How I stopped comparing myself to people on social media while I navigated post-grad unemployment
There are too many things I don’t know: the capital of Minnesota, what “stock options” are, why we have an electoral college. I also didn’t know what I wanted to do after my college graduation. When I crossed the stage a little over a year ago, the only thing I was certain about was that I had a degree. That meant someone, somewhere, would hire me, right?
Images of living lavishly on a “grown” salary flashed across my mind every night for those first few weeks after graduation. Still shielded from the real world while working as a full-time summer intern, I rode on a wave of confidence—until the internship ended. The full-time position wasn’t offered. I was back at square one with nothing but a degree (beautifully framed, though) and my own shattered ego.
Refusing to take part-time gigs that paid minimum wage with no benefits, I found myself trapped in a tedious cycle of applying for full-time jobs, only to be rejected again and again. Degrees were the first requirement for most positions, but years-long “work experience” was usually the second requirement. These were jobs that paid nearly the same as those in retail or fast-food.
“A growing number of college grads are struggling with underemployment: 43%, in fact. I was one of them.”
On social media, I watched my other classmates post shiny photos of them doing professional things with seemingly important people. I watched classmates move to their dream cities and start their dream careers, while I felt the tendrils of depression creep towards me. Failure was never a word I had associated with myself, but it was hard to keep my inner-critic at bay when it seemed everyone else was moving on with their lives as I stayed stagnant.
I was forced to confront exactly what it was I wanted to do and how I planned to achieve it. I erased my ego and settled for a retail job because the truth is that some money is better than none. After holding down that job for a few months I finally got hired for another full-time position that I am still extremely grateful for.
“It wasn’t until much later that I learned a good amount of what I saw on social media couldn’t have been further from the truth. Many of my classmates were—and are—in the same position I was in.”
It wasn’t until much later that I learned a good amount of what I saw on social media couldn’t have been further from the truth. Many of my classmates were—and are—in the same position I was in. Many of us are guilty of displaying a tightly controlled narrative on our social media accounts, carefully crafting images of joy and success. No one wants to put their setbacks on display, but if we were more realistic about post-grad challenges (from finding employment to assimilating to corporate life, or just learning how to “adult” in general) then social media might not have such a toxic effect on many of us.
Connection—outside of social media performances—can be a life raft for those of us who are trying to stay afloat on the murky waters of the first year after college. So I’ll start by reaching my hand out to my peers. I’m still not totally sure of myself, but when I keep my head above water long enough, I can recognize my qualifications and accomplishments, and I see my future. It’s glowing bright with possibility and it’s absolutely beautiful. No Instagram filter needed.