You spent your life dreaming about how everything would fall into place after you graduated from college with your degree. I’m sure you thought you had everything figured out and even a job lined up. Or at least that’s what you wanted everyone to believe. For me, as well as many others, that wasn’t the case.
Humble yourself and give yourself grace
A month before I graduated, I decided that I no longer wanted to attend graduate school for a higher degree. This decision was really disappointing to accept because I really intended to become a leader in higher education. I took the GRE, researched graduate school programs and even talked to professionals about letters of recommendation. I felt ashamed that I could no longer commit to something that I shared so publicly. This decision also meant that I was going into the job hunt unprepared.
After I graduated, I have no money saved for unemployment. No plan on how I would secure a job. I was scrambling to find something that would allow me to work somewhat in my field. Most importantly, I wanted to find something that could pay my bills. Life gets extra real when you receive your first notice about your student loans. To help me get some income, I became an Uber driver. For those that know me, know that I absolutely hate driving. I had to swallow my pride and do something until I could afford to do something else. After a month and a half of this very humbling experience, I got my first (and only) job offer to join the Georgia College Advising Corps as a college adviser. I really wanted to go into the communication/marketing field, but I didn't have enough work experience. Since I was considering the idea of going to grad school potentially, I thought this was the best opportunity for me. Not to mention, I had no other interviews or opportunities so I was happy to join.
Being unemployed was not fun. I still have PTSD of that experience because I literally had no money besides that little amount I was making from Uber each day. I surprisingly was able to pay all of my major bills from Ubering during the week for about a month and a half. In hindsight, I wish I started sooner. (This is totally not a sponsorship for Uber, but I recommend if you need the money.) I learned by taking on a job that I didn’t want, allowed me to look for better opportunities. Being an Uber driver isn’t Instagram-worthy, but I did what I needed to do. It allowed me to do something better. I also began to give myself grace because it's unrealistic to believe that I could have everything I wanted so quickly after graduating. I still had much work to do.
Create opportunities where you are now
Becoming a college adviser changed my perspective on so many things. I first realized that graduate school was definitely not going to be a part of my path in the foreseeable future. I also rediscovered my passion for writing. I spent every day encouraging my students to follow their dreams so it only made sense for me to do the work and figure out mine. The job commitment for the GCAC was two years, meaning I had to make the most out of this experience so I could find an opportunity in my field after I leave. One of the best pieces of advice I can give someone who is in a job where they feel they are being used to their fullest potential is to think with the end in mind. Think about what skills or experiences you currently need for that dream job you want after you leave your current job. If you know you have areas within yourself that still need to be developed, create those opportunities where you are now. Don't wait until you have the title or position you want.
I wanted to become a writer, so I created a blog. I write every week. I sent my articles out for others to critique so I can get better. I found opportunities as a college adviser to write such as creating a newsletter for my students and writing for our company newsletter. I also managed social media for my high school and GCAC. I thought of all the responsibilities I would hope to have in my next job and I created them for myself. I wanted to make sure I had the proper work experience for my next job.
Creating those opportunities certainly paid off because my job hunt after leaving the GCAC was much more successful. I was still unemployed for a few months, but towards the end of my job hunt, I had several job offers. Of course, I chose to work at my alma mater Augusta University, as I felt it was the best opportunity for me. My job title was “writer” which is all I intended to do. Then, another opportunity presented itself.
Pay it forward
After a few weeks into my position, the opportunity presented itself for me to propose ideas for the university’s first podcast. I love podcasts and I worked diligently on creating something that I thought our university community would find valuable. This project was a huge undertaking since there was nothing laid out for us. I had to ask for help. So after a few weeks of scratching my head to find help, I decided to create opportunities for someone else by getting an intern.
I reflected on my own experiences as a student and I wished I had an internship opportunity. Maybe that would’ve helped me secure a job sooner than I did the first time around. Now that I’m in a position to help and mentor others, I more determined to make sure that I’m creating opportunities for those all around me. I’ve included so many people on this podcast that it is truly a collaborative effort. From my intern, coworkers, friends and our listeners, I’m so proud to be able to share this project with so many.
If I didn’t get out of my comfort zone to take a position outside of my field, I would have missed so much self-discovery. Changing my mind about my field and graduate school opened me up to so many more opportunities than I could have imagined. So if you find yourself in a position in life where you are second-guessing yourself, don’t forget to give yourself a little grace. You have the power to create the opportunities that you want and need. And when you get those opportunities, please try to pay it forward. You never know who is counting on you.
How did your career plans change after graduation?