Living With Debt

What It Feels Like To Get Countless Job Rejections (When You’re $40K In Debt)

By | Sunday, October 04, 2015


I graduated from college, with a bachelor’s degree in English and am too familiar with the “what are you going to do with your humanities degree?” spiel. I initially struggled to find a degree path I was passionate about, and don’t regret my choice, but I have spent an immeasurable number of hours worrying about what would happen after graduation. My last semester of college was extremely difficult. I was enrolled in 19 credit hours, completed a legislative internship, and worked part-time. Though these last several months have been tough on me, I quickly learned how to prioritize, and use my time more efficiently. I had heard good things about the internship program I was accepted into— many others before me had secured jobs immediately out of college as a result of this specific internship, and I was determined to do the same.

I worked my ass off, for free, for four months. I acquired good references, letters of recommendation, and any contacts that would help. It seemed as if I had done everything right, yet my hopes didn’t come to fruition. And when my high expectations didn’t pay off, I let it ruin the last few weeks of my internship, because I was bitter. I expected the job offers to come rolling in, and they didn’t. I was left regretting I’d ever assumed I had the whole post-grad thing in the bag. Once the internship ended, I aggressively emailed my resumé to many of the contacts I’d made, and got no responses. None. I accept most of the blame for putting all of my eggs in one basket, so to speak. I put so much pressure on myself to be employed directly after graduation that when it didn’t happen right away, I felt like a failure.

Another issue, of course, is my student loans: I have both public and private loans. After graduation I was “rewarded” with a six-month grace period before having to begin repayment. I have to pay back over $40k in student loans, and while I know others are stuck paying far more, the idea of paying it back without a job was a huge source of post-grad anxiety for me.

I started to panic. It is easy to tell yourself not to get discouraged when the going gets tough, but it’s SO HARD to follow through. Or at least, it was for me. When you start seeing your close friends get job offers for their “dream jobs,” it’s difficult to be happy for them without thinking about your own situation, and worse, your own debt. It has been almost impossible not to compare my journey with that of others. I’ve tried my best not to, but I’m only human.

So I picked myself up and got to work. I needed ways to make myself more marketable. With an English degree, most assume that the only career path is to become a teacher. The more people mentioned it, and asked if that was what I wanted, the more I thought that was my only option. Teachers are so important, but I had never had a passion for teaching. All I could think about was that I needed money, and needed a steady job, but I couldn’t let it distract me. So, I started applying to anything and everything I thought I might be able to do. Often times I would get no response, or a rejection email months later. I was so easily discouraged that I quit the job search for a week to clear my head. (I was still working part-time, so I had a small source of income.)

I finally had a breakthrough, or so I thought. I got a call from a company I had interviewed with for an internship months prior, that I hadn’t gotten. After applying to every job on their website I qualified for, I got a call back. They’d reached out to me because they appreciated my performance in the internship interview, even though they hadn’t picked me. So I interviewed for a position, and thought I nailed it. And then nothing. I heard nothing for months despite all of my attempts to follow-up, then I received a sad, little rejection email. I’d reached the point where I was numb to those emails.

My spirits peaked when I received a call saying there was an opening at the place I’d interned during my last semester of college. I was thrilled. I knew I had what it took to do the job well, and all I had to do was get through the first round of interviews — which I did! The second round of interviews was just one other candidate, and myself. I thought I had the upper-hand because of my skills and knowledge of the workplace I had worked for so diligently (for free!). However, I thought wrong. The other candidate was chosen, leaving me depressed and confused.

Applying for jobs when your debt is coming to swallow you is disheartening, and while I knew there would be a light at the end of the tunnel, being in the thick of it made me feel like I was drowning. I worked hard to fund my life while applying, but with each rejection, and failed prospect, I was left feeling more desperate, and worse about my qualifications. However, I’m proud of myself for pushing through, and understanding what I needed to stay sane. I took a few days off and cheered myself up, then I got right back to work. I kept applying, following up, and racking my brain for any option I hadn’t thought of, but it kept feeling like I was pursuing dead ends.

There’s a silver living to this story: I finally got a phone interview, then an in-person interview, then a job offer, and now I’m a full-time working girl. It is only an entry-level position, and I may not be there forever, but it’s a good place to start. At some point, I want to be in a position where I have a honed direction, but for me to find that direction, I have to start somewhere, and this job provides the opportunity to do exactly that.

I didn’t anticipate how tough it would be to find employment post-graduation. And while I hate to say it, most of the advice I received from friends, family members, and co-workers got me nowhere because everyone’s path is different. But, you live and you learn. I don’t feel like my college prepared me for the struggle and disappointment that comes after graduation, so I’ll have to write my own Life After College 101 manual.

Lane lives in the South, loves coffee, and reads historical fiction to pass the time.

Image via Pexels

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