Pick a rewarding career, a credible school, the proper degree. Get a full ride scholarship, maintain good grades, study hard, don’t disappoint. Create long lasting friendships, get the most out of the college experience, earn internships, get involved. Graduate, have a job lined up, be successful, be strong, be perfect. Sound familiar? This is a lie many have been sold and the deceptive order of events many attempt to follow. When you are put on that pedestal of expectation, especially first generation college students, there is little to no room for mistakes. Letting down those hopeful families is not an option, it’s your responsibility to succeed at all costs, right?
We all assume that the reward of enduring college’s hardships is graduating with a full time job secured, preferably your dream job.
The hard reality is, countless college grads find themselves thrown into the real world without the guaranteed career to begin their new life.
This feeling of uncertainty and adversity can easily result in a depressive state. “How could I have worked so hard my last four years and still end up jobless?” If you’ve ever asked yourself this question, recognize that no one in this world is perfect and you are not the only one going through this. Two years ago, I experienced this exact same feeling, which led to one of the darkest times in my life. Yet, not long after hitting rock bottom, my hunger for redemption drove me to create my own path to success. Today, I share my story to enlighten, encourage and provide the comfort of guidance and relatability for college students and grads. The cycle of depression and uncertainty after graduation has become an overlooked issue that has to end. I plan to help you bridge that gap between the post grad expectations and our harsh reality, and introduce strides to take to overcome this obstacle together.
A Journey Into the Unknown:
OUT of OPTIONS.
Have you ever put all of your eggs into one basket and then lost it? By eggs I mean my $68,000 cyber security scholarship at A&T. I know, you’re wondering “What the heck did he do to lose THAT?” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve put my blood, sweat, and tears into solidifying a path for success post grad. However, I had a ton of things going on senior year, causing my GPA to drop. The outcome? No job, and a limited chance at furthering my education. Let me break it down.
Plan A: Accept a job offer and work for the government in Washington DC.
Plan B: Go to Grad school at A&T.
What wasn’t a part of the plan was losing my high GPA, losing the scholarship that came from that GPA, and losing that job offer because I had already chosen Plan B. All of these L’s left me feeling like the options for my future were becoming more and more slim. What now? It was time to make grown up decisions that no course prepared me for. This was a tough pill to swallow because I had failed to meet my own expectations. My future was now at stake and I felt launched toward a journey into the unknown.
Reality sets in quickly after graduation, as the celebrations and cookouts and the time for career announcements approaches. Your friends and old classmates are taking their education and professions to the next level while instead you’re being hammered with the “So what are your plans now?” questions from friends and family. Trust me, I’ve been there and know the frustration of not being aware of the next steps! With this lack of direction came an overwhelming state of depression for me. My only option toward progression has been lost, the only thing to do now was move back into my parent’s house. Where immediately “Did you apply for that job today?” “How many jobs have you applied to so far?” nearly drove me insane. How could I even apply for these jobs with such a low GPA? Little did my parents know, I was extremely hesitant to apply for jobs out of fear of rejection. I often thought, “Who’d take a chance on me when I don’t even meet basic requirements” this lacking stripped me of my confidence and made me feel worthless. And yet, landing just any career did not comfort me either. I didn’t want to pursue a career less than where I envisioned I should be, being somewhere I’d be mediocre, I knew would soon turn into misery. I believed that these periods of frustration and disappointment were the lowest depths I could reach during this course of my life, but unfortunately I was in for a rude awakening.
Beneath Rock Bottom.
Desperate times call for desperate 5 hour long road trips back to my alma mater for a career fair. I finally had enough courage to set my fear of rejection aside by applying to local jobs and attending an annual career fair to be judged by hundreds of tech companies looking to hire. Obviously, in a perfect world, I’d be the one doing the recruiting. Instead, I’m there searching for an opportunity just like the undergrad students. My pride got the best of me as I thought of my friends who’d see that I hadn’t progressed since graduation. I became ashamed at my lack of growth in comparison to their seemingly perfect lives. I sunk to my lowest point in depression when I failed to land a job offer from the career fair. Though I did manage to land many interviews, thinking “This could be my big breakthrough! This could be the team that takes a chance on me!” just to get my resume handed back to me and rejected midway through interviews. The disappointment of investing time, travel and even reaching out for help from those who claim they can pull strings, yet every attempt has officially failed me. It was at this point that I had reached what I thought was the unreachable, rock bottom.
The worst part about reaching rock bottom is getting to such a low, that you literally lose sight of any chance to get back to the top.
With no chance at grad school and no job offer, the frustration became so intense to the point where I spent days, then weeks, of crying to myself. How could I, one with so much promise and expectation, have made it to such a shameful point in my life.
During this period, I would mask my emotions with a smile and lies whenever approached with “How are you doing?”. I fell so deep into depression that I became isolated. In the midst of isolation and at the pit of despair, this dark place allowed me to clearly find God. As my perspective began to change, slowly after, my circumstances began to change as well. If you know turbulent times like these, then you know the difficulty in having faith when reality isn’t even promising. After all, I was at rock bottom, the lowest of the low, there was only one way to go from here. I picked myself up and prayed even harder than before. When you’re finally tired of feeling sorry for yourself, you’re in for the real change. I began to live by Romans 8:18, “Our present sufferings cannot compare with the glory which shall be revealed in us”. Reading this gave me the ability to speak over my current situation to give me that extra push I needed to get through each and every day.
Perseverance and Resilience.
You struggle with post grad depression and assume that this can’t be normal, but understand that you are not the first and probably won’t be the last to experience this. Through the course of our lives we’ll have highs and lows, our faith and our ability to adapt to tragedy and setbacks will be tested. In our twenty-somethings, we’re all just starting to get thrown the curve balls, all to prepare us for the real battles that take place later on. So, when faced with issues like this, you must learn to first speak life over your circumstances. Declare only positive things for your future and watch the positive outcomes arise. Your mindset during the “tough time” makes all the difference. Once you’re uncomfortable with being too comfortable, your commitment to success increases and you’ll have to give your 100% effort to be the trailblazing professional for that career you deserve.
Put your pride to the side and apply for those jobs that you might not like, shoot your shot until you hear YES! Just getting your foot in the door could unlock tons of opportunities, you just have to try. The gap between graduation and getting your career started is small in the grand scheme of things. You will go to great lengths to get the change you want, if you’re hungry enough. Envision yourself in the best position of your life as possible, now take a leap of faith and determination, do whatever it takes to make that vision an experience and your reality. Depression can last for a season or it could last a lot longer than you’d expected, you’ll become frustrated, you’ll want to cry sometimes. Let it ALL out, and when you’re ready to get up and make things happen, do not become discouraged and do not let your circumstances define you. Be resilient in the face of adversity, discouragement, and rejection.