My Post-Grad Journey

How often have you thought to yourself: I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. 

Immediately after I graduated from UC San Diego in June 2015, that is not how I felt. I turned down UCLA and Cal to live at home and save money, only to learn that top companies I was interested in recruited at those campuses, but not UCSD.

I was able to study abroad in three cities and graduate with a double major, but my only work experiences were as a part-time admin assistant, orange chicken scooper, and popcorn popper. I never did an internship and my time abroad prevented me from being able to join the leadership teams of student orgs I was part of. I was doubtful that my study abroad programs and academic coursework were sufficient to make me a competitive candidate for my dream jobs.

My Fall 2014 job search resulted in zero success, and my class schedule was also full Spring quarter 2015 so I decided to put off the job search until after graduation, with much envy toward my peers who were in the ideal position of “I already have a job lined up.”

I did have a lovely summer with some quality family time. I went to EDC for the first time; visited Cathy in Anthem, Arizona and hit up Sedona and Flagstaff; went on a roadtrip up and down the coast (San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, San Jose, LA); took a fun bartending class; and explored hidden San Diego.

When Fall 2015 came around and Amy started school again, reality crept back up and reminded me I needed to get my shit together.

Don’t you just hate those family functions where someone asks the question that starts with, “SO… ” – and I think you know iterations of the rest of the question.

  • any luck with the job search?
  • what have you been doing all day?
  • what are you going to do now?

There’s just something about a mother’s innocent questioning that makes you feel no greater shame and self-loathing. I’ve barked back defensively countless times. I think we lash out because it forces us to face our own realities and doubt our self-worth.

Also, as a first-generation college graduate, it was hard to explain that post-grad unemployment lasts 3-9 months on average (according to some article I think I’m quoting correctly); job hunting is, in fact, an all-consuming process; and despite not having a job, I didn’t just lay around and watch Netflix all day.

Throughout the process, I felt lost, helpless, discouraged.

Originally, I considered doing a volunteer trip in India that summer/fall… Then realized I couldn’t afford it. After not working since January and traveling around Europe for 3 months, my personal funds were running dangerously low.

I took up an odd job with my uncle because I had free time and no money. I was a double major college graduate and I was putting flyers on cars in shopping center parking lots and asking small businesses to hang posters in their windows.

Fuck my life. I was also extremely efficient at flyering, which made it sadder–like I was meant for this job. I had found my calling!

But I didn’t stop applying to jobs. I just began to get desperate and scared. I started applying to bartending jobs (cooler and more glorious than waitressing), hoping my two weeks of playing around with colored water would land me an interview somewhere. It didn’t. (Actually still kind of sad I didn’t get to do a side bartending gig.)

I briefly considered applying for waitressing jobs and getting crazy good tips, but while I could justify working at Panda Express as a high school grad and in college, I just couldn’t go back to food handling with a college degree. I would feel like a complete and utter failure.

Side note: I think you can tell a lot about a person’s family background and “class” by whether or not they’ve ever even applied (or thought about applying) for a food service job.

I also began applying to administrative positions, especially ones that were temporary, limited to one year. My justification: I had admin experience and I could live at home and save money for life/potential relocation while also gaining experience/future job references and applying to jobs I actually wanted.

It was depressing when I didn’t get phone interviews for some of these positions I was overqualified for and would have killed at.

I did do an interview for an admin position for a company in Poway that was offering a whopping $13.50/hr and hourlong traffic-ridden morning and evening commutes. The boss man said I was their new top candidate and was very interested in me joining them, although he did still have a couple more interviews. Then I never even heard back from him. Ffs. It’s a cruel world.

This was the lowest point of the year. Degrading and demoralizing to the max.

Turning Point

Over time, I fixed my resume and began receiving more responses. It was encouraging, but also overwhelming and incredibly stressful (but in a good way doe).

I kept track of positions I applied for, and the dates I sent in my application (for appropriate follow up and also to get an idea of how long before companies would send rejection letters–if at all). You begin to get better at applying and answering phone interview questions.

I reached the point where a couple companies wanted to fly me in for final interviews. At the same time, I got the offer from Scripps and only so much time before I had to give them a final offer.

I was in that terrible good but bad position of having an expiring offer for a position I was unsure about vs. a postponed interview (holidays) for a company I really liked but with chances that were extremely uncertain. Some people told me to be selfish and accept one but still do the interview and quit if I got the other job. But I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I accepted the offer and canceled the other interview.

I felt like I was settling for this position, but there were several redeeming qualities that allowed me to justify working there post-grad for suboptimal pay.

It was hard to see at the time, but after looking back, I felt like I was supposed to be there. I learned a lot and am grateful for my time at Scripps. I realized that career path wasn’t suited for me, but I hope I was able to contribute to the company and make the transition easier for my replacement.

Working there allowed me to save money and spend a lot of time with Amy during her final year of undergrad. Victoria and I were finally in the same city together for an extended period of time. I got closer to the same few people I would always hang out with (they know who they are).

I got to meet lots of cool people while volunteering and at other SD events. I took aerial silks for a Rec class. I got to go to talks and lectures hosted by UC San Diego and the San Diego Foundation (yes, this is something I enjoyed doing). I went to a handful of concerts and plays by myself or with friends.

And then I got a job interview and offer from a great company with a really cool team in SF, where I already have some close college friends. Honestly, I’m a little disappointed that I got my intro to this company through a job referral. Reinforcing the terrible “it’s who you know” thing. I’m confident I would have been able to get a job on my own, although it may have taken longer; it’s not impossible to get a job without knowing someone in the company.

One Year Later: The Present and Future

Because it was campus recruiting and my new job starts in September, I put in my one month notice and started planning like crazy for the exciting summer ahead of me.

Volunteering in Delhi and my future domestic travels are blessings I wouldn’t have been able to afford without working and saving for the last few months. Also, if I took a different job, I may not have been as lucky to land in a company where team morale and social outings are such an important part. And I might have been put in a different city, farther from any family and friends.

My advice: You can afford to hold out for something you really want, or something that will help you get there. Even if you feel like you’re “settling,” things will be ok in the end, with perseverance and a change in attitude.

There is something to learn from every experience and ways to grow from hardship.

To all my post-grads out there: Persevere and have fun.

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christinaluu93

UC San Diego grad with a double major in Economics and International Business. I was born and raised in sunny San Diego, but I love to travel (and eat) around the world.

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