Given the state of our economy, how is a young graduate who can barely distinguish between credit and debit going to make it in today’s world? Fittingly nicknamed “Generation Y,” graduates and upperclassmen now find themselves asking: “Y me? Y now?”
Every few decades, a challenge arises and a naïve group of individuals is confronted with the harsh reality that life is not all tailgates and summers at