Surviving the graduate despair the profoundly mundane gas in michigan


I don’t mean working at Head Office doing marketing, pioneering this year’s Christmas campaign that has been in motion since August. Nor do I mean designing product labels or churning out the latest patronising yet strangely endearing slogans on the Basics range. I’m a counter assistant. Some days I bag up sausage rolls and spicy chicken thighs on the hot food counter, others I put outrageously overpriced pastries and cupcakes into little patisserie bags and slice wholemeal bread, extra thick for a little old dear’s pea and ham soup on the bakery. My favourite counter is the deli. I get to slice fancy cheeses and hams for parents trying to convince their little darlings (‘11 and 13… I despair!’) to make their own sandwiches for once.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to be a diatribe about the woes of working a menial supermarket job (I mean, it sort of is, but not completely). I’m not exactly stressed at the supermarket; my colleagues are lovely for the most part, and as soon as I clock out I can forget about all the blue cheese I had to slice (once I’ve had a good shower), and the three extra carvery turkeys that someone accidentally ordered, all with the same ‘sell by’ date. However, it certainly isn’t where I envisioned myself when I started out on my postgraduate degree.

In most cases, young people go to university to better themselves. In college it was oppressively drilled into me that I had to go to university, else it would be a waste of my intelligence. One of my teachers was especially pushy about me only applying for Russell Group universities; if I had a degree from anywhere else further education would be a pointless endeavour. Pressure of a different kind came from home; from my family, and perhaps most damagingly, myself. I’m the first generation of my family not raised on a council estate, and my mum wants me to have the chances she never had, to do the best I can, and be happy. I’ve always wanted to make her proud, and one of my main fears has always been letting her down. I had to do well for her. gas dryer vs electric dryer It doesn’t help that the overarching theme of any sort of praise I received from school was how smart I was, how I’d go far in life, that the world was my oyster, based on my brains alone. These comments I obsessively sought out. hair electricity dance moms They became one of my only sources of self-esteem through those awkward teenage years. I was horrendously bullied in school and sought refuge from my peers in the form of approval from my teachers. Even now, I struggle with an unhealthy need to impress any perceived authority, and find myself easily devastated if I think that I have failed to do so. I place a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself to try to live up to impossible expectations, and I’m most definitely my own worst critic.

So, after I graduated with a 2:1 in Ancient History from a Russell Group university, I thought I’d done it. I believed that I now had this magical piece of paper that would batter down so many doors to opportunities many could only dream of, and I could continue my relentless pursuit of ‘doing well’. I’ll be the first to admit I’d developed something of a superiority complex, and had foolishly begun to believe that there were jobs now beneath me. However, what universities are unwilling to do is prepare their graduates for the possibility that their institution’s specific piece of paper isn’t guaranteed to do that. I was rejected from various graduate positions, and when the funds ran out I reluctantly moved back home, hoping to find work.

Problem is, I’m from a small northern town most known for its once decent football team, and one of the lowest levels of physical activity in the UK. The house prices are low, but so are the wages. It’s an abyss of drugs, racism, and alcoholism. I was naïve to think I’d fare better at home, and spent three months sinking into the depths of post-graduation unemployment despair. No-one had warned me how awful it was to have worked so hard, then to be unable to find a job. I felt useless; like I’d failed everyone I loved, and like I was completely alone. All over Facebook I was seeing people who had dropped lucky straight after graduation; had landed that prestigious graduate scheme, had moved to London to really crack on with their glamorous careers. Why hadn’t that happened to me? I felt like through no real fault of my own I had fallen behind, and as the next year of my life wore on, catching back up was starting to look like an increasingly insurmountable task.

