The Moment You Can No Longer Call Yourself A Post Grad

Up until recently, I have spent my whole life being defined by where I was in my education. In high school, I was a teenage brat whose life was consumed by tests, college applications and severe mood swings. My friends and I existed entirely in a culture that was created by our high school. Those seven hours we spent at school every day shaped our relationships, social lives, and identities.

Then I went to college, which is its own shitshow culture. Your lifestyle is totally bizarre, and you know you will never live that way again. It’s like you were sent to a summer camp for four years where you basically learned about Judith Butler and the drawbacks of binge drinking. You slept in late, ate a lot of crappy food, and discovered your favorite author. And then it’s over. The bubble pops and you’re let back into real life, which is what exactly? High school? When was the last time your life didn’t feel like summer camp?

But wait, you have one more label to hide behind—it’s a label that will once again inform your identity and buy you time. I’m talking about being a post grad of course—a state of being that has been captured in films like The Graduate and Reality Bites, and has been described way too many times on Thought Catalog (last one, I promise!). As much as people bitch and complain about it though, they also use it as a security blanket. They take solace in having something define them again. When you tell people that you recently graduated college, people immediately get it and are just like, “Okay, honey. You’re looking for a real job? Yup, I feel you. Having a hard time with all of it? That’s totally understandable. Well, good luck!” You ride that post grad wave until you can’t ride it any longer. Which brings me to my question, when can you no longer ride the wave? When do you stop becoming a post grad and start becoming someone who just doesn’t have a career?

I graduated college a year and a half ago, and it took me about a year to land a big boy job (thanks guys!). It happened just in the nick of time too. After being a college graduate for a year, I was starting to feel like I didn’t have the right to carry around that post grad title. I wasn’t someone fresh off the college boat. I had stepped off of it a long time ago and that shit was now barely a spec on my horizon.

Some of my friends feel screwed. They graduated in ’09 and haven’t found a job in their field yet. They know the post grad schtick doesn’t work for them anymore but they’re not really sure how else to identify. I mean, when do you really stop clutching to it? When you get a real job? Is that when you can rid your life of any post grad vibes and just be a person with a career?

You’re in limbo. You’re a post-post grad. You’re holding on to something past its expiration date because life won’t let you move on to your next label. So you’re just forced to sit in the waiting room until someone calls your name. In the meantime, all you can do to prevent yourself from looking pathetic is to stop making references to your life being like the movie Post Grad starring the chick from Gilmore Girls. TC mark

image – Post Grad

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


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  • Katherine

    “It’s like you were sent to a summer camp for four years where you
    basically learned about Judith Butler and the drawbacks of binge

    This might just be Lang.

  • simbel

    How to feel better about being a post grad with no real-life career: start pursuing a PhD and voila, three-seven more years of graduate life! By the tenth year you really should have it done, though.  Then continue with a post-doc… and so on.

  • Jordan

    Wait wait…before I jump out of my skin, is “post-grad” something people actually say?  Like would you use those actual words to your grandma or a date to describe a state of not being in school and not working in your career field?  Or is it something you say, moreso feel, in your head?  Because THAT I understand.  I’m all for colorful wording to describe less-than-ideal situations, but this is some serious delusion otherwise lol.

    Post grad is getting a Masters/PhD.

    • simbel

      Ohwai, the post wasn’t about the scholarly kind of post-grad? Disregard my PhD comment, then, makes no sense.

      Maybe post-college suits better here.

  • Lambros Pobjoy

    This is my current life situation. Balls.

  • Mandy

    this article makes me want to cry

  • Anonymous

    I know people who are have been out of college for more than a year in this situation, I think calling it life is more appropriate than post-grad.  Because it is life.

  • Tariq West

    Why are people still looking for jobs “in their fields”? At entry level you can learn/do pretty much anything with any degree (short of some gigs in the sciences/engineering). We live in an age of disciplinary and vocational bricolage, which means that you should expect to know/do things at work that have historically belonged to separate fields. In this sense, ‘fields’ are increasingly obsolete as constructs  – only skills and conceptual models remain relevant.

    • JLP

      This sounds like the sort of thing overcompensated “postmodern theorists” write, with furrowed brow, in their warmed-over offerings to academia, disguised as groundbreaking insight into modernity, when all it really means is that academia has failed its students (again), McDonalds-Chrysler-Viacom-Citibank is getting better and better at automating the dwindling work it has so that the average worker is more expendable, and I *guess* I shouldn’t feel so bad about going to school for four years to push paper or say, Would you like fries with that?

      Mmm. Bricolage.

      • Tariq West

        Sure, the point I articulated has been made before. People still don’t get it. Yes, academia has failed to prepare students for a job market shaped by globalization, technological disruption and institutional failure. Yes, it seems like maybe some implicit contract was broken in releasing people from expensive schooling into un/under-employment (or even unemployability).

        My point is you are justified in feeling bad about the paucity of employment options within fields as they were formerly constituted. Stop crying about it and get creative with your hustle. And maybe even be a little excited. Your degree is only as useful as you are imaginative in creating value with it. Don’t add a failure of imagination on our part to the failures of our parents’ institutions.

        The feelings of desperation, abandonment, disillusionment upon encountering the post-grad prospects are something I’m familiar with. A year out though, I’m not working ‘in my field’ narrowly speaking, but am in a position that allows me to answer questions/solve problems that I find intellectually, personally, even academically compelling, while getting paid for the value I create. It took some imagination to get here.

        So, while we’re here engaged in intellectual masturbation, there are careers out there waiting to be invented.

    • KC

      I agree. I have a friend who took up nursing but found very little opportunity for employment in my country as the supply of nurses is quite high and the salary rates are low. She decided to look beyond her field and found an admin related job. Much better than the minimum wage option nurses are given and their unstable working hours. 

  • Gmdrqq

    yeah i dropped out of college in 07 after having floated around comp related majors and decided i hate it, don’t want a career of it, didn’t know what to do with myself and lived in exile in the same basement room i’ve been living in since our family moved into this house in 2000. the wasted years, the threat of not finding my footing and being condemned to rote low skill jobs which i treat like chores to be endured (as i do life). my younger sister got expelled from the 4th tier party school she was going to for smoking pot in her dorm, a habit she still has, and a stash of weed which i steal from and use to get high almost daily for months on end.

  • erin

    honestly, i haven’t found a “big person” job and it’s been 1 year since graduation. at first i hated it, and now i am beginning to appreciate living with my parents in limbo. it’s not even that i want a job in MY field, it’s that i want a job that is INTERESTING, relevant, challenging, and where i work with awesome people. i will probably end up teaching english overseas and then realize what i really need/want to do to get where i want. i just have commitment-phobia.

    i think that is not so much “post-grad” as it is “quarter-life crisis” or “finding yourself in your 20s”.

    • erin

      and if you counted all of the contracts i worked in one of my “fields of interest” and partial academic study, it would probably add up to 1 years experience. you’re lucky to find something stable, permanent and full-time these days.

  • Steven Timberman

    Everyone I graduated with last year (after I milked my time in undergrad for all I could) is pretty much in this horrid, shit-mired boat. Quite a few of us applied and started master’s programs just because we’ve got nothing better to do with our time. 

    Now that my one year master’s course is trickling to a conclusion, I’ve got another set of friends contemplating PhDs, MFAs, pretty much anything that avoids the reality that saying you’re “a creative type”, a “post graduate”, or “finding yourself” eventually loses its luster  month after month.

    Fuck, man. Just managed to depress myself a little further. Good article though. Must find ourselves a way past this limbo, definitely. 

  • devin howard

    my question is, is this phenomenon a generational thing, are we, as 20 somethings, born in the 80s somethings or early 90s somethings (holy shit), facing a cultural, social, and/or socio-cultural shift in which the traditional benchmarks of an Adult Life are beginning to break down and reassert themselves in different forms?

    I just ran away to China to live with my girlfriend and teach English. I have a masters degree, I worked 70+ hours a week for a year at two jobs right after my undergraduate stint then decided it was time for grad school and now I face the biggest, most uncertain ‘unknown’ ever: what now?

    Why can’t I just wander around for the next ten years, why do I feel guilty for wanting to do that? Because I’ve internalized the expectations of a ‘responsible person’, are those expectations objective, or subjective? No idea. 

    Like another comment mentions, I enjoyed living with my parents. In fact, I’d never appreciated as much until I lived in their house for a year, watched what age was doing to my once invincible father, listened to my 60 year old mother fret about money.

    What I wonder, and I guess this is my real question, is: are the values we try and live up to outdated or are we all just a bunch of whiners, or something in between, I can’t figure it out.

  • Anonymous

  • RYAN

    ohhhhh can i relate to this. i’m currently a nanny and i HATE telling people that when they ask what i do. i also have 2 other jobs coaching dance (which is something i’ve always wanted) and i feel that those are pretty legit, but the nanny gig is my main job. i feel judged (not that i really care that much, its whatever) every time i have to throw it out there. only a few of my graduated friends have legit jobs, and their life sucks now btw but we all have to get there eventually, but out of the ones that don’t, i’m making far more money than they are doing the nanny thing. that is why i am pretty content with it for the most part, but people see it as not being a “real job” when in fact its harder on most days than any job i’ve ever had. anyway, i’m rambling. the post-post grad life has its upsides like being able to have some freedom, live at home, whatever… but i still hate talking about it to people who have their shit together.

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