Post-Grads & The Working World

If you graduated in the past couple of years, you are probably wondering why you’re still making the money you’re making, when you’ll get a good promotion, and when you’ll actually receive your dream job. Turns out, you’re not alone. And the thought process begins as soon as you graduate.

Graduation is a rough time for all college seniors. Your entire life has been based on a schedule due to school. You had breaks here and there (sometimes long, sometimes short), but you knew there was an end date to all of them. And even if you weren’t happily looking forward to going back to school and/or classes… you at least knew you had something to do once break ended.

After college graduation, you start a brand new break. One that doesn’t end until you start working. And after after you start working, there’s no end date on that either. It’s not an internship. It’s not going to end in 3 or 6 months… unless you get fired, laid off, or if the position was temporary. But even if it is a 6 month temporary position, you don’t have school to go back to after it’s over… you have to search for another job. Work is now what you will be doing for the rest of your life until you retire… whether you like it or not. And yes – being a housewife is technically still a job too (if you were a lazy couch potato all day, do you really think your rich husband would still be with you feeding you millions of dollars? doubt it).

We surveyed multiple 20-Somethings across the country about the post-grad working world and found out some interesting stuff…

We found that…

Most 20-Somethings aren’t crazy about their jobs, but think they’re ‘okay’ for now and will help them climb that career ladder.

  • Lauren, 25, thinks that although her job isn’t awesome (she only makes 26k and has to get people coffee & groceries – ugh), it will help her climb the career ladder in her field. She quotes, ‘I like my job in the sense that it is a great first step towards my career.  I work with amazing people who work so hard and inspire me everyday.  I don’t like being on the bottom and how long it will take me to move up the ladder and gain the respect and work I deserve.  I don’t like the “assistant” part of my job–the tedious tasks like getting coffee and groceries that I feel I am more skilled for better tasks.‘ So despite the low salary and annoying ‘intern-like’ deeds, she ultimately does like the experience she’s getting. Oh, and she is able to save too while still living in a big city. Go Lauren!
  • Tom, 24, likes his job for the most part. Even though it’s not 100% what he wants to be doing, it will help to eventually get him there. He says, “I am thankful to have a job in my field, in this tough industry, in this tough economy, so soon after graduating college.’  His goal is to become a full-time video editor and although he is not editing full-time at his current job, he gets to assist with editing and is therefore building his resume. He quotes, “I’m really lucky and privileged to be where I am.” There are some things that Tom doesn’t like about the job (such as the answering phones, taking messages… you know – secretary work), but he says “a little frustration is a small price to pay for such a great opportunity.” And that is very true!
  • Devon, 23, is not working in the industry she wants to go into, but believes her current job will help get her there. She quotes ‘My fulltime job has it’s pros and cons. I like that I don’t have to get anyone’s coffee, schedule meetings, pick up dry-cleaning, buy bday presents, or research diet plans…etc. I have my own work that I am responsible for and I’m learning something new everyday about technology (although I don’t really want to stay in the technology field). My company also has lots of opportunities to move up quickly.
  • A 22 year old University of Tennessee grad says she likes her job sometimes. She told us, “I’m getting good experience and the hours aren’t bad, but I don’t enjoy the work.”  In addition to not liking the work, she only makes 25k a year. However, she is able to pay rent and save – which goes to show different places cost less than others. Of course, this 22 y/o does not think she’s making enough – and I’m sure she’s not making enough for the work she’s doing either.
  • Elizabeth, 24, a 2010 graduate of Oneonta State, says about her job, “I love teaching, don’t love the place I’m at. It’s just not where I’m meant to be. But I know that teaching is the job for me.” Elizabeth has an interesting case because although she loves her job, she doesn’t love where it’s located. However, getting experience in her field will eventually lead her to a place she loves. As for the money part of it, she quotes, “I’m a teacher… I’m broke!” I guess when you love what you’re doing, money doesn’t matter. 🙂
  •  A 2010 Lasell College grad replied to whether or not she likes her job, “I do and I don’t. I like the people I work with and it’s with a company I’d like to work for, but it’s completely not in a position that I want.” This grad is actually, believe it or not, in a great situation. Once you are in at a company, the chance to transfer departments/teams in that company are greater than applying externally. Companies love hiring internal candidates.

…Some people wish for the ‘dream job‘ right out of college… and since they don’t yet have it, they don’t exactly like their jobs.

