If it cheers you up any on the grad school front, it took about a year and a half for my graduate education to really help me land a great job. The first year or so out was a depressing grind and I really thought I’d made a terrible mistake.
Four years later, the loans are long paid and I’ve landed an improbably amazing job. I’m financially more secure than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I really feel that it will continue to open doors in the future.
But I was SUPER frustrated and bitter when I graduated and got my first job “using my qualifications”
...and made somehow less money than I did working retail. Ugh
Hindsight, it didn’t help that I was super tied to one small geographical area, but anyway. I hope it works out for you, OP, and I just wanted to tell you I know how it feels!