There's an episode of How I Met Your Mother where the guys ruin Ted's impression of his new girlfriend. You can hear the glass break as his illusions are shattered, and he's suddenly aware of things he'd been completely blind to before.
I had one of these moments shortly after I finished college.
Until then, I had a foolproof plan for my career. After 17 straight years of school, I was going to work full-time in retail before 'getting serious' and looking for a proper job 12 months down the line.
When I told my manager that I was now available to do full-time hours , he told me with a mixture of contempt and amusement that there weren't any positions for me and I'd have to look elsewhere.
Cue my glass breaking. I was now in the big bad world, where your problems aren't fixed by asking the teacher for help. You're on your own, where people are more likely to compete with you for a job than help you into one.
To make matters worse, I graduated in 2007, a year before the financial crisis led to what some economists called the worst recession since the 1930s.
There's a term for people like us - 'Millenials'. Depending on your outlook, we're either an entitled generation of narcissists, or confident young professionals doing our best in a challenging job market.
I didn't react well to my new reality. I sulked, having always assumed that being good at school would automatically mean I'd get a great job. I would've done anything to go back to college, to feel like I was going somewhere rather than standing still.
Over the next two years, I applied for every job. I got maybe 2 or 3 interviews, failing them all, before landing my current post. Here are a few things I learned during that time.
1. Give Up on your Ideal Career
One of my friends is a doctor, who's wanted to practice medicine since she was little. She knew from the start what she wanted to do and how to get there.
Unless you want to be a doctor or a teacher, it's time to give up on the idea that you'll spend 40 years in the same field. There is no such thing as a linear career path these days, and waiting on your dream job before applying will only hold you back from a position you might actually enjoy.
2. Manage Your Expectations
It can be frustrating when a job you might apply for asks for 'x years experience' in a similar role. You cry out "How can I get experience without ever getting a job?!".
The reality is that you might have to start a few rungs lower on the ladder than you thought. As of 2015, thousands of graduates were working in 'non-professional' jobs. Think of this time as serving your apprenticeship, learning new skills before going on to bigger and better things. Which brings me nicely to my next point.
3. Get the Skills You Need
Penguin publishers recently dropped the requirement for their applicants to have a college degree before applying. This was the latest move by a string of big companies, who realised that restricting their talent pool to the college-educated was helping them miss out on valuable skills and people. Get ahead of the pack by gaining the skills you need to make an impression. This article is a good place to start.
4. Be Patient
I get it. You know that if an employer just took a chance on you, you could show them what you're really capable of. It can feel like you're banging your head off a wall waiting for someone to notice your talents.
Just hang in there. It might not come straight away, or even in the next month or year, but it will come eventually. Have faith and let me know when you get there.