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The Backup Plan

What happens when you graduate into a world with no jobs?

By Beth Clifford
Posted // August 18,2011 -

I’m aware of the numbers, the percentages and phrases like “job yield.” As I walked across the stage to shake my university president’s hand this spring and receive my degree, the U.S. Department of Labor announced frail May jobs figures.

We have all been raised on the idea that college is a place of promise, a better future, an investment in one’s self and, in my liberal-artsy case, truth. That’s right, folks. I went to a private New England liberal-arts school, majored in philosophy and I have seen truth. That is, every morning when I wake up in the bedroom I’ve slept in since I was 7, the one with the paisley bedspread and the bright yellow walls, my lack of a life and job induces a tremendous wave of what Kierkegaard called “anxiety.” Carless, the rusted red beach cruiser I inherited from my grandmother can only take me so far—and facing rejection letter after rejection letter, I’m scrambling for what some call a backup plan.

Here are the options:

Marry rich: An unlikely prospect, considering that since I’ve returned to my parents’ house as a dependent, I’ve been on only one date. A friend of a friend set us up after he returned from a two-year … vacation? It wasn’t until I cursed that I realized this was not going to work. Plus, who’s rich anymore?

Become the DIY handyman for your parents: I scoffed at the idea of “rent” in May. “But I have no money!” I remember saying to my parents as their eyes sparkled with thoughts of remodeling. Now that I can add tiling a kitchen floor and extensive wall painting to my repertoire, I’m sure I’m a more eligible candidate for that analyst job in New York. Perhaps, instead of sleeping my way to the top, I’ll climb the ladder by installing built-in gourmet espresso machines my imaginary future bosses have always wanted.

Europe: I have just enough in my savings for a round-trip to Krakow and a Eurail pass. I also have an unemployed buddy living off excess student-loan money who is willing to escape. Will a three-month tour of Europe really extinguish my self-despair? “But,” some will argue, “traveling looks great on your resume.” Yeah, sure, and so does getting married in Disney World. Real mature, Goofy.

Rekindle (or just kindle?) relationship with famous family member: Dear my-father’s-second-cousin’s-ex-wife, I know you starred in that really cool indie film set in the Yucatan. I watched it four times! Well, I’m sure my father told you I like to write everything from TV scripts to tweets (I’ve been thinking about some of the tweets you might tweet if you hired me as your personal Twitter tweeter), and I was wondering if you needed an apprentice. See, an apprentice is better than an assistant because I have special knowledge of certain subjects. If you ever have a question about Nabokov, I can answer it! I studied French, too! You have my dad’s cell number, right? Oh, and I’m sorry to hear about the divorce. My dad always liked you more than his second cousin.

Multilevel marketing: A literal “sell-out,” right? Recently, I was told that writers who give up on their dreams often go into direct sales. Plus, it’s the new fad in jobs for people my age. Although, not having the door-to-door proselytizing experience and a network the size of a ward, I will certainly be at a disadvantage. I think I might be able to convince the two precious friends I have to buy a Pinnacle security system from me. We all need security these days, do you know what I’m saying?

Get a job bartending, work exhausting hours, get treated poorly by your manager and walk out after being asked: “Do you even know how to make a martini?”: That was a fine martini.

Graduate school: In all seriousness, this has become the leading backup plan. “What’s the big deal?” you’re wondering. “How could more school be a bad thing?” Don’t get me wrong, I love school, I love learning, but what do I study? When my mom would take me shopping as a little girl, before she bought me anything, she would ask me how much I liked the item. “Yes, but do you love it?” she’d ask. I’m reminded of that strange concept here. I like art history, I like film, I like Virginia Woolf (OK, I love her. Don’t hate), but do I love them enough to spend $50,000 on them?

Thus, therefore, ergo, in conclusion, there isn’t a backup plan; there never was a backup plan. I’ve realized in all my anguish that this is a test of sanity. Perhaps Kierkegaard meant exactly that. I am anxious because I’m becoming aware of the limitlessness of possibilities. In the past, I’ve only been a student. I went to preschool, primary school, middle school, high school (doggie school), and college nonstop. So, I’ll take this time of uncertainty with a grain of salt. Perhaps a book deal will come along, or I’ll be recognized at karaoke night for my excellent vibrato, but I’m not going to think about it too much. However, if you know somebody who knows somebody who needs somebody, give me a holler.








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Posted // August 19,2011 at 14:23 What were you planning to do when you took Philosophy as a major? I'm always interested to hear the answer to that question. I mean unless you get a post-grad degree and teach, what is there for a Philosophy major to do, other than sit in her bedroom and think about how long she's lived there, the color of the bedspread. . .
I exist. It is soft, so soft, so slow. And light: it seems as though it suspends in the air. It moves. From Nausea
You need to GET OUT and embrace life before it leaves you out of boredom!


Posted // August 25,2011 at 00:19 - Sir, you've miss the point entirely! Learning for learning's sake--get with it.

And: paisley is a pattern, not a color, which does in fact deserve contemplation, or at least more than your snide remarks (and must I note uncited Sartre quote, tsk tsk).


Posted // August 19,2011 at 13:58 Sing it girl! You're telling it like it is, but with pithy comments that let me forget for 10 minutes that I'm unemployed and living with my mother. Thanks Ms. Beth Clifford.


Posted // August 18,2011 at 03:08 GREAT. Brava. Loved it.


Posted // August 17,2011 at 20:21
I know you're trying to be funny, but if you're in a multi-level marketing program and you're limited by the number of people you personally know, you're doing it all wrong.