As I watched people celebrate their graduations this past month, I couldn’t help but to wonder if they felt the same way I did when I walked across the stage to receive my degree one year ago. Were they apprehensive to leave the academic world, as it was a constant they were surrounded by for the majority of their lives? Were they feeling discouraged, having not figured out a degree-related full-time employment situation prior to this day? Were they feeling hungry and thinking only of the dinner reservations that awaited them? (…Just me?)
I’ve personally found post-graduation to be a deeply uncertain time in my life, though now I realize that this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. This uncertainty began with the idea that prior to graduation, I hadn’t realized how much of an emphasis I placed on “student” as part of my identity. Leaving a classroom setting was quite alarming because for almost two decades I had been an academic (and a good one at that) and not having that structure and familiarity caused me to question myself & my abilities (“Am I good at writing and am I still reaching people if I’m not workshopping my pieces and getting immediate feedback/validation from classmates/teachers?”) I don’t know if this is much of a universal experience, but it was definitely something I had to make sense of, and search for a continued identity as a writer.
I’ve been privileged in the sense that I’ve maintained employment at the restaurant I worked at all throughout college, which has allowed me to continue making money as I searched for full-time employment. This search has often felt complicated and disheartening: I’ve gone on job interviews that required three hours of traveling (and $50 in traveling fees) for 15 minutes of chatter only to receive a rejection email days later. I’ve put my heart into applications only to open emails saying my “specific set of skills” just aren’t right for this position. (Truthfully, I’d rather be told flat out NO than receive poetry like that.) I know that I worked really hard in college and am qualified for the jobs I was applying for, but that is not to say that I was expecting a job to be handed to me. I knew that the search would be intense, as lots of qualified people were also applying for the same jobs, but I suppose I did not expect it to be as long a process as it was. I think that the most disheartening aspect of the job hunt for me was the fact that a lot of my applications, because they were media based, required writing samples. Including pieces that I have written and are proud of only to be rejected felt incredibly personal. As my job hunt document surpassed 25 applications… then 75… then 150, I began to feel as if something was just wrong with me / the way I was presenting myself. However, after examining the job hunt process in its entirety, and removing my ego from the way in which I was perceiving this situation, I eventually realized that I am seeking employment in a competitive field, and as many jobs that are listed, there are applicants ten-fold. It’s a process that has required patience and understanding: no one lands their dream job immediately, right? Anyway, eventually I landed a part-time two month internship turned full-time summer internship. It’s different than what I had envisioned myself doing, but again, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. I’m learning so much about non-profits, the arts and humanities, and fundraising that have already proven to be worthwhile in diversifying my skill set .
If I could summarize what I think are the most helpful takeaways on navigating life post-grad, they’d be as follows:
- It’s okay to have an “interview outfit.” I essentially wore the same thing each time I went on an interview because I knew it was something I was comfortable in that looked professional. If you find something that works, make it work over and over.
- Ask questions on your interviews. I found that once I received this tip, my interviews were more interactive and even if I didn’t get a job, I felt assured that I did the best I could. Consider asking your potential employer of how you can improve right off the bat from the previous holder of your position and other specifics that come to your mind.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. Everyone wants to get a job, obviously, and as I said before, it probably won’t be your dream job. But don’t settle too much. Don’t take jobs/internships if you’re going to make barely enough to cover travel fees. Make sure you’re doing what’s right for you (plausibly and emotionally).
- Don’t get discouraged. It’s easier said than done. But remember that there is a job for you at there and you are not going to acquire it if you are too busy feeling sorry for yourself because you haven’t gotten a job yet. Trust the process.