I’m afraid I’ll never finish college. I’m afraid I’ll finish college with student loans I can never pay back. I’m afraid I’ll get a degree and won’t be able to find a job in that field. I’m afraid I’ll get a degree, get the job I dreamed of, and hate it.
A Mental Illness Happy Hour listener whose list of fears matches mine four for four. (via hyeonsires)
this is so sad.
I have faced each one of these fears, so as a post-grad working in my degree field here’s a few tidbits (bear with me, it’s worth reading):
1. If you’re in America, unless you’re really lucky, you’re gonna have loans, so try to limit them as much as possible. Work study or college-friendly jobs to pay for daily living expenses instead of borrowing money to live off of makes a HUGE difference. And when you’re out of school and have to pay them back, get intentional about it. Paying them back is doable, I promise. A nuisance, yes, but worth it. If you’re not very good/knowledgeable about finances, ask your parents/respected adults for help. If no adults you know are debt savvy, Google Dave Ramsey.
2. Most people I know don’t work in the field they got their degree in, whether by choice or circumstance. You’ll find circumstance plays a huge role: whatever you have “experience” in is going to be your foot in the door.
For example: I got a professional writing degree with the intent of being a technical writer by day and author by night (I’ve been an author since I started college but until it pays the bills, I was thinking “day job!”). Only, I kind of wonder if technical writing jobs are a myth because every one I see posted requires 5+ years experience, which you can’t exactly get before you graduate. HOWEVER, in my internship (lots of schools require one for your degree now, and even if they don’t, it’s good to get one or more if you can) I did a lot of grant proposal writing. I have kind of been stuck doing that because that’s how I got into working, but the job I have now has a lot of technical writing involved in its proposals, so in a few years I WILL have that 5 years’ technical writing experience, should I want to move on. Who knows. My current 5-year goal is to pay off my loans, marketing the life out of my books, and build that experience.
SO that being said, if you don’t land your dream job or your ideal day job right out of college, don’t feel like a failure. The world is messy and you’d be surprised to find you might wind up wanting to go a different direction, or that when you achieve your dream job, you’re way more prepared for it by taking the scenic route. I only know one person who landed her dream job right out of college and that was because she was already there. She got assigned a mentorship program at the place in high school and liked it so much that she stayed, as a student worker/intern, all through school. So does that even count as landing it right out of college?
3. Say you do get your dream job, or you’re working toward it, and you aren’t satisfied with your situation. If your job is not working out for you DON’T SETTLE. Yes, stay put until you can land another job (unemployment is never fun), but never think it can’t get better. If you find yourself in a company with high turnover (i.e. people disappear every few weeks) LEAVE. If you find yourself in a company that singles you or someone else out as a target for blame, LEAVE. If you get your work done on time, do it well, help other employees out, and your managers still give you the Ojo for leaving on time? LEAVE. If your managers shush you and your coworkers for laughing, FOR GOODNESS SAKE LEAVE. It’s not worth it. You’re better than that. A volatile work environment will suck the life out of the greatest employee. My first post-grad job gave me one thing: enough work experience to get my second one. By the time I left, I seriously could spit on the doors of the place. My current job, i.e. my second post-grad job, same type of work, but aside from the hectic days and the moments where I wonder how people can function with one brain cell (happens everywhere), I’m happy. Everyone there is nice, I’m learning new things, I don’t have to worry about people coming and finding me and getting on my case for actually taking a lunch hour. And while my last job I had to avoid getting remote-access installed for risk of being called to take care of something at 11pm, the job I have now set me up with remote access so I could work from home only if I couldn’t come in (such as on the ice days this winter). They don’t freak if I don’t answer an email sent at 7pm my time from California (which is 2 hours behind me).
I won’t promise you won’t have to deal with stinky job situations or annoying people, and even the greatest job will have bad days. But it’s no different than the rest of your life if you think about it. Just keep your cool, do good work, and keep looking for something better. I say a prayer every morning that I will be my best and I claim the day as a victory. Sometimes that’s all you need—set your own mind on the right track and the rest follows.
So to close this inadvertent sermon, never stop dreaming or working toward a dream, even if it changes. And if your dream changes mid-major but you can’t afford to change majors, don’t worry! Doesn’t mean you can’t get a job running a bakery if you have a Bachelor’s in Theatre Arts. Take everything in stride. Don’t let fear paralyze you!
Go to your college’s career center, and don’t wait until senior year. You can get advice and set up plans your very first semester if you want. Any good school will have resources for you.
And if college is not really your thing or you don’t have any idea what your “thing” is yet, don’t sell yourself short. Look into trade schools, apprenticeships, or even ways to work your way up “from the mail room” in a local business. Just try things out. I had a friend who went 4 years between high school and college doing all sorts of random jobs until he discovered he was a latent digital artist.
Our generation was raised in fear, fear of debt, fear of a weak job market, fear of running out of resources to simply live, fear that the odds are simply stacked against us. But we can’t let that fear dictate our lives. Life is conflict, struggle, and damned mental adventure, but we’re going to be ok, even if we do things a little differently than we were raised to expect.
Have faith, you guys. We’re stronger than everyone thinks. Let’s prove it by beating the odds and being the most badass generation ever.