Graduating college is one of the best feelings in the world. You’ve accomplished something, you’ve made yourself and others proud, but what happens when reality sets in? Some go on to do exactly what they intended to do while the majority of us are left trying to figure it out one job application after another.
I had a conversation with a friend about existing versus enjoying life. I felt like I was existing; doing what was necessary, but not really enjoying myself. It then lead to us discussing failures, which we came to the conclusion that no one does. Why don’t we shed light on our setbacks or failures? Like my friend said, “It’s human and should be shown to inspire others.” I agree. So, let’s be honest…
Senior year of college was as expected: stressful, exciting, demanding, etc. I was highly involved and had multiple jobs. My friends were there to keep me motivated. Towards the end, a lot of my peers were discussing which graduate school they were attending and had even been accepted into graduate programs. I was happy for all of them, but in the back of my mind I was thinking about my path. What does success look like for me? None of them were graphic design majors, but I still felt that I was missing out on something. My mind wasn’t set to attend graduate school, but the question arose once I began working in a graduate assistant position; Terrionna, look, what are you trying to do? Okay, now I was feeling pressured and unsure. Unsure of everything. What if I don’t find a job within my field? What if this and what if that. On top of me questioning my future, I had people in the background anticipating my decisions, waiting to see what would unfold for me. I researched graduate schools, programs and assistantships. I wasn’t going to attend grad school without it being paid for-I just wasn’t. After a few interviews, applications, letters of recommendation and great amounts of stress later, I had to take a step back. I was forcing myself to do something that I was unsure of to begin with. It all just became a huge ball of frustration for me. So, grad school was a no go.
Luckily, I had been on top of my game and applied for multiple jobs and internships. Everyone tells you to utilize LinkedIn, Indeed, CareerLink etc., and I did. I tried everything! Luckily, I landed a great paid internship following graduation. Now, I’m thinking to myself, “Okay. I have this internship, so I’m good for a little while.” Well, while interning I didn’t let my job search stop there; I was thinking ahead.
My mind was made up that I was going to work in the professional sports industry utilizing my graphic design degree in an entry level position making less than $35,000 a year. I was okay with that. I applied to over 50 jobs within that field just on one website alone and landed a few interviews, which was great, but I NEVER GOT THE JOB! In total, I’ve applied to over 200 jobs and internships geared towards graphic design, marketing, and anything else I felt that I qualified for. Out of those 200+ applications, I got maybe eight interviews. I kept getting rejection email after rejection email and it began to take a toll on me. I started to question myself and my abilities and if what I went to college for was worth it. “No one is going to hire me,” is what I kept thinking. What am I doing wrong? Why won’t someone just give me a chance? I didn’t know what these employers were looking for exactly, so I began to settle.
I settled for a store associate position that, at the time, sounded good where I was making about $10 an hour. But as time passed, I realized that I was actually settling for something that I knew I could not see myself doing for years on end. I wasn’t enjoying the job and I began to dread going to work. It wasn’t like me at all. It was very routine and the boss became hard to work for. Needless to say, after two or three months I resigned from that position and started back at square one.
While adding to my 200+ job applications and thinking about what was next, I received a message on LinkedIn for a job that I actually didn’t even apply for. The message was from a recruiter in the Little Rock area. I was a bit skeptical because it wasn’t exactly graphic design, but I put some thought into it and decided to go for it!
This is the important part. You may not want to hear it, but listen up. You have to be open to new things. I thought it out, it wasn’t exactly what I went to college for, but it was an amazing opportunity. It was my first grown up move and was the best decision for me in many aspects. That dream job of yours won’t fall into your lap (well, it’s possible, but the chances aren’t high). I’m not saying don’t follow your dreams, but to look at the reality. I had to evaluate my circumstances and make a decision. You can’t be out here blocking your blessings! College graduates already have their minds made up and are determined to work within their field only; I know I was. I was supposed to be living out-of-state working my way up in the professional sports world. But here’s the thing, I wasn’t being realistic.
Life after college for me was stressful as hell. I may not have shown it, but it really was. I tended to my blog, Black&Gifted, a lot to deal with rejection from those 200+ job applications. For me, my blog was that piece of me enjoying life. I wasn’t existing anymore. I tried my best to land freelance gigs and promote my t-shirts. Each day I had to remind myself why I’m here. So, I kept pushing. I stopped settling and I hustled hard until an opportunity came knocking.
I don’t think that any of us are prepared for the reality after college. Getting the door slammed in your face time after time, but I’m here to tell you to GET PREPARED and don’t let it stop you. The struggle has been real, but well worth it. I now have a full-time job that I enjoy with a great salary and I can do what I love outside of work. My adult life is just now getting started! I’m not existing anymore; I’m enjoying life!