A year ago, I sat in front of my laptop tasked with reflecting upon the last four years of my time as an Emory student. Today, I sit at my desk in Washington, D.C. wondering where all of that time went. As a graduating senior, I was terrified of a lot of things: finding a real job, figuring out how to do my taxes and cooking.
A year later, I’m a (paid!) intern doing work on women’s political participation globally, I submitted my 1040EZ form to the IRS and I still have no clue how to cook for myself. Let’s just say it’s been a lot of frozen dinners with a side of shame.
When I wrote my senior reflection, I presumptuously gave advice to underclassmen on how to best spend their time in college. Now, I plan to presumptuously give advice to graduating seniors.
So, strap in, Class of 2013, because I’m about to drop some real-world (okay, semi-real world) knowledge on you.
It’s okay if you don’t have a job right now. I was only truly jobless for a matter of weeks, but being a substitute teacher by day and a Victoria’s Secret sales associate by night isn’t really what I had envisioned for myself when I was walking across the stage to get my diploma. But it takes time.
If you sit in Starbucks and apply to at least four jobs every night, someone will eventually hire you. Or, at least, someone will interview you and get your hopes up and you will envision your brand new dream life with your shiny new job and then you will be mercilessly crushed. Either way, just remember that it only takes one. Out of the hundreds of applications you send out, you only need one person to fall in love with you, hire you and allow you to move out of your mom’s house and into a place with eight other people to save money on rent. Hey, D.C. is expensive.
It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do. Nobody does.
Even my friends who got jobs right out of college doing what they knew they wanted to do at the time are wondering if this is really what they want to be doing for the rest of their lives.
So, relax, have fun, try to do something that pays you and figure out what you don’t want to do. Sometimes that’s more useful anyway.
It’s okay to feel like a failure, but it’s not okay if you don’t do anything about it. Being unemployed makes you feel like a failure. Being semi-employed can also make you feel that way. We take for granted that our path is more or less laid out from when we start kindergarten to our college graduation, and now that we’re stuck with the paradox of choice – and worse if we also have nothing to do – we feel like we’ve failed. But you haven’t. You just feel like you have.
So do the best that you can. Apply to a bajillion jobs. Email everyone you know. Except me, I get too many emails already. Okay, just kidding, you can email me; I’d be totally flattered.
It’s also okay to quit – in the right way. If you know you’re not doing the right thing for you, don’t do it. Don’t stand up in the middle of a staff meeting and yell, “SEE YA SUCKERS!” (even if you really, really want to), but start looking for other opportunities. Quitters never win, sure, but people who hate their job never win, either.
If you had asked me a year ago what I’d be doing today, I would’ve told you’d that I’d be teaching high school English in Miami. I’m not. If someone had told me that I’d work for President Barack Obama’s campaign in Florida, I wouldn’t have believed it. If someone told me I would teach at my old high school alongside my old teachers, I definitely wouldn’t have believed it.
But I did, and I’m really grateful for those experiences. I went to the inaugural ball. I coached the most amazing, wonderful and perfect kids on the 11th best Speech and Debate team in the country.
So, I didn’t make a lot of money, but I learned a lot. And now I’m working with the most awesome group of people (except for the Wheel staff, of course), and I even have my own phone extension. Oh, yeah, it’s really happening for me.
So now that I’m done totally bragging on how totally great I am (my own phone extension), I want to say – from the bottom of my heart – congratulations to the Class of 2013. The best is yet to come.
And it’s all going to be okay. I promise.
Gina Chirillo is an alumna of Emory University from Sarasota, Fla. She was the Associate Editor at the Wheel.