May is a busy month for most – Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and for students, most importantly, graduation day. As our Alma Mater prepares for the end of the finals and the beginning of the ceremonies, Caroline and I have two main thoughts – first, “Has it already been a year since that was us?!” and secondly, “What have we done this year?”
This week we want to reflect on our first year post grad and talk about the worries, triumphs, revelations, and different paths that young professionals take.
When graduating as a communication studies major, the world seems like your oyster. Every year the “ability to communicate” is high on the list of graduate skills wanted by employers. (This year Forbes lists communication skills as number 3 out of 10.) But when you’re a communication professional looking for a job — where you are expected to be able to communicate with not only your colleagues and clients, but audiences and target markets — having that skill does not make you stand out.
During my senior year I applied to some reputable agency intern programs. I was extremely excited when I heard back and interviewed with both, and then extremely disappointed when I found out they chose the other candidate. That left me graduating without a plan, something I was not accustomed to.
So I spent a majority of my summer sitting on my parents couch looking for job openings at agencies and firms (which is especially hard when you do not have prior agency experience), doing exactly what I swore I would never do — come back, live with my parents, and work in my hometown.
At the end of July I was offered a position helping a nonprofit organization I once interned with sell sponsorships. I knew selling wasn’t my ideal job, but I had a lot of respect for the organization and liked the idea of a challenge, plus it would put some money in my pocket. Without even realizing it, I became a boomerang kid. Last year the NY Times reported that of those in their 20’s and early 30’s, one out of five still live at home with their parents and 60 percent of (whatever they define as) young adults receive monetary support.
Damon Casarez documented the ‘Boomerang Kids’. Boomerang kids are young adults who live with their parents.
From September to February I focused on sponsorship sales and went back to working as a part-time server at a chain restaurant. During this time, I was given the opportunity to work as a marketing and communications freelancer, this included some design work and social media execution. From this experience, I learned how to price my own professional worth, and even taught myself how to work with social planning software, such as Hootsuite (well at least the free version). I also attended a professional conference, where my organization won an award for social media execution.
Knowing I had worked on the social media that helped the organization win best festival social restored my confidence, teaching me to not dwell on what I haven’t done and to focus on my accomplishments.
Now, it’s May… again. It is hard to believe a whole year has flown by, and although I feel I am in the same position, a recent graduate looking for a job, I feel a lot more prepared as I search for my next step in life. I have discovered that I am most motivated when working with organizations that help and inform others, and I enjoy working in jobs where I can explore and bring news ideas to the table.
New graduates know that your first year will probably be a struggle. Don’t let the fact that your friends and classmates already have jobs lined up keep you down because entering the real world means you have to stop comparing yourself to others and start your own journey with its own timeline.
While graduation day was the proudest moment in my life, it was also the most bittersweet. I genuinely have always enjoyed school and after cumulatively going for 17 years, it’s strange to have the day come where that routine is finished. Unlike many of my peers, as senior year dwindled down, I was not frantically sending out resumes or worrying about interviews. After consistently having worked thirty-hour weeks since high school, along with juggling two majors, extracurriculars, and sometimes a social life, I simply needed a break. “Just one more summer to relax. It’s my graduation present to myself,” I justified.
So as I happily sat in my beach chair last summer, the salt and the sand stirred up a few revelations for me. The first being, this is where I am happy. Not very profound, since friends, teachers, even mere acquaintances could have told you that about me. But what I did realize is that leaving the coastal lifestyle would truly make me unhappy, working in a city with beltlines and angry commuters would make me unhappy, and being stuck in a corporate cubicle, would definitely make me unhappy. However, what I would like to do in my career – a muse of advertising, branding, and politics – is something that most of the time requires the city life, the subsequent larger markets, and unfortunately the aforementioned points. What I am left with then, is the question of, how do foster my career in the market I want to be in?
This question isn’t just because I’m one hundred percent stuck on staying in Wilmington, but the other places I would consider moving to such as Charleston or Savannah, all roughly have the same market size and therein the same limitations. Advertising openings often come in the form of coveted positions at boutique agencies that generally require a decent level of experience and/or a very diverse skill set.
So how does a recent graduate still trying to gain experience land a job? This is also something that I wish would have been communicated more when I was in school, either by instructors, advisors, even guest speakers… Just because you want to work in advertising doesn’t mean you have to work at an ad agency. Most of the time I felt, as is my department placed emphasis on outside marketing communications agencies, yet all sorts of companies have in house marketing departments. My best friend just began working as a social media and content manager at a roofing company. If you want to work in marketing but are moving or wishing to stay in a smaller market such as myself, don’t dismiss the opportunities you may not even realize some of the local businesses offer.
The second revelation that occurred to me was that while my education, and what I do with it is, and always has been, hugely important to me, what I get to do with and in my life is also. Do I want to begin years of working 9-5 where I will eventually earn two weeks of vacation? Honestly, no, not at all. While I realize such distain is probably coming from the months of freedom that came with education calendars, the inevitable monotony left me pondering where does my career fit into the grand scheme of what I want to accomplish in life, and what is it that I want to do? Honestly, I want to travel. So I have spent the past year saving and planning to make that happen. Next month I will embark on 3-4 month solo adventure in, around, and through Europe. There’s too much I want do and see than a two week vacation would allow each year. So why not go now?
I do want a career; I just don’t want that right now. And that’s okay! Even though I am taking a hiatus, I am still educating myself about trends and current events – I avidly read, I write the blog each week, and I’m working on a second language. Don’t be worried if your post graduation life isn’t going as “planned”. You get to decide what your plan is, and it may be different from your family and friends. As you can see from this post, Caroline and I have two wildly different directions but we are each setting goals and striving for our own ambitions.
We hope this post has opened up some conversation about the struggles of being a brand new professional. However, we are only two experiences in this world and we would love for other young professionals to share their experiences and advice with us.
– Caroline Robinson and Savannah Valade