Diploma in Hand… Now What?

When people told me that post-college life would be difficult, I believed them. I just didn’t believe that it would be difficult for me.

I graduated from Smith College on May 17th 2010. I moved back home to Harlem and my mother’s couch ready for the next phase of my life. It’s August 2010 and – very much to my surprise – I still have no full time job.

People told me this would happen. They said that it would take time, and that this state of limbo is normal. Truthfully though, I thought they were kidding. I had convinced myself that they were only cushioning my ego on the severely off chance that I didn’t end up with a job right out of college. But I would. I just knew it.

I know that sometimes people do have a hard time finding a job. I know that our economy is not doing well. But…the idea that there really wasn’t a job waiting for me when I got out of school? I never took it seriously. I did everything right! Didn’t I? I’ve been interviewing for jobs since February, for goodness sake! I put everything aside to focus on my studies (you don’t even want to know how little I showered during finals week just to make the dean’s list!). I did these things in part because I believed that my hard work and academic successes would ensure my success as I got out into the “real world.”

I always tell people that if I learned nothing else at Smith, I did learn that my choice in career was unlimited because my liberal arts degree prepared me to be an excellent thinker and communicator. I am learning now, though, that unlimited choices can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I feel qualified for and can envision myself in many different jobs (and I get to input lots of search terms on Monster.com). A curse because the refusal to pigeon-hole myself into one career track means that my cover letter is constantly changing.

Most people seem to have an inclination towards one or two vocations. I, on the other hand, am hovering around five. I’ve applied to be an editorial assistant, a teacher, a marketing and sales associate, a community board liaison, and, most recently, a paralegal. All of the positions I’m applying for speak to at least one of my passions, whether community involvement, writing and research, or working with adolescents. I’m testing the waters to find the right direction, but I worry that the “right” career will elude me. And, having all of these options has led me on a trajectory unlike any I expected. I’m currently working in a research position that pays like a volunteer job and scouting for work as a babysitter.

This season of unknowing is inspiring me to write. Filling out job applications isn’t the most riveting of pastimes, so I am yearning to put my creative energies to use elsewhere. In an effort to be both spiritually and practically productive, I am recording my journey through my post-grad experience. This is the first time in my entire life that there isn’t a road map to help me navigate.

At every turn of this journey I find myself faced with more and more questions. Who better to answer them than me? Constantly being on the hunt oftentimes doesn’t give me the space and time to reflect on how this new phase in my life is affecting my perceptions of myself, my capabilities, and my definition of success. I’m hoping that writing it down will work to fill in that gap.

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