It’s about that time again. Many of us have been there. All the students are headed back to the comfort of college, which comes with a few uncomfortable adjustments: back to a dorm room and no more of mom’s good home cooking, you’re back to being broke for a while, and it’s back to paper writing and trying to read 40-page chapters assigned on a Monday by Wednesday (right after you do that one 8-page paper though…). But one great benefit of going back to school is freedom. You’re basically living THE life. But there’s one other benefit of going back to school–you’re still able to avoid the tepid job market for a few more years, or a few more months if you’re a senior. But if you’re out in these streets with a degree that you received in May, or even worse, a year ago, and no job to show for it as of yet, this is the hardest time of the year once again.
I just talked with my mother earlier in the day and she told me how she ran into an old classmate’s mother while on her way out to run errands. The young man and I went to elementary school, junior high and high school together, and he’d stayed an extra year at a University down South and graduated last May. However, his mother relayed to my mom that he was having trouble finding a position in his field, and after a while of applying and waiting and repeat, he was planning to move out of the state of Illinois to see if he could get better results. His mother claimed that he hadn’t tried to get any kind of job in the meantime, and didn’t plan on trying at all. He was just ready to move.
I think I told you that many of us have been there, myself included. A couple of years ago I had graduated, had a summer internship and came home broke as a joke (after having an apartment deposit stolen from me–another story for another day) but I returned with the same hopes that every recent graduate has about making it: As long as I have this degree, things will happen–soon enough. But after a month or so of applying for any and everything that was close to or in my field, panic set in: I, like most people, had bills. I was going to need to start paying my loans off soon, credit card debt was making me tired, and after spending half a day on Mediabistro, Monster.com, college job boards and Ed2010, I was losing my mind. I came to the conclusion quickly that I needed to do some type of work until I could get the work I really wanted. Therefore, I sucked it up, put on a smile, and asked for a job at a retail store I used to work at in my early days of college. I folded clothes and smiled while people complained about dumb s**t and just reminded myself that this was just going to be temporary. I kept applying and after months back in retail, I finally found a job in media. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I was grateful–but I didn’t stop looking. So after working long hours, I still came home and applied for jobs centered around writing, and continued to freelance for multiple websites. Though I was making okay money at the downtown media job, I continued to hustle, and about nine months after starting there (and low-key slaving for them), I finally got to interview for my dream job in NYC. And here I am, doing what I want, working with people I like (a lot of black folks), and in the media mecca of the world.
I get it. You want to use the degree you worked like a dog for. But some things just don’t happen so quickly and easily for some people. But why allow yourself to go broke and to defer the inevitable (uh, your loans) so you can “save face”? For the first few months this is acceptable, but by the half-year mark, you need to give up the funk and start putting in applications not only online but in your community for something small until you can get something big. I knew people back when I was still living at home who would forgo regular jobs while they held out for their dream job. Months would pass, bills would pile up, and still, nothing. One friend took occasional jobs doing PR work for over a year, and it wasn’t until her family told her she needed to “work” work or move out that she finally applied for a job at a department store, something she felt was beneath her all that time.
I don’t know why some people act like this. Maybe many people feel like they’re lowering their standards if they take a job at the local gas station, at the mall, doing clerical work at an office, using certification they got in school to help out at pharmacies, being a tutor or working customer service at the local AT&T. While one of my best friends and I struggled to find the degree-confirming positions we wanted, I told her (she was not working at all) that I could put in a good word for her at my retail job with me. She giggled a little, shrugged, and said, “No thanks.”
Or maybe it’s that people think they’ll get trapped in the job they don’t want, which will prohibit them from actually having the time and the opportunity to get the job they really do want. As long as you’re doing what it takes, using your time wisely, making and keeping up with your connections and hustling hard, a temporary job or position, even if it’s not what you want, should just bring you the money you need; There’s no reason you can’t keep looking around, attending job fairs and applying for everything you want to while you work.
It’s so easy to look at a temporary 9-5 as a negative, but if you can find something while you look for “that” something, you should be grateful. There are some people out here who can’t find or get anything. A degree can definitely give you an extra push, but it doesn’t make you invincible to the realities of a bad economy. Sometimes you have to lift your head up, put your pride aside, and take the job you can get so you can do what you need to do for yourself (or your family for that matter if you have REAL responsibilities) right now. There’s no reason you can’t have or live out your dreams very soon, but in the meantime, it’s about leaving the ornery mentality behind and being realistic. You’ve got bills, and they’re waiting.
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