Monday, May 17, 2010

Hey Ma, look! I'm all gradumacated! Part 1

It seems to be that time of year again when hapless college (and high school, I guess) students end one chapter of their lives and get ready to begin another. Final exams have been taken and passed by a marginal curve, spring beer pong tourneys have been had in celebration, and thousands of family members have been forced to sit through possibly the worst experience in all 4 years combined: the commencement ceremonies. Listen, you can jazz it up with Obama and Alec Baldwin speeches all you want, but that doesn't change the fact that you have to sit there through the tedious name-list-reading of your 8 billion classmates. I mean, maybe if Bruce Campbell was there with his chainsaw arm as an Honorary Professor of Asskicking and straight brutalized that podium after his inspirational speech of "My name is Bruce... stay away from zombies, kids," maybe THEN I could sit through 5 or 6 hours of graduation, but given the likelihood of Bruce Campbell speeches, the outlook is grim.

I digress. As a college graduate who has suffered through all of this before, I would like to offer up my advice to those of you tassel-wearers (but not like, the stripper-burlesque dancer kind, unless you ladies really need advice or something...which, if you're a stripper, maybe you do. I don't know.) because you are in for the absolute RUDEST AWAKENING OF YOUR LIVES and while I was utterly unprepared, I want to give you all every opportunity to meet the real world head-on and without dread. ( a series of emails entitled, "Hey Ma, look! I'm all gradumacated!") Colleges will teach you all the book learnin' that you pay for, but every institution of higher learning I am aware of lacks the basic "be an adult" lessons that your parents have probably been trying to teach you for 8 or so years already. If you're just not ready to heed their advice, take it from me, The Average Broad, a.k.a. One Who Knows.

1. Unless you are some kind of freaky genius, recruiters will NOT be beating a path to your door to offer you the job/salary/benefits of a lifetime. This is a big one. I started job hunting my senior year of college, and with clips already published in print magazines and a title as a staff writer for my college newspaper, I figured (at the very least) a great paid internship or entry-level job was waiting for me to get my foot in the door and catapult me into a wheeling arc of success. All I had to do was send out a few resumes and cover letters and wait!

...and wait.

...'did I send it to the right email address?'

...wait some more.

...take a break from checking email and voicemail every two hours and read a book.

...resist sending another follow-up email making sure the pdf's of your clips went through.

...wait a bit more.

...hey, you know what would be a great idea? Waiting!

..."oh, yeah, I'm working now. I'm a professional wait-for-a-job-er."

You get the idea. Granted, I chose a tough and declining industry, but I've found that this is true of many other industries as well, especially if you happen to be in a graduating class filing into a recently-recessed economy. This doesn't mean that you are a dumbass (I actually don't know if you're a dumbass) necessarily, or a poor job candidate, or that your parents were wrong in telling you that "you can do/be anything, if you work hard and put your mind to it!" It's increasingly difficult to get an edge over your competition these days, because so many people are graduating from college, so many people have degrees, so many people have already done internships and extra-curriculars, so many people have friends/cousins/parents/friends of parents/mafia-connected-family members who have networked and already guaranteed your competition that internship... all those things that we have been raised to believe would get US the job is just common knowledge and not the "industry secret" that we all hoped it would be.

Here's where my failings can help you, dear reader! I was grossly misinformed about how quickly I would achieve success and fame and wheelbarrows full of money and diamonds and puppies, so to you I say: it will be a while before you get a job, and when you do, it will be exactly 0.01% of what you were hoping and expecting. More importantly, it's okay! Transition jobs, retail work, temp work, etc. are all perfectly good jobs. Well, not really, they actually suck sweaty balls, but never underestimate the self-worth you will feel when you go from not-getting-paid to getting-paid. It does not mean you're a failure if you can't get that unpaid internship ("wow, they don't even want me to work for FREE!" sob sob sob) but it is okay to cry about it for a minute. Hey dude, it's hard. Just keep your chin up and don't be defeated. You've got a long way to go! And you can drink legally now, so that'll make things way easier!

"Great, TAB," you're thinking. "So your advice to me is that I'm going to be poor and jobless and that I'm not that special and there's nothing I can do about it and that I just have to accept it and WHY ARE YOU RUINING MY LIFE?!"

Yes and no. Here's the place that I was trying to take you: expect the worst, hope for the best. Try really hard not to get discouraged when you're shocked with the too-cold-water of the real world. Learn how to have a great resume and cover letter (that will be covered in a later post) and to apply to jobs that you want, but learn to accept that you'll need to apply to jobs that you might not have wanted originally. It's okay to be sad or frustrated or anxious or drunk, but know that it's not the end of the world - you're just beginning something new, and that's never easy. Be tenacious. Learn from your mistakes. Always, always have someone else proofread your resume/cover letters/job applications. Take breaks and get away from your computer. Keep in touch with your college friends - they're going through it, too.

Take a minute to pat yourself on the back, because dude! You just graduated! Hell yes! Have some cake! Man, that's some good cake, huh?! Great. Save me some frosting. Now, sit down, put your feet up, and start making a list of jobs that you want. It helps, I promise. Wanna know what's on my list aside from staff writer, associate editor and editor-in-chief of my own magazine? Bruce Campbell's chainsaw tech and professional Slurpee tester - because it's important to have dreams.

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