The Musings of a Recent Graduate

My blog absence of late may or may not have gone unnoticed, but either way I’ve decided to try to sum up the reasoning behind it. You see, my dear readers, I am now a member of a group of people known as “Recent Graduates,” and thus feel a bit discombobulated and unsure of things. Let’s see if I can explain…

I’m at this awkward standstill in my life right now. I’ve freshly graduated college and now find myself flooded with mixed messages on the appropriate next steps. On one side, there are those who suggest taking time off and relaxing for a bit before diving into a full-time career. To me, this sound like a euphemism for what they’re really thinking: “You graduated with no job lined up? Oh how sad.” On the other hand, there is the constant societal  (not to mention parental) pressure to find a job, start a career, and start work on the rest of my life.

And so I’m at an uncomfortable, and unique, point in my life where the trail seems to fork and I know I must choose one or the other, the detour or the straight path. Yet, I can’t help but dillydally on my current path of indecision. I look around me and I realize how truly rare of a situation I am in.

For the majority of my life, summers were a time of limited work and of much need relaxation in between a regularly scheduled school year. Now, summer has become just another time when I should be employed—but I’m not.

I just recently accepted to work full-time at my back-up summer job—you know the deal: the place I’ve worked at since high school; the place that has no bearing on my real career, but at least provides me with a constant stream of minimum wage paychecks. My immediate thought upon accepting to “work everyday” in response to my bosses oh-so-professional text message was my own very eloquent: “Shit, I’m screwing myself over, aren’t I?” What happens if I get stuck in this rut?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been steadily applying to jobs, but with no success. It’s gotten to the point where I yearn for even a rejection letter. The application process is so impersonal, most of which is done online by submitting word documents that will some how accurately reflect who you are to a future employer.

With the economy and the influx of new graduates, I can only assume that companies are swarming with excess applicants—myself included. After all, how do you make yourself stand out from the crowd? A witty cover letter? A spectacular list of work experience? All of this requires the hirer to look beyond an initial scan of the hundreds/thousands of applicants.

People are constantly assuring me that “something will show up” and “good for you, take some time off.” Little do they know how uncomfortable I feel about the whole situation. I feel like a disappointment for graduating without a job—I was a great student who really excelled in classes and graduated top of my major. While I am happy to have some rest and relaxation (interspersed with the good old ‘summer job’), I feel so unsteady. I want to settle back into some sort of routine in which I know where I’ll be come fall.

Ideally, I would still be in classes, but school is expensive and I’ve got enough loans to pay for the time being. And so I just sit around, waiting for my real life to start, and in the meantime I’ll go through the motions I’ve gone through every other summer. In addition, I’ll diligently apply to more and more jobs where I will undoubtedly be overlooked for a more qualified and experienced candidate. So as my friends carry on with their regularly scheduled lives—jobs, training, school—I find myself in this uncomfortable slump wondering: just where do I belong?

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A Professional Student’s Laments

Please forgive the lack of modesty here, but I’m a good student. Or rather, I’m good at being a student.

I breathe ‘A’s and eat compliments for breakfast, lunch and dinner. These things are simply important to me, and thus I’ve taught myself to be the best possible student I can. I’m not trying to say I’m smarter than all of my peers who get ‘B’s and ‘C’s, for I certainly know that is not the case. I am, however, saying that I’ve mastered the skill of studenting (let’s pretend that’s a verb for a bit).

Maybe it’s my PR mentality, but I’ve learned to position each assignment to the professor who has assigned it. I don’t mean this in a manipulative sense, since I never lie, cheat, or steal to get an ‘A.’ I simply observe. I realize that in one class, including a paragraph about politics in an essay would be beneficial, while if I had that same assignment with a different teacher, I might use an example tied in with family. You can learn much about teachers and their values by simply paying attention. I don’t bend my own beliefs when I position my work, I simply highlight what I know they would find most important and appealing.

More than that, I’ve perfected my own personal studying techniques. I know what works for me (writing, and rewriting, and rewriting my notes again), and I put effort into it.