  • When asked if she liked her job, Lindsey, 23, replied ‘no because it’s not my dream job… yet.’ Christina, 23, also brought up that her job isn’t her ‘dream job.’ Although she thinks her job is ‘alright,’ she says, ‘It is not my dream job and I am the youngest person in the company by at least 20 years but everyone is very nice.  If i had more work to do and more input it would be great.’
  • Sure, I wish I could score my dream job at age 23, too… but I know that’s not reality. I know that even when I’m 30, I won’t be working my ‘dream job.’ Dream jobs are what we are aiming to eventually get to. They are the reason we go through all of these BS entry-level jobs. They are the reason we’re okay with making such low salaries out of college. If we started working our dream job right out of college, there would be nothing to look forward to… and no goals to reach for.

…A lot of 20-Somethings do NOT like their jobs.

  • Jocelyn, 24, told us she hates her job. ‘It’s not in my field at all, it’s at a commercial construction company which is only 2 steps less boring than accounting and I’m the youngest person in my office by at least 15 years.’ Jocelyn is not proud of the work she is doing and knows it won’t help her advance in the career she wants. The only okay thing about the job is that she makes a decent amount of money for not doing anything – a whole $16/hr… and although the money is enough for her to afford rent, she doesn’t save “enough to help in an emergency.” Therefore, she’s thinking about moving back home.
  • Taylor, 23, told us “I hate my job. My job requires me to sit in a cube all day and stare at a computer screen, answering emails, and literally doing “bitch work” for account managers and partners.” Taylor graduated in 2011 with a degree in communications, and as many of us know, any entry level job for comm majors is going to be pretty basic and tedious. She says, “I spent my entire 4 years of school communicating face to face. I don’t get that luxury here.” On top of hating the work she’s doing, Taylor only makes 15.50 an hour to do it – and has to pay rent. She thinks it’s enough money for now, but it wouldn’t be if she was in a city.

…A few people really do like their jobs (the money, location, work, industry).

  • Joanna, 23, graduated from University of Missouri in 2011 and loves her job. She says, “it’s in my major and is challenging and interesting.” She makes 36k a year, pays rent, and is able to save money. Win/win/win situation? I’d say so.
  • Erika, 22, never imagined she would be working at the company she’s at, but she likes her job and co-workers and believes there is a lot of room for growth. She quotes ‘I never would have guessed that I’d be working at a place like this, but the past 10 months have been a valuable learning experience.’ That is why you sometimes have to go for the unfamiliar while job searching. You never know what you might enjoy. The only ‘downside’ to Erika’s job is the mix of making an entry-level salary and paying rent. However, she says, “I make enough for my single, post-grad lifestyle because I’m lucky enough to have parents who paid for my college education. If I had loans to pay back, it probably wouldn’t be enough.” Personal matters can always be a factor in whether someone likes their job or not – you have to remember that!
  • Laurie, 23, loves her job as well. She works for a young company and is constantly around people her age. She told us, “I knew I wouldn’t be happy working at just any corporate desk job. I did a lot of research on Boston based company’s and which had the happiest employees/ coolest benefits. If you have the luxury of taking a little bit of time in your job search then I would really take advantage of that.” Not only does this Bridgewater State University grad love the work she’s doing, but she’s also making 43k a year.
  • Ryan, 23, loves his job. He quotes, “The people are great and I am given opportunities to advance.” When you live at home and don’t make a lot of money, it’s fine when you’re doing something you love. Especially because he is able to save a lot of that money!

Some people started their job with an internship.

  • Laurie, 23, works for a Boston based technology company and began her career as an intern! She says, “I started there via a full time 3month internship after graduation. It might not seem like the ideal situation but in this economy post grad internships are a great foot in the door for someone with no real experience. Honestly, you can’t rely solely on your degree to set you apart anymore because they’re a dime a dozen.’ As someone who experienced post-grad internships, I have to agree with Laurie. It beats working at your favorite clothing store any day (even though you get a sweet discount).
  •  Tom, a 2010 Boston University grad, started his job with an internship as well. He was hired a month after graduation. Of course, this is not the case for everyone who graduates college and does (another) internship. But at least you’re getting experience in your field rather than doing something the exact opposite just to make some cash. In the end, it’s all about resume building and keeping up with your industry.

…People can barely save, if at all.

  • A 2011 University of Maryland grad makes 40k a year, pays rent, and is not able to save money. This could be due to high rent payments, an expensive location, student loans, car payments, and/or other bills and payments.
  • Tori, 23, makes 12/hour and after paying rent, isn’t able to save money at all. She says her income is ‘not enough to live comfortably.’ On top of that, Tori is currently still considered ‘freelance,’ and therefore doesn’t receive benefits – perhaps not even a steady paycheck.
  • A 25 year old Arizona State grad who pays rent is not able to save money at all – even while making 40k a year. As I said before, this could be due to a number of factors.
  • Rebecca, 27, is able to save money now – after working for 5 years. However, she tells us, “my first 3 years out, I was living paycheck to paycheck.” She tells us about her 5 years of work experience: ‘I have been (in order) employed part-time, promoted to full-time, cut back down to part-time during budget cuts, unemployed, freelancing, temp work, full-time employed, cut due to funding, and then hired full-time again while I go to grad school.” After working the past 5 years through the recession, she finally makes a decent salary – 46k! (jealous). And on top of that, she likes her current job – even though she does see it as just a means to an end. She tells us, “I need drinking money and rent, it comes with tuition benefits so grad school is very inexpensive, the people are nice even if the work is bland.” So that just goes to show (young) 20-somethings… It’s going to take a while for us to eventually get what we want… but things get better with time… and we’ll get there eventually! And we probably shouldn’t expect to be there by 27.

