Five reminders to graduates

Convocation is around the corner. Before you know it, you’re walking across that stage, celebrating your four years of hard work, and immediately expected to become a full functioning adult in society. Suddenly, you’re faced with a swarm of questions. Do you have a job yet? What’s next? How much debt are you in now? What are your plans? Oh, you haven’t found anything yet. That’s alright, I’m sure you’ll fine something soon! It is a competitive market. French Studies–that’s amazing! You should work for the government.

According to popular opinion, I was either destined to work for the government or to become a French teacher–majority were voting for the former. I’m not passionate about teaching, and it wouldn’t be fair to actual aspiring teachers if I went down that path as a safety net. The majority of my peers were considering/doing/hating it. Through my French degree, I discovered qualities about myself that were previously unapparent to me. Countless research and essays made me realize that I’m an analyst and logophile at heart; I enjoy analyzing the shit out of things and using words to explain said analysis.

Finishing my last exam was rewarding and terrifying all at once–now what? I applied to numerous jobs that were briefly semi-appealing. I had only occupied one position in my 22 years of existence working for the registrar’s office at my university. A career solely in administrative work wasn’t for me. However, I wasn’t getting any calls back or interests from employers until the academic advising department offered me a full-time summer gig. Although it didn’t pay well at all, it was still a raise from my student job. I accepted the offer knowing that I would have more responsibilities and different tasks. Summer 2014 was the genesis of my contract to contract rite of passage. After that summer, I began working contractually 24 hours a week at the same office.

If you’ve recently graduated, and are currently drowning in post-grad misery, there are certain things you need to remember:

  1. Be patient and be kind. Employment doesn’t necessarily come after a diploma. In fact, your journey won’t be as linear as that of others. With that being said, stop being hard on yourself, and forget about expectations. I didn’t get a full-time salaried permanent job with benefits and paid vacation until nearly two years after graduation. The transition period was an opportunity for me to accumulate as much experience as possible. Employers love that shit. You’ll have stories to tell at your next interview(s).
  2. Stop comparing yourself to others. Again, your journey might not be linear or premeditated especially if you didn’t complete a vocation degree. Congratulate your peers on their successes; yours will come eventually. Even when I stopped comparing myself to others, people would be doing it for me. I’d be reminded about so and so getting a permanent position working for the government, which, quite frankly, I didn’t give two shits about because a government job isn’t for me.
  3. There is a job for you out there. Stop reading those damn articles about Liberal Arts degrees correlated to the growing unemployment rate. Sure, your degree is broad, and therefore, making it difficult for you to pinpoint the types of positions and industries you can work for. Isn’t that the beauty of it? You’re a Jack of all trades. Think of all the courses you’ve taken during your degree–which ones stand out to you? What skills have you developed? The humanities exposed you to different human behaviours in various cultures throughout history. You gained analytical and critical thinking skills, and you’re (hopefully) more understanding and can relate to others. What do you see yourself doing with these skills? 
  4. Do you actually want to go back to school? I’ve heard this time and time again. “I’m going back to school.” Hell, I even did it myself. I went back for Public Administration thinking that a job in government was for me. I was obviously delusional. Maybe going back to school will help; maybe it won’t. Think about it long and hard before you embark on yet another journey that isn’t meant for you. It takes money and time–can you waste any more of it?
  5. Be smart with your money. Student loans don’t pay themselves. Even if you don’t have a high paying job yet, remember to put something aside. You’ll thank yourself later. When I worked part-time for over a year and a half, I saved a lot. I opened up a Tax-Free Savings Account in which I would deposit 50% of my earnings. Out of sight, out of mind.

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