I guess what I’m saying is, it took me long enough, but ever since I’ve entered college I’ve developed into what I can only refer to as a “Professional Student.”

And now it’s time for me to retire.

I graduate this upcoming May, and while I’ve been liberally applying to jobs, I’ve been unsuccessful as of yet. My fear, even if/when I  get a job, is that I simply won’t excel at it. I know how to be a good student. Years of training and practice and I’ve mastered the art. But now I’m being thrown into a whole other shark tank, where a  high GPA  could quite possibly be as meaningless as a bicycle to a fish (I hope everyone enjoys the aquatic theme of that last sentence).

I know many of my peers who, despite being nervous about getting out into the real world, are incredibly relieved to be done with their school careers. I, however, am hesitant. What if I can’t find success in a workplace? What if my best talents are those of being a student? I’m sure some of my skills will transfer, but I’m going to need to learn to play by a whole different set of rules.

While the concept of being  a Professional Student for the rest of my life has crossed my mind (think Buster from Arrested Development, minus the mother complex), I realize that I’ll be broke enough after graduating from my 4-years here to even think about any more schooling for a while. I may go back to graduate school, but I can’t go simply because I want to stay in school. I need to have a reason and a goal. I need to find a specific area of work that I enjoy and, hopefully, excel in. Then I can build on that.

So while I enjoy my last couple months of professional studenting (again, we’re pretending it’s a verb), I look with trepidation upon the future. Is it possible that I can someday drop the ‘student’ and learn to simply be a ‘professional’?

Communications Degree– Will it get you noticed?

As I went online this morning, my home page opened up with its random articles/stories of the day. Usually the articles are insubstantial– celebrity gossip, new recipes, sports news– but this one caught my attention. The title was: “College degrees that get you noticed.”

Always curious to know my chances of success out in the “real world,” I gave it a click to see if Communications was on the list. And behold– it was!

I’ve included the excerpt because I found it interesting:

Communications Degree
Average Starting Salary: $38,200
Average Mid-Career Salary: $72,200

In tough economic times like these, marketing/communications majors will find themselves competing against English and other liberal arts majors for many of the same jobs. The fact that they have a more specialized, career-focused education can be a plus, says HR expert Kelleher.

“The people who succeed in business all have strong communications skills,” says Kelleher. Knowing how to get a company’s message or product out the door will always be a valuable skill, in good economic times or bad, he says.

Related Careers and Salaries:
Public Relations Specialists: $59,370
Market Research Analysts: $67,500
Advertising and Promotions Managers: $97,670
Marketing Managers: $120,070

HR Tip: “Recent graduates who are able to show how their skills have helped solve business problems, whether as part of a school project or internship, and contributed to a successful campaign will most impress hiring managers,” Good said, “particularly if the examples are relevant to the company they are interviewing with.”

Okay, so it’s just a silly article off of my Yahoo! Homepage, but any news is good news.

What do you think? Will a Communications degree impress the boss?

To see the rest of this article and the other featured degrees, click here.

Entry Level in a 5+Years Experience World

With nothing but a meager semester standing between me and the career world, I can often be found browsing websites for job postings. While I could more easily define my greatest trouble as an inability to settle on what exactly I want to do, another major hurdle is the constant reminder that most companies are looking for experienced workers who have been in the field for “5+ years.” For this reason, I’ve resorted to searching for internships at these same companies, but they staunchly insist that to apply for an internship one must be a student. So what am I expected to do? I’ve clearly already lowered my expectations by willingly looking for jobs without pay (i.e. almost all internships ever), what more can I do?

In many ways, I regret not having taken more advantage of the internship opportunities while I was in school. And yet, my situation impeded me from every actually being able to pursue these opportunities. Both monetary and scholastic responsibilities prohibited me from the chances of the more glorious internships. In the summers, I had to work a paying job in order to help fund my education. Nor could I afford to take those distinguished out-of-state internships that would have required me to find some sort of housing. I’ve often thought about pursuing an internship in NYC, but there were too many hurdles in my way while I was still in school. During the semester, my internship opportunities were limited due to commuting difficulties and class scheduling. Now I’m most available to accept a position, unrestrained by school, location, and money. But now, companies are unwilling to accept me, despite an eager attitude and more than flexible schedule. Unless I’m applying for undergraduate credit, the answer is ‘no way,’ right off the bat.

(As a sidenote, I will admit to a bit of personal hesitance in pursuing more exotic–for a lack of a better word– internships during my college career. Now, however, I feel that I have not only grown into myself, but I am more willing to take risks in order to achieve dreams.)

Some companies, however, are more fostering for us just-out-of-school-graduates. For example, NBC’s celebrated Page Program is an incredible opportunity (and down-right good idea). The 12 weeks spent in this program help acclimate the eager participants to the industry. They are rotated throughout departments in order to get a full experience and a better understanding of what they themselves would like to pursue. It’s a perfect idea and, despite being heavily labor intensive for very little pay, a simply incredibly opportunity. I will honestly profess that being a part of the NBC Page Program would be a LITERAL dream come true (yes, I’ve had dreams about it). Sounds good, right? So what’s the catch? Well, due to the notorious nature of this program and its benefits (who wouldn’t want to opportunity to get a foot in the door at NBC), the chances of being accepted to this program are less likely than those of being accepted to Harvard.

I’m perfectly well aware that I will never, in any lifetime, be accepted to Harvard. I’m a diligent and hardworking student, with grades that properly reflect my work ethic. However, I am not a genius. I know this, and that’s fine. So, if I’m not getting into an Ivy League anytime soon, what are my chances at the NBC Page Program? Clearly this opportunity isn’t completely dependent upon an IQ test. I hope, though it may take few (times a thousand) applications, that I can at some point prove my worth to NBC. The Page Program would be priceless experience that I won’t give up on.

So, in the meantime, I’ll continue to troll the sites, searching for jobs that inevitably turn me down due to a lack of experience. To them I say– Take a chance. How am I to get experience, if you won’t simply take a chance.

Of course, I’m not above blog begging. So feel free to shoot out any ideas for media/PR/comm opportunities. I’m wide open.

On entering “the real world.”

Warning: This post will feature no tidbits of knowledge, pretty pictures, or catchy words.

I’m taking this time to write more of a personal post. This upcoming week I begin the last semester of my college career. While I find it hard to believe that four (amazing) years will have come and gone, I find it even harder to grasp the idea of being a part of what I have dubbed “the real world.”

Having an older brother, I remember two years ago when I saw him go through the same experiences as I am now facing. He graduated, we all cried, it was an emotional time. I couldn’t believe he had reached that point. I couldn’t believe that my childhood playmate, the kid who used to make me laugh as well as cry, the one who always knew how to set up the coolest Lego creations– he was graduating. I think it was around that time that I first realized that it wouldn’t be long until I found myself in that same position. And here it comes.

I’m almost 22, I’m about to graduate from college…now what?

As of yet, I don’t have a job. I’m a public relations major (um, seen the website?–duh) and I’ve absolutely loved the work that I’ve been able to do in that field. I’m a media enthusiast in general, and would love to combine my interest in film and television with my love for public relations.

The logical next step is the job search, an intimidating practice that I’ve attempted a multitude of times. From Monster.com to Indeed.com, to my university’s private job listings, the process is always lackluster and disappointing. The problem is finding an entry-level job in the first place. Most listings are looking for professionals with “min. 5 yrs exp.”

Why should an employer take a gamble on hiring a newbie, fresh out of school, who they will undoubtedly need to coach on the basics (no matter what experience the student may have had)? With today’s economic climate, convincing an employer of your worth is harder than ever. Jobs are scarce and the competition is fierce. It’s like a jungle out there (please ignore the corny phrasing).

But I will enter this final semester with my head held high. And come graduation? Well, there will be tears (plenty of them), but I promise to also look excitedly toward the next big adventure in my life, even if it means I’m entering “the real world.”