…A lot of people still live at home (not by choice).

  • Amanda, a 2008 Rutgers University grad, makes 35k a year, lives at home with her parents, and is still not able to save money.
  • A 2010 Boston University grad makes a low salary (which is totally normal for the industry he is in) and is able to live comfortably while saving money because he lives at home. He says “I need to calculate if I’ll still be coming out positive once rent is thrown into the picture” before he commits to paying rent.
  • A 23 y/o Lasell College grad claims the only reason she saves money after being paid $400/week is because she sacrifices by living at home.
  •  Lindsay, 23, still lives at home and plans to move out when she can start saving more money. Right now, she only makes $13/hr and to her, that will never be enough to move out.
  • A 22 y/o Penn State grad who lives at home and makes 30k, is not able to save any money at all after school loan payments.

By doing my own personal research (AKA talking to friends), I have found that some recent graduates make a decent amount of money. However, this has to do with what they majored in and what industry they’re in. Also, we have to remember that some careers cap at a certain salary – where others start at lowest of the lows and have the chance to go up to the highest of the highs. Not to mention, some people have loads of student loans… and others have none. So you can compare people all you want, but everyone has it their own way.

In the end, your happiness is the only thing that matters. Not who is making the most money. And not who has the coolest title. If you enjoy what you’re doing, chances are you’ll excel in your field because you’ll be more ambitious than others who are doing work as a means to an end… or just to pay the bills. This, my friends, is the difference between a career and a job. And if you’re still working a ‘job,’ that’s fine… A lot of people figure out they want to go in a completely different field than the one they studied in college – and they can figure this out in their 20s, 30s, and even in their 40s!

What we have learned from our research is that most 20-somethings make SHIT money. There are quite a few people who make decent money, but most of it is gone after paying rent, student loans, and other bills. There are also a lot of post-grads who aren’t salaried (meaning no benefits). And a lot of people work temp or freelance jobs with the hope of them becoming permanent. Jobs know we’re willing to take anything because the economy is so bad… and because of that, they know they can basically pay us anything because we’ll accept the job offer. I mean, it’s better than nothing, right?

So if you are still looking for a job, or are still attempting to leave your current job, don’t freak out. It can take a while. Maybe you’ll be lucky and score a job before you graduate… or maybe it will take a year and a half. Maybe you’ll stay at your boring, dead-end job for a year until you get a job offer for a position you’ve been dying for… or maybe you will end up staying at that dead-end job longer than you expected. The average amount of time it took our readers to get a job out of college was 4 and a half months. So don’t give up – your time will come!

For now, enjoy your low salaries, loan payments, and binge drinking lifestyle – because one day you’ll look back on it and say, ‘Hey… my 20s weren’t so bad after all… bring me back… please.’

Samantha Matt

Hi I’m Sam. I made this website in 2011 and it’s still going. My first book, AVERAGE IS THE NEW AWESOME, is coming out in January (you can buy it right now on Amazon or from your fave bookstore!). I like pizza, French fries, barre, spin, more pizza, more French fries, and buying clothes. Writing is fun. Follow me on twitter & Instagram at @samanthamatt1... and on this site's meme account on IG at @20somethingproblems. OKAY GREAT THANKS BYE.

3 Comments
  1. I really enjoyed reading this and everyone’s thoughts. I’m not sure if this has to do with cost of living here or if all salaries where I live are low, but most every 20something I know who starts out makes about 25-30K a year. However, some of them work at companies that pay 100% of health insurance or match 401K contributions up to a certain percentage- both of which are great benefits. Also, I had a previous job that was salaried, and while I made a higher amount of money per year to work there, I was working 10 hour days all the time, miserable, and figured out I’d make more per hour working in retail (and probably be happier!).

    But, as a 26-year-old, I agree- sometimes you have to do a job you really don’t care for for a few years to get to one that is for you. I didn’t like my first job either, but it gave me something to aspire to and that helped me land the job I’m in now, which I do like :).

    1. Thank you Amy! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. And even in the most expensive places, most 20-somethings still make 25-30k a year (IF even salaried). It’s just something we have to live with… But for now we can be thankful we have jobs in this horrible economy!

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