I never thought I would be the girl who graduated college and didn’t have a job that I was going to right away. I had always assumed I would go straight from school to my dream job. But that didn’t happen for me. I was the girl who was pushing into August with absolutely no job prospects, and I was terrified. I had started feeling the pressure all around me, friends in my class were moving from home, starting work right away. I saw Facebook post on top of Facebook post about living it up in the city, any city, and my heart raced at the thought that that might never be me.
And every time I panicked (so, daily), I remembered that this didn’t have to happen. I could have been in the exact same boat, I could have been in New York City, working a fabulous job with great perks. But, and please, hold your gasps until the end, I turned down my first post-grad job offer. It sounds crazy, I know. I’m not some hot commodity that companies are killing themselves to hire. I’m not a computer genius who can hack my way into any system. I’m just me, and for the longest time I thought that as soon as I got a job offer, any job offer, in New York City, I’d take it.
The truth is, turning down this job was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Even on my flight home from the interview, before the offer was officially made, I knew it wasn’t for me. Something hit me, and I knew that if I got it, I couldn’t take it. But still, I debated it. I fought my instinct and toyed with the idea of taking the job. Of living in the City and paying my dues. But every time I tried to piece together the fantasy in my head, something got in the way.
Could I handle living with strangers and leaving my dog alone all that time? Could I be okay without a social life just so I can afford groceries? Could I put in so many hours, doing something I’m not even passionate about, all for such a small paycheck?
Some days, the answer was a resounding “Yes!” I wanted a job, I wanted that security. I saw my fellow classmates accepting job offers in New York, excitedly posting about the new opportunities and trying to find someone who knew someone who knew someone who was subletting their apartment. I wanted to keep up with them. If they could live in the City then so could I. My competitive nature got the best of me and I just wanted to accept the offer. To be able to post on Facebook, like so many of my fellow graduates, how excited I was to announce that I had accepted a job offer in NYC and all my hard work has paid off and wow, isn’t that great?
But when I thought about it, that was the only reason I wanted to take the job. To say that I had a job in New York. To see the comments on my Facebook about how awesome it was that a small-town Texas girl had a job in NYC right after she graduated college! Because that job wasn’t even remotely related to writing, which is what I want to do. So I turned it down, and then the waiting game began.
After that initial offer, and even though stress was starting to completely overtake me, I realized that I needed to prioritize function over place. I was narrowing down my job search to only include New York City, and that was dumb– that wasn’t what I wanted. To be fair, that is what I thought I wanted for a very long time, but that first job offer taught me that I need to be at least somewhat passionate about my work, or it will basically suck.
But being picky about what kind of job I wanted didn’t exactly prove itself to be any less stressful (like at all). Because then I was just waiting. And waiting. And obsessively checking my email to see if there had been an update posted about a recent application I filled out. I literally waited by the phone to see if my initial interview went well. It was horrible, and it got to a point where I was starting to regret turning down that first offer. It was New York! Who cares if I wasn’t doing what I loved, that’s what your twenties are for, right?
And there were nights, desperate, wine-induced hazes, where my fingers lingered over the HR woman from the New York job. When I considered begging for the position, claiming I’d take a lower salary and would start immediately.
But then, I got a call. And that call turned into a phone interview and that phone interview turned into an offer for the exact job I wanted in a city I felt a much stronger calling towards: Washington, D.C. And now, two weeks in, I still can’t quite believe that I’m getting paid to write. That I have press passes and go to happy hours and am surrounded by so many brilliant, kind coworkers. I got exactly what I wanted, it just took a little longer than I thought it would.
So don’t feel automatically obliged to accept the first job offer you get post-grad. There will be more, I promise. If you’re lucky enough to get your dream job right away, than more power to you, but if it at all feels like you’re making a compromise, don’t do it. Wait it out and aim for your passion, because I promise, it is so incredibly worth it.