So what did I do? I fell back onto what I was good at; academia. electricity prices by state I have a talent for research; give me a topic, and I can hand you something in-depth and cohesive in a very short time frame. I applied to do a Masters degree at another Russell Group university, and focused on modern history and politics in an attempt to make myself more employable. I left my minimum wage, high-stress job at a construction plastics company that had me crying myself to sleep at night with anxiety, and returned to hide in the safety of the academic bubble. I loved it! It felt like I’d never left, and I was back in an environment where my work mattered, people actually cared about my thoughts, and I was back amongst people that really valued that intelligence I so desperately needed to prove. Aside from the occasional bout of the pervasive ‘imposter syndrome’ (I can’t do this, I shouldn’t be here) that often plagues postgraduate students, I felt like I was right back where I belonged.

Now it’s over again, and I’m right back to where I was two years ago. All that’s changed is the town and the job. However, I’ve inserted another problem into the potential pool of rejection reasons plucked from the hat by prospective employers. Previously, the main issue was that I didn’t have experience, despite looking like a good candidate on paper. Now I ‘don’t have experience’ AND I’m ’overqualified’. I thought having a Masters would help set me apart from each new round of bright-eyed, optimistic graduates pouring out of universities with degrees, but alas, I was a naïve fool again.

Only this time, I recognise the growing sense of ennui for what it is, and actively force myself to remain steadfast in the face of the building wave of depression. I won’t let myself fall into the trap of hopelessness again. The problem isn’t necessarily me. Many graduates face the exact same problem; for many it boils down to throwing the right application in at the right place, at the right time. I just haven’t had that lucky moment yet, when someone will decide to take a chance on me. There are thousands of people just like me dealing with this. People that have sunk themselves into many thousands in student debt, (mine is £45,000, not far off my mum’s mortgage), and now find that they can’t get a foot on the career ladder. It’s all too easy to let yourself stagnate and blame the system, but I’ve realised I have to learn to adapt and play that system. Its about having the confidence to keep sending out those CVs, keep applying for those positions, and not take the many rejections you’ll receive personally. Instead, you have to be able to take the criticism and roll with the punches a bit more. It’s easier said than done, believe me, I know. But I’m not quite the same fresh-faced, oblivious 21-year-old I was when I first graduated. For that, I have places like that construction plastics company and the supermarket to thank. Although far from where I aspire to be, both have provided a valuable reality check, and a fresh perspective.

Most importantly, these jobs have knocked me down a peg or five. You aren’t too good to do any job, nobody is. My landlady doesn’t put my rent on hold until I find a high earning position. gas you up The electricity company doesn’t see my fancy Masters certificate and decide to cut me some slack. The world marches inexorably forwards; you can either choose to keep up, or let yourself fall behind. You take the work that you can find, and you do your best with it. Financial independence is so important, and for the first time in my life, I’m fully supporting myself. I might not be rolling in money, but seeing my bank account top up on payday with enough money to see me through the month is very satisfying indeed. Also, I’ve learned how to think on my feet, and handle sensitive situations where someone is going to walk away unhappy. I can stand up for myself in the face of difficult people, whether those people are customers, colleagues, or managers. I’ve worked alongside so many individuals from all walks of life, all of them with a unique experience of the world. They’ve helped to burst that self-centred bubble I’d become comfortable in, and have helped me to shed light on the person I am, and the one I want to be.

I’m not alone either; there are other students and graduates there, waiting for their opportunity to escape the self-imposed, shelf-stacking prison and move onwards with their lives. The realisation that I wasn’t alone in my situation was a massive reassurance that maybe I hadn’t fallen behind after all, and that university hadn’t been a waste of time. I’ve found that the key to making the best of my situation isn’t to think I’ve failed, but instead to consider it a bit of time to breathe. b games 2 To really think about my life’s direction. Slicing bread and bagging up pasties for builders on their lunch break isn’t ideal, but it’s good enough for now. It isn’t a nice wooden sign post on my life’s path telling me which way to go. I’m instead on an overgrown wooded trail, and the supermarket has been a decent set of shears to beat back the undergrowth. Perhaps this sort of life experience is more valuable than many students who fall into that post-graduation sense of despair realise. If you recognise the negative thought patterns that begin to fall into place, you can fight it and grow from the adversity; grow up, in fact.