Opinion | Corporate jobs are unfulfilling and the “glory days” are a lie

Jazmyne Isaac, Contributing Columnist

There’s something uniquely special about going to college in Tuscaloosa. There’s nothing quite like the buzz and excitement from attending a football game in Bryant-Denny Stadium, or walking to class on our beautiful campus. It’s easy to understand why so many students feel such a deep connection to the University and hold so many fond memories. 

I am sure we have all heard it said that college is the “best four years of your life,” whether from a mentor, parent, friend, teacher or colleague.  

The truth is, it might not be. In a society that is designed for its citizens to work one-third of their life, it is not hard to imagine that four years of unfiltered and unsupervised fun that many UA students experience in college will quickly become the best four years of anyone’s life. This is, of course, disregarding those students that take out massive amounts of loans or work tirelessly to fund their education. 

There is pressure to make college the best four years of your life, but why is that? 

An explanation for this could be that life after college never tends to measure up to living it up in your glory days. Now, becoming riddled with responsibility and working jobs that lack passion becomes the new normal for many.  

According to a 2022 study by Gallup, a global analytics and advice firm, 60% of people reported being “emotionally unattached” at work. Only 33% reported feeling “engaged,” and that is even lower than 2020, the poll concluded. 

Job unhappiness is at an all-time high, mostly due to unmanageable demands, burnout, unfair job treatment, poor managerial support and wage disparities that do not support the current costs of living.  

A December 2022 Gartner survey found that “a vast majority of workers aren’t happy with what they’re being paid.” With nearly 70% of the workforce unhappy and rising costs of goods and services, it is safe to say that U.S. workers are far from living out the best years of their life. 

Recent studies have found that many college graduates do not have a career in their field of study, and that one in seven college graduates earn less than the poverty threshold. 

With colleges and universities becoming an inescapable debt trap with unaffordable costs of attending, some now question if a college degree is even worth it. When any adult entering the workforce is faced with the fact that they have a high chance to be grouped with statistics like this, it is disheartening. Spending the majority of your adult life working to make ends meet makes the college days seem holy.

Feeling depressed after graduation is increasingly common. The transitionary period from college to work life can be a time of insurmountable stress and the feeling of being unable to meet all the expectations laid out before you. The anxiety of finding a job, paying off loans, and perhaps even moving to a new city can lead graduates to fall into depression. 

Young college graduates are at the cusp of the dreaded “quarter-life crisis,” and the major life changes that come with graduating only accelerate these unwanted feelings. Graduating often feels anticlimactic, and all the hard work of earning a degree can fall short of what students have worked tirelessly for since the early years of their life. 

It seems that time for emotional, mental, physical and social rest is replaced with a hyper-productive society, resulting in a more than lackluster life.  

For this to change, U.S. work culture would have to shift its “productivity paradigm” to a more sustainable way of life that promotes the social, physical, emotional and economical well-being of its citizens. 

Learning how to be happy in your career after graduating from the University in an increasingly bleak world and economy is certainly challenging, but not impossible. Students have the benefit of an amazing community of students, faculty, staff and alumni at our fingertips, and it is critical that we use this to our best advantage even after graduating. 

By joining UA alumni groups and social networks, students and recent graduates have the opportunity to make meaningful social and career connections and changes that could lead to a happier career and work-life balance. 

Happiness isn’t something that should be reserved for only four years of your life. Instead, it’s important to remember that your mental health, well-being and happiness are more important than the corporate machine’s desires. Spend time with your friends and family, and always remember that you are a human being before you are a worker. 

It is this way that the best four years of our lives can turn into the best years of our lives.