You Can’t Eat Your Degree: Jobless after College

I’m turning 23 next month. I think 23 is the age when the invincibility we’ve felt since we first learned to walk begins to crack.

By we, I mean everyone. Who hasn’t felt like they were destined for something greater, a life of noteworthy accomplishments and success? When I was a little kid I wanted to be a marine scientist, exploring new depths of the sea and dusting off the secrets of the world below, swimming amidst life and adventure. At around 17, when I realized that life would be more like a series of dateless evenings in a lab smelling of fish, I figured I would be a rockstar drummer. Unfortunately, I’m one of about 50 bajillion people who’ve had that same thought.

Truth is, not all of us get to be firemen, rockstars, or Jacques Cousteau. A lot of us are Peter Gibbons from Office Space, loathing our jobs but really having no choice other than to grind away at it so we can survive. I refuse to be Peter Gibbons.

I graduated from Pepperdine University, California, in May. I thrust my 4-year English Degree in the air and called out to the world, “Who wants some of this?!”


Instead of my shiny new degree, employers wanted 5+ years of experience and a letter of recommendation from God.

I had been searching for jobs and a place to live in Nashville, TN. I knew California wasn’t the place for me and knew that as soon as I got to TN I could find a job, no problem. I just needed to get there.

I drove 3,200 miles with my girlfriend and absolutely no leg room in my tiny Hyundai Tiburon. It was my pilgrimage, a trip to find something better for myself. As the road grew longer behind me, I saw my bright future opening up on the nearing horizon. Lawyer, journalist, musician, author. Which would I be happiest as? I couldn’t wait to find out.

Solicitor, paper-lackey, receptionist, over-the-phone tech support: my options thus far. Thus, the first crack in my conviction of invincibility. It hasn’t shattered, not by a long shot, but a mountain can be torn down by a trickle of water given enough time.

I know I’m not the only one feeling this way. It’s a national crisis, but it can be hard not to personalize this, having one employer after another either refer you to someone else or flat-out say, “sorry kid, we have nothing for ya.”

My only advice is to keep pushing. The key is to persevere. When you’ve printed résumés on every piece of paper you own, buy more paper. When you’ve exhausted every contact you have, make more contacts. You may not be a rockstar, but you may find out that you’ve wanted something else all along and didn’t know it until you tried it.

As for me, I write daily. I cover two blogs and write short stories on the weekends. No other way to get better. Stay active, keep working, and eventually something will come along. There’s no shame in working a job that doesn’t lead to retirement. Do what you need to to stay afloat until you find something that makes you happy and pays the bills. Beyond that, good luck to ya Jacques.

5 Responses to “You Can’t Eat Your Degree: Jobless after College”
  1. missdisplaced says:

    It’s a funny thing, but twenty years down the road most of us wake up and find we are Peter Gibbons and that life didn’t quite work out the way we thought it would.

    As a soon-to-be two-year unemployed forty something who actually DID follow their dream (to California, art, and filmmaking) and failed the only advice I can give you is this. Stay true to yourself, but DO be realistic and have always have a backup plan.

    If I could have a do-over, I would’ve worried less about finding some “j.o.b” and spent more time traveling when it didn’t matter where you slept. If I were your age, I would live like Papa Hemingway or something and sign up to crew a boat while sailing around the world. Jobs are tough to come by today, be you 23 or 43. Worse, they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and before you know it you’ve wasted the best years of your life simply being a wage slave.

  2. Bob M. says:

    One of your best, Ken!!! By the way, Mom and I are on the beach in San Diego with Arlette and Jim and Tommy and his bride and the wedding party. You really ought to give California a second chance 🙂

  3. I’m sorry your plans didn’t work out missdisplaced. I sincerely hope you get a break soon.

    I’ve often thought about traveling the world like that, my only problem is I would miss family and friends too much. I don’t think I could just let go like that, as rewarding as it could be.

    However, the call of adventure is getting louder the longer I stare at and craigslist’s job pages.

  4. Kirk says:

    Pat Green once said “There’s a fine line between living it up and losing it all”. And he’s right on.

    There’s a fine line between working towards your dream and getting so wrapped up in that dream that you ignore the reality around you. You graduated into one of the worst economies for new hires ever. And what’s worse is the fact that our higher education system does nothing to push us towards employable fields. With respect to your English degree and my political science degree, they are borderline worthless in an economy that almost demands some form of IT understanding to be remotely employable.

    It’s a brave new world we live in and our parents and teachers either never told us what we were heading into, or we weren’t listening.

    I’ve been in politics for 5 years now and while its my ideal field, its not my ideal job. And I don’t think my ideal job ever exists. But that’s ok – because I’ve changed my outlook a bit; if I can wake up in the morning and look forward to whatever it is the day calls for and go home satisfied that I accomplished something, then that’s enough for me.

    You’ll find something. And if what you do find isn’t great, well, keep your head down and keep pushing. As someone who’s been let go from jobs twice (because election politics is an 18 month out of every 2 years job) its a hell of a lot easier to find something you want to do, when you don’t have the pressure of bills, etc bearing down on you. Good luck!

  5. Jean-Marie Gard says:

    I really enjoyed reading this – great post. Seems like writing a blog is a great way to start and who knows what it will lead to? Hope you are enjoying Nashville.

    As for a recommendation from God, you can focus on Jeremiah 29:11.

    BTW, California is really a great place. Just got back from the wedding in San Diego. It was very fun.

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