easily could make at home for half the price, taking an Uber instead of public transportation — these were luxuries I was stripped of fairly quickly into my job search. Cutting them out shed light on the ways that I had been unnecessarily spoiling myself and being lazy. Also, metaphorically speaking, most of these things were cutting out the journey aspect of everyday life. The getting ready and walking to the store, the people-watching and music-listening on public transit, the satisfaction of making my own beverage. A drained bank account definitely forces you to look closer at the little things. This also taught me the difference between quality and convenience.
3. It’s okay to ask for help
If someone has the means to help you financially and is willing to do so, let go of your pride and let them. You can always pay them back once you set yourself up for success, which is exactly what they are trying to help you do. Not everyone has this option available to them, so be grateful for it, and take them up on it if you really need it.
4. Going out is an absolute privilege
In college, it’s extremely cheap to go eat at campus restaurants and then figure out how to drink the night away for free. Giving up, or significantly scaling back, on going out was nothing short of difficult, but it made me appreciate the opportunities I actually got to do it that much more. Now when I look at a menu, I make an effort to order something that I don’t know how to cook myself. I appreciate the ambiance of the restaurant and the company I am with. I no longer look at eating out as paying for nicer food — I look at it as paying for an experience that I want to enjoy fully (and get my money’s worth for).
5. Used items are just as good
I spent my first month in my new apartment with little-to-no furniture in my room. Thankfully, living with my sister allowed me to have furniture in the living room, and our collection of utilities from previous living arrangements helped us out as well. Before getting my job, I tallied up how much it would cost for me to furnish my bedroom once I had some income. The total was around $400 and I thought “hm, not bad.” Eventually, I got tired of the “once I have money” game I was playing and began looking on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for furniture. I found the exact same pieces I was going to order online, only from someone who was desperately trying to sell his stuff before moving to Arizona. I furnished my bedroom for $80. I would never have thought to do this had I easily gotten a “real job” right out of college, and I am extremely proud of this.
6. My friends and family are amazing
Having a great team to stick by me when I was at my lowest — confidence-wise and financially — gave me a new appreciation for my non-monetary life. The ones who love you when you have nothing are everything, and made me feel like I had everything on the days I felt like nothing.
7. Having a job is something to be extremely grateful for
I probably applied to a total of 200 places, only had about eight legitimate interviews, and received a total of two job offers. I gained a humbling foundation to build my career, life, and financial goals off of, and a job that makes me feel like I won the lottery. I am so grateful my job search wasn’t easy.
Erin holds a Bachelor’s in English from the University of Florida. You can find her in the D.C. metropolitan area reading, writing, or running.
Image via Unsplash