[5 Minute Read]
Realizing that I would be graduating during a global pandemic was gut wrenching. The first time I graduated from college, earning a BFA in 2015, I faced so many fears and uncertainties. Now in 2020, I’ll be graduating with a masters degree in December. A few months ago, I began to worry about getting through these difficult times. Normal post grad anxiety became magnified and my heart goes out to Spring 2020 college graduates. Despite 2015 and 2020 being very different fiscal years, I believe some of the post grad lessons I learned can help current graduates. Part of getting rid of post grad nerves is coming up with a game plan. We all come from different backgrounds, yet we can all make the best choice in the moment, create a toolbox for the future, and market our skills to employers.
Making the Best Possible Choice
When I was a recent college graduate with a degree in Painting, I struggled to find a job in the arts that could pay for the cost of living in San Francisco. Through a college connection, I became an art teacher for a non-profit, but it was barely paying the bills. I started seeking other positions, and was contacted by a recruiter with an open contracted Customer Service Representative position for Square, Inc. At the time, I was torn about pursuing a job in tech when I was passionate about art. “How could I afford to pursue my dreams?” I wondered.
In the moment, I made what appeared to be the best decision. It felt like none of the options were going to help pursue my dreams and I needed to pay the bills. Little did I know at the time that working in tech gave me invaluable skills I’d continue to use for years. After taking the job, I found aspects of it that aligned with my passion for helping others, examining language, and creating content. I also didn’t fully realize until working at Square that some of the skills I learned at art school lent a hand to working with technology. Even though I only stayed in tech for a year, I don’t regret making the best financial choice for that period of my life because it ultimately improved my skillset for working in the area I was passionate about, and you can do the same.
Creating a Toolbox
As future employees, we need to demonstrate what is in our metaphorical toolbox. Lessons you learned at USC will help you, but as recent graduates now you can look for other avenues to gain additional skills for your toolbox. When I took the contracted position for Square, I looked at it as a post grad learning opportunity. Instead of paying for a university, I was taking on a new role of getting paid to learn in an entry level position. Not only did I improve the skills I had from my undergrad experience, but I also gained new technical skills and experience adapting to a new work environment. While the job market isn’t what we expected for 2020, I recommend taking this time to strategize. Ask yourself, what skills am I lacking? Can this position make me a better candidate for my dream job? Even with limited options you can always add to your toolbox.
Walking a winding career path shouldn’t stop you from achieving your goals. My career path is nonlinear, and if you look at many successful people you’ll find this to be a common trend. Allow yourself to find creative ways to market the skills you’ve learned. I went from art to technology to teaching English. Some might look at my career path and say there’s no correlation between each point in my career. In fact, there is a relationship between each point. The main connection is communication. Be it visual communication or oral communication, I’ve always worked with conveying ideas to different audiences. Now is a great time to dig deep and find a common thread using your interests and experiences. Once you’ve found the thread, carry it through to your next step in your career.
If you find yourself feeling hopeless, remember we’re all in this together and you are not alone. Past generations have gone through challenging economic situations. Almost anyone who has graduated from college feels uncertain about their future after graduating. Instead of minimizing the situation, I’d like to point towards solutions and hope. You do have options and there are plenty of resources at your fingertips. Congratulations recent graduates! Fight On!
Featured image by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash
Samantha Jungheim received her Bachelor in Fine Arts, Painting from San Francisco Art Institute. As an undergraduate, she studied abroad in Paris for one semester at the Ecole nationale superiere des Beaux-Arts. Her long standing interest in foreign cultures and languages lead her to move to South Korea. Samantha taught English for two and a half years in South Korea in Jeonju and Seoul. Samantha is a passionate advocate for English as a second language students. She is now a student and ambassador at USC Rossier School of Education in the MAT-TESOL program.