Congratulations! You’re a college graduate. The ceremony was grand, the after parties were lit, and Big Momma baked her special Mac & Cheese just for you. Fast forward several months. Now your account balance is disrespectful, Big Momma has left four voicemails reminding you to return her good casserole dish, and that degree on your wall taunts you each day as you head to your minimum-wage job. Welcome to the post-grad struggle.

Graduates celebrate

I am a self-appointed expert in Post-Grad Struggology.

Although each person is unique in how he or she copes with it, research shows that the struggle is, in fact, REAL. For your benefit, I have identified the most commonly occurring stages and compiled them into this handy guide, complete with trial testimonials. You’re welcome.

Stage 1: The Humbling — Upon graduation, I was one of several servers at a restaurant just off campus — all degreed and competing for work in a dwindling job market. Several of my co-workers had altogether stopped applying for jobs. And who could blame them? The process of reworking resumes, submitting online applications and selling oneself at career fairs only to be swerved with the “we’re just not that into you” email is rough. Job hunting seemed like an exercise in humiliation.

Stage 2: The Pity Party — It had become our daily routine to gather in the alley before our shift to trade stories of demeaning experiences with guests who would snap their fingers and call, “hey you,” like it was our legal name. We compared notes about fruitless leads and bad interviews.

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Stage 3: The Reality Check — Although there was relief to be found in our shared frustration, I recognized that my experience was different from theirs. If they didn’t land a job by conventional means, they had a Plan B, a family business, or some well-connected relative or family friend. If cash came up short at the end of the month, they could make a phone call. I respected their desire to make it on their own and envied their worse case scenarios.

Stage 4: Getting Swerved — I had submitted dozens of applications and gone on several interviews to no avail. There were a couple of close calls. The most memorable was the verbal offer that got revoked one week after it was extended. It was a solid entry-level position with a Fortune 500 corporation and I was ecstatic. I had received the ‘unofficial’ offer after interviewing at a career fair. The recruiter wanted me on his team but would need to debrief at headquarters to iron out logistics.

Bey Crying
Photo: Xclusive Touch

He assured me that I would be contacted, within two weeks, with further details. A week later I found myself on the receiving end of that call. A professional voice met my “hello” with a friendly greeting. “This is it!” I thought. After a bit of nervous small talk, the recruiter transitioned into a statement, read verbatim, “I regret to inform you, due to restructuring, we are currently undergoing a hiring freeze. The offer that was previously discussed has been rendered null, indefinitely. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.” That last sentence reverberated in my ear as I mustered a polite, “Thank you for the call,“ and hung up the phone.

Stage 5: I’m Officially a Loser — I pulled my uniform out of the dryer and took extra care in getting ready for my evening shift. “Who do you think you are,” I curled my hair. “You thought you could do better than this?” I ironed my shirt with extra starch. That evening, every guest that ever had a bad mood and needed someone to take it out on conspired to sit in my section. It had to be a conspiracy because there is no other way to statistically account for that many crabby people gathering in one place, on one night, in one section, of one restaurant, one rotation after another. It was during this shift that a child threw up on me for the first time in my extensive serving history. I was lifting the toddler out of the booth and into a high chair to assist his mother, who had her hands full with two other restless kids. Once we were eye to eye, he vomited in my face. The mother gasped as I put the child down. I excused myself to the restroom as she apologized profusely.

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Stage 6: The Epic Meltdown The instant I knew that I was alone, the tears poured uncontrollably. I was powerless to stop them. I cried the humiliation, frustration and disappointment that I had masked behind smiles and covered with sarcasm. I cried the guilt and embarrassment for indulging the notion that I could do more. I cried until I was dizzy and then just as suddenly as the hysterics began, I was done. I couldn’t cry anymore.

Stage 7: The Epiphany — I was suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of serenity. Standing there with a visible chunk of regurgitated tater tot in my hair, I felt the purest sense of gratitude that I had ever experienced. I was thankful for my job, thankful for every tip, thankful for my apartment, thankful for transportation, thankful for groceries, thankful for family, thankful for air — just thankful.

Stage 8: The Shift — From that moment forward, my perspective completely changed. I no longer participated in self-deprecating conversations; I couldn’t afford to flirt with self-pity. I refused to indulge in gossip; I found no amusement at the expense of others. I didn’t need to win. I had nothing to prove. I just focused on delivering impeccable service to every guest, every day, no matter what. It was an honor to serve. The sudden transition was off-putting to some, but I met rolled eyes with indifference. I didn’t care if I fit in. My guests were happier, my tip percentages increased and thus my income did too.

Stage 9: The Happy Ending In less than a month I received a call back from the company that had revoked the initial job offer. The hiring ban had been lifted and they were still interested in bringing me on-board but it would mean flying to their corporate office to compete with a new slate of candidates for a different job than previously offered. I had three days to prepare a presentation, participate in a case study and ready myself for interviews. By the end of the intense evaluation process I was presented a job offer that came with a salary well above market average and a signing bonus to boot! This experience would mark a turning point and set into motion a series of events that would change my entire trajectory.

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Graphic by giphy

Stage 10: Repeat — So you landed the job! The post-grad struggle is officially over, but chances are you’re about to enter another transition *Que Adulting Struggle. Maybe your boss is a certified psychopath or perhaps the company you work for frowns on taking time off…like, ever.  I’m just saying, life will be sprinkled with a little struggle here and there, but it rarely lasts. Learn the lessons and enjoy the journey. Who knows…maybe one day you’ll look back and realize it was the best part.