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Damned If You Do And Damned If You Don't: Gen-Y And The Post-Graduate Job Market

It is seldom written or said that the year post-graduation will be the hardest year of your life to date, but it's the truth. In the troubled waters of the graduate talent pool, some people swim like fish whilst others sink like stones. Graduate life for Generation-Y is the new Everest that we all hope to scale and it's much more of a challenge than it was for our parents — whether they'll admit it or not. Media outlets don't give us a free pass either; Gen-Y frequently gets ripped to shreds by outlets that label us as deluded and devoid of real world experience, among other insults.

But why is it so difficult? After all, we were consistently told how “special” we are and how we could accomplish anything we wanted. I'll be the first to admit that the idiot voice in my head frequently tells me I should show everyone how special I really am — because apparently, no one has noticed yet.

This is actually fairly salient, to some extent, as the opportunities are seemingly endless. There is a massive burden of choice and so many chances to “shine.” That, however, is the curse that masquerades itself as the blessing our generation has been forced to face.

The point is, whatever you do, whichever path you choose, someone (either your parents, the media or even, yourself) will crassly chastise you for some aspect of it. You seemingly cannot “win.” The first year of post-graduation life is like being told that you will have a whole deck of cards in your hands when you leave college then suddenly, you're told that you have to discard down to the three of spades and an invalid joker and that subsequently, you're expected to win big at life's giant, ruthless poker game.

Luckily, we're all in this together; chances are, the person next to you at life's metaphorical poker table has just as desperate a hand as you do. The difference is, your degree-holding parents probably all had something like a pair of face cards, maybe even aces. Consequently, the media think you do, too. On top of this, both generally think you're too lazy to do anything that even remotely resembles winning the game.

It's therefore a case of picking the blanket you want to throw on this newfound graduate life-choice bleakness. Do you go abroad, thus effectively extending college and dodging real life for one more year? Do you really “let yourself go” and change up your continent of choice in search of idyllic surroundings and elect to drown yourself in a new (or old) foreign language you can't hope to realistically penetrate fully, drown others in English grammar lessons or do both simultaneously?

Do you do this while knowing that the “adventures” you have and “experiences” you gain will potentially be accompanied by culture shock, pangs of loneliness, detachment and the pain-filled sense of disappointment felt when leaving your friends, family and everything you know even further behind you every time you dare step onto a long haul flight to [insert far-flung country here]?

How will you explain to future employers than you spent two years getting socially, culturally and politically drunk on scandalously cheap Vietnamese or Thai beer and other narcotics in the name of adventure? At least you have a sun tan and more importantly, the time to figure it out.

Or do you study further, at the cost of thousands to your parents and to yourself, for a qualification that may put you in the same situation even later in life, therefore literally extending academia for another year? Do you apply for a master's in arts or sciences or philosophy only to work in a supermarket or wait on tables afterward if it all goes south and all of a sudden, you have loans to pay?

Or, do you go so far overboard that you get enough qualifications to be able to hire yourself thrice over to work three different jobs in your own freshly carved-out academic niche while you try your best for the rest of your life to shoo the perennially present minus sign away from your student-loan-induced disaster of a bank balance? At least the debt letters will be addressed to Dr. So-and-so…

Or do you get a “graduate job” and saddle yourself with the slightly demeaning suffix “Account Manager” in some business discipline completely unrelated to your humanities degree such as sales, PR or marketing, spending the next years of your life being trained in something else entirely and therefore, kind of extending college for a few more years?

Do you then get a real job and settle down like your dad may have done? Do you do this despite knowing you'll have to deal with pretending to like paying for exorbitantly priced alcoholic drinks in dimly-lit city bars you only enjoy ironically, pangs of wanderlust and envy whenever you look at your friends' pictures from [insert far-flung country here], an equally stressed other half who possibly cohabits with you and a 60-minute commute sandwiching your nine-to-five, which involves you doing bare-knuckle combat with an understaffed, inefficient public transport system five days out of seven?

Or, do you just drop out of life completely (much to the ire of your parents, whose spare room you've since re-occupied) in order to work on your music/art/novel/travel plans you thought were a good idea back at school, but which now seem like an excellent idea, as you have seemingly infinite free time apart from your thrice weekly eight-hour shift stacking those supermarket shelves? Choices, choices…

So as we sit, wide-eyed, cowering at life's massive poker table, knowing that some day you're going to have to go all in one way or another, our problem is that conflicted voices tell us how to play our dead-man's hand optimally, that we can meet our own high expectations (remember, we're all special…) whilst still becoming who we really are in about 497 different ways. Yet, all the while, other sources obnoxiously lay into us for having the temerity to have drawn the aforementioned dead-man's hand in the first place as well as taking the time out to remind us that we're indecisive, lazy or in some other way, morally corrupt at regular intervals. It's anything but helpful.

At the end of the day, which voice should we listen to? That's up to you, and you alone. The knee-jerk or the hair-trigger? Impulse or reason? The heart, soul or mind? The cartoon angel on your left shoulder, which seemingly exists to tell you you're “special” or its devilish counterpart on your right, which is seemingly intent on reminding you that you're just another fish in the over-polluted graduate-filled sea? Either way, you have the right to remain disillusioned. Believe me, you're probably not the only one.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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Chris Cooper

Contributor

Chris Cooper is a British graduate in Modern Languages. He is to be found on the run from real life working in Salzburg, Austria as an English Language Assistant. Above all else, he is very much still learning that everything comes around.
Chris Cooper is a British graduate in Modern Languages. He is to be found on the run from real life working in Salzburg, Austria as an English Language Assistant. Above all else, he is very much still learning that everything comes around.

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