I have been a college graduate for seven months now and the reality of being done with my undergraduate career still wakes me up in the morning with a shift kick in the behind, waking me up to the reality that I am still on that terrifying job hunt.
I like to think that I was pretty active in college, learning to perfect the art of multitasking — going to class, going to student organization committee meetings, grabbing a quick bite from the cafe, making sure I finished my homework and left some room to study for that upcoming midterm, write a 15 page research paper the same night I said I’d cover someone’s DJ shift for three hours, etc.
While some nights I thought my head was going to explode from the pressure and my friends did their very best to boost me up with over-caffeinated cups of coffee and “study parties” (studying doesn’t sound so terrible when you add the word party at the end of it, right?), I quickly learned that if I planned on making it into the professional market, let along the media business, I needed to morph myself into a superhero – still kicking ass at 3 a.m., balancing three different modes of thought in my head at the same exact time (sometimes in English and en français), and of course, never letting my hopes of working for NPR (someday, one day) die.
Now that my undergraduate career is done, that doesn’t mean my superhero training is. It has been seven months since I have been in a college classroom, football or basketball stadium, and student organization meeting. Now I split my time and my brain’s hemispheres between: weekly train trips to Chicago, car crash fatality research, finishing a big investigative news story, teaching myself how to become a successful freelancer, and searching for more internships or possibly even jobs to add to my ever-growing résumé.
I thought I did enough in college, and while my friends and family said that I did do enough in college, in the real world sometimes that just isn’t enough to get what you want. So, fellow graduates, my words of advice for you (and myself): Do not get discouraged with yourself if you are doing your absolute best. While you are trying to break out into the big bad professional world, and you’re supposed to impress others, you should always remember to be kind to yourself. At this moment, the professional world is meaner and scarier than ever before, so give yourself time. Be open to many experiences, even if they might not be what you dreamed of doing right out of college, everything has a way of working out for the best, as long as you maintain that mentality. You’ll find your path, you’ll find your happiness, and it just may not be EXACTLY how you planned.
My advice to high school students soon to be entering college: While college is an incredibly exciting time since you will be living away from your parents for the first time, do not get caught up in the partying atmosphere of university. Of course have fun and be open to new (and safe) things. But remember that each action has a consequence — take it from a friend of mine who always dreamed of going to teach abroad and has trouble finding countries that will accept his application since he received a number of alcohol related tickets while an undergrad. I promise you, you can make friends outside of the bars, outside of a drunk or high haze, and you can find like-minded people in student organizations, volunteer groups, or work-study programs. Fill your empty time slots with activities that not only cater to your interests but also will look great on your résumé!
If you didn’t learn to become a superhero at college and spent a lot of your time either staring at the ol’ boob tube or the toilet bowl, it’s not too late to start evolving. Look for volunteer opportunities in your town that relate to your interests. Keep the fire going under you to never settle. Do not spend your time regretting what you did not do at college. Instead, spend that time searching for a similar opportunity that doesn’t require you to be at college to pursue it. And don’t wait! Many internships and collegiate student opportunities dwindle a year after you graduate.
Everyone can learn to be his or her own superhero. How badly do you want it?