I graduated college 2 years ago thinking and feeling like I was on top of the world. They handed me a degree, and in the same fashion, I expected to be handed a job.  This mindset and poor preparation for life in the real world have lead me along one of the hardest journeys of my life thus far.

“Note to self, employers are looking for people with experience managing phone lines, not tan lines.” 

In some ways my struggle to find a job started far before I ever began looking for a job. In college we are trained to believe passing your classes and graduating with a degree will lead you to a better future. Doing as I was taught, I passed my classes (some only barely, but passed none the less) and I earned a degree, because I was told I was supposed to. This would create problems for me later on when I had nothing to supplement those classes and that degree. As a career lifeguard throughout my time in college, I didn’t use any of the time I should have for internships or professional development. Note to self, employers are looking for people with experience managing phone lines, not tan lines.

I was already handicapped by my lack of experience going into the job hunt, which didn’t help an already difficult process. Starting out unemployed and leaving college is a culture shock in itself. For the first time in my life I realized I had no guarantees. There were no classes built into my day, and no real certainty I would have anything to do with my day at all. All I could do was spend hours every day filling out applications for jobs I would never hear back from. That was tiresome and discouraging to say the least. I would really like to forget this next part, but honestly there were several days I remember waking up and counting the hours until I would be able to go to sleep again. Bedtime became the only time I could count on and look forward to. Trust me when I say that is no way to live.

No one is too good for a pay check.

One of this biggest mistakes I made during this time was not getting a part-time job to fill my time and provide me with a little income. It would have been good to have something to distract me from my hours of self-loathing. For some reason I couldn’t get it out of my mind that I should be better than the part-time jobs I had as a 16 year old. I had a college degree and I desperately wanted that to mean something more.  If you are reading this and you are currently living with my same mindset, heed my warning and step down from your high horse.  No one is too good for a pay check.

There were a few times in my job-hunting process where I would land an interview, things would look positive, and then for some reason or another the position wouldn’t work out. These were the hardest because it put me on an emotional roller coaster. The minute I thought things were going steady, I would get the call that they were moving forward with someone else and it would crush me. I also found myself getting interviews that were a complete waste of my time. I once showed up to an interview and the interviewer was an hour late. When she finally showed up she asked me if I would like to follow a drunk Nashville reality star around town and take pictures for free. That “opportunity” was a little much for me, and I gracefully denied her offer.  Throughout the ups and downs (mostly downs), It became so bad that rejection emails became my favorite responses to receive. At least they provided some closure in the process.

“It was a toss up between crying every day about my job, or going back to crying every day without a job. I chose the latter.”    

After several months of job hunting, there came a point where I was incredibly desperate. As much as I wanted to hold out for my dream job, life was forcing me to take any job that would have me. When I left college, I told myself I would never lifeguard again.

Never say never, because when times were hard I had to lean on the only experience I had. I accepted an Aquatics Coordinator position with an hour commute, at a pool whose aquatics program had essentially collapsed. It was probably the least fun I have ever had.  The handful of lifeguards I had never showed up for work, and I even had one employee so kindly quit his job via text message 1 hour into his shift.  I was forced to guard 7-hour days, every day, with no break.  That is definitely illegal.  A month and a half in, I decided I couldn’t take anymore and quit. It was a toss up between crying every day about my job or going back to crying every day without a job.  I chose the latter.

Not too long after that experience, I was offered the best opportunity I had been presented in a year and a half. That said, it was still a job I didn’t really want.  I started off my job hunt with little to no experience, and I really didn’t have the luxury of passing on a position that could really enhance my resume.

It’s been almost 8 months since I accepted that position, and although I am not where I would like to be forever, I have certainly been developing my professional skill set. Something I have to constantly remind myself of is eventually this opportunity will lead to another. I wanted my job hunt to be easy and fun, and it turned out to be no fun at all.  I still struggle with where I am in my life and my career, but at least now I think I am headed in the right direction.

Now it’s funny, because that last line is where my story was supposed to end. However, as of 3 days ago, my job and I parted ways (to put it nicely). Looks like my job hunt isn’t going to stop here. Stay tuned for more of the madness.