i have a degree. now, where’s my perfect job?
When I was younger I was unashamedly optimistic. I heard phrases such as ‘you can be anything you want to be’ and ate them right up, certain that this was how the world worked. My parents encouraged me wholeheartedly, telling me every day that I was going to be something. And I believed them. And I kept on believing them until I started university and came to the not very nice realisation that the world doesn’t always work that way, and you don’t always get what you want.
For starters, I had always been under the impression that a university degree automatically led to a job in the field in which you were studying. I’m not entirely sure how I pictured it, but it went sort of like this: finish degree and then get handed a job at graduation along with your certificate. Okay, so that is definitely how I pictured it.
Imagine my surprise when talking with my first year friends and learning that once you finish your degree, you have to apply for jobs. And not only that, but you may not always get the jobs you apply for. Now being someone who was incredibly sheltered for the entirety of their young life, my example is probably an extreme one. But after telling my own tale to other people, they have always responded with ‘that’s how I thought it worked too!’ coupled with a sheepish grin.
Granted, there are degrees that are much more likely to get you a job in the field you want, such as nursing, teaching and social work. But political science and creative writing? They definitely don’t have the same employment rate – at least not in a field that is at all relevant. And even with a degree it can be difficult to get a job in…any field at all.
Despite the fact that I’m still studying, the whole “having a mortgage thing” meant that studying simply was not a good enough excuse to avoid full-time work anymore. And while I was street smart enough to know that job adverts for opinion piece writers who are too lazy to reference were few and far between (I’m still holding out hope though), I decided to aim for work in administration, figuring I was pretty over-qualified so was guaranteed a job. Nope, once again life turned out differently than I thought it would. Getting a permanent position was tough. Degrees are no longer so much an advantage as they are an expectation. And even then, experience counts for a lot more than a piece of paper does.
But after months of writing selection criteria and receiving rejection emails, I finally got a permanent position. In an area that I couldn’t be less interested in, nor could I be less qualified for. But you know what? I’m still pretty darn happy.
There are so many quotes and articles out there telling us to live our dreams and not to settle for less. But sometimes we don’t have a choice. Not everyone is going to get that perfect job or utilise their degree exactly as they pictured when they were a bright-eyed teen. And that doesn’t make life any less meaningful or fulfilling.
I’m not writing this to say ‘don’t go to university’ or ‘don’t follow your dreams’. What I’m saying is: ‘Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t turn out exactly as you planned.’ We have this idea that if you aren’t doing your dream job, then you’re somehow wasting your life. I don’t count my time at university as wasted years. I met wonderful people, learned how to write a mean essay, learned a lot about myself, and had fun. And my time in administration isn’t wasted time either, for the same reasons (only replace the word essay with incredibly boring unbiased documents).
If you’re happy, have enjoyed your experiences and have the time to do the things you love – even if it’s during lunch hours or after work – then your life is as full as anyone could hope a life to be, even if you’re not exactly where you pictured yourself ten years ago.
So study what you’re passionate about, aim as high as you can, don’t feel discouraged when you encounter rejection (because I can guarantee that you most certainly will) and have as grand a time as anyone, regardless of whether you end up where up where you thought you would or not.