With graduation fast approaching, so does the fear of finding a job and putting a degree to use

From the moment students tear open their college acceptance letter, they begin dreaming about graduation day; the day they’ll walk across a stage in front of family, friends and other loved ones to accept a diploma that represents years of all-night study sessions and countless papers. It’s a significant accomplishment to graduate from college; however,  for many graduates, a terrifying question lurks in the back of their minds: what now?

At one point or another, almost every college student finds themselves succumbing to the anxiety-filled thoughts of post-grad life, particularly the issue of finding a job. Adding onto the pressure of job hunting is the fact that many students’ first jobs out of college aren’t even related to their degree.

A 2018 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found one out of every three college graduates are underemployed, meaning they work at a job that doesn’t require a college degree. It’s a scary thought that after four years of work and thousands of dollars, a degree can lead to working at a minimum wage job, like being a barista.

But here’s the thing: it’s perfectly okay to come out of college and not have your dream job.

However,  it’s far easier to say this than to actually buy into it. The job market today is highly competitive with many jobs requiring employees to have at least a bachelor’s degree. This led to the phenomenon of “degree inflation,” where jobs are being filled by employees with more education than previously needed. There’s also a new culture that has fostered the expectation in young people that success, especially in a career, can only be achieved before a person leaves their 20s.

But rest assured in the simple fact that there’s no timeline for success.

Tina Fey graduated with a degree in drama but worked as a YMCA receptionist while she began  pursuing her career in comedy. J.K. Rowling holds a degree in French and Classical Studies but ended up writing one of the most famous book series ever, “Harry Potter.” Steve Ells, the founder of Chipotle, got his degree in art history before taking his first step into pursuing his passion for cooking by enrolling in the Culinary Institute of America.

If these examples prove anything, it’s that a degree is just a degree. While certain fields, such as nursing and education, require an individual to study a particular major, for most students, a degree is just proof they attended and graduated college. What each person does with that degree is up to them.

If someone is passionate about finding a career in their field of study, then they should go for it and find comfort in the fact that the trajectory to success is rarely linear. And if someone decides to shift their goals and find a career that’s in a completely different field than what they studied in college, then that’s an option as well. A degree isn’t a lifelong contract to stay on one career path.

As graduation day grows closer, it’s hard to not become anxious over the thought of post-grad life and job worries. However, there’s a strange comfort in the fact that for a majority of students, post-grad life will be an endless cycle of figuring life out as we go. Most of us won’t graduate and immediately be offered a position that directly leads to our dream job in the city of our choosing. Most of us will have to forge our own paths to success in whatever career we decide –– and that’s absolutely okay.