“Resilience and resourcefulness are some of the best tools you can have.” —Kelly Bowman, Graduate, Western University
Dear liberal arts graduate,
There are some things they forgot to tell you at convocation.
For many of you, there will be a gap between now and the beginning of your career. Most of the advice given to you that day, although inspiring and meaningful, will not prepare you for your immediate futures or the challenges you will face.
Most of you will not get your dream job. A lot of you won’t know what your dream is, or your dreams will change. Many of you won’t find jobs in your field for several years, if at all. Only a handful of people can become the new leadership, and if you all think it’s going to be you, only a few of you can be right.
Statistically, over half of you will still live with your parents if you’re under 25. If you’re under 29, it is closer to a third. For some of you, although this is rarely talked about when addressing youth unemployment, that means you might be financially bound to an abusive home.
Rejection will probably be a closer friend than usual for a while, as will unemployment (or underemployment), though they tend to come and go. Many of you will be in debt, which all too soon will start collecting interest. The excitement you feel about starting this new chapter in your life won’t go away, but you will be more angry, insecure, uncertain, disappointed, confused, depressed and scared at times than you expected.
The role nepotism will play in your future has probably been severely understated. Many of you who have avoided using these connections on principle will cave, and you won’t be sure if you like yourself for it. Many of you will not have many relationships to leverage, and you will feel you have wrongly been put at a disadvantage.
You have spent several years at school developing a set of ethics which may not be entirely compatible with the tasks you are asked to do. You might have to navigate the choice, like many others before you, between doing what seemed right when you were younger and what allows you to support yourself.
You will most likely work for free for a while (if your circumstances allow you to), and as much as this will pose a rather large problem for your finances, in some other ways it will give you an unexpected gift. You have the opportunity to explore, experiment, and make mistakes—and you will make a few.
I am not telling you this to be depressing, discouraging, or to dampen your enthusiasm. Resilience and resourcefulness are some of the best tools you can have. I am telling you this so you know the most important thing they forgot to tell you at convocation: if you are this person you have not failed.
There are a lot of us, and we’re thinking about getting jackets.
What I’m doing now
I currently work part-time, have an unpaid internship as a Public Relations Coordinator with a not-for-profit in Toronto, and am hoping to pick up a volunteer position with my local distress center. I graduated this past June and have explored four different internship/practicum programs within the last year. I live at home (thanks, Mom).
My recommendations for employers, career centres and schools
I honestly don’t feel my opinion here has much clout. I’m sure there are a lot of services, resources, and strategies I still know nothing about. I find new ones all the time, and the ones I have accessed have all been useful in one way or another (even if it wasn’t in the way I had hoped or expected). The best advice I can give is quite general: ensure your advice is backed by research, do your best to keep up with the changing work environment, and provide students with as much information as you can. Lastly, forgive us for being anxious and irritable by the time we get to you – we know you’re trying to help, we’re just scared.
My advice for students and recent grads
Take advantage of your student health plan before you graduate. Get a dental cleaning, have your eyes checked, stock up on any necessary medication, because chances are you aren’t going to have any coverage above OHIP for a while. Once you graduate it’s worth looking into free clinics, although some of these are limited to sexual health and contraceptives.
Use your university career resources while you can (resume help, interview skill building, job and volunteer postings, placements, etc), as they aren’t always available to alumni. Once you graduate, Employment Ontario offers the same services and resources, but they are not student-centred and you might find them less applicable.
The meaning of “entry level” as a job descriptor is inconsistent. Many organizations use it for positions that require a few years relevant work experience, which you are unlikely to have. True entry level work is more likely to be part-time with an hourly wage that is barely over minimum, and a job description that appears to be below your education and skill set. Do it anyways. If you’re good, they will think of you when other positions open up.
Do more practical skills development during and after your degree (internships, practicums, volunteer placements, technical or skill courses like computer programming, graphic design, video editing, etc). It will save you a lot of time in figuring out what you want, building personal connections, and making yourself more marketable. Many of these are only part-time and can be done from home if you have limited transportation or time to give.
Embrace your free time. You might have more of it than you’d like (or have it at unusual times), but now might also be the time to do something you never found time for. A passion you never pursued, travelling, going for a run, or eight hours of sleep. Take care of yourself. Your full-time counterparts will be jealous.
This #StudentVoice belongs to:
Honours Specialization in Media and the Public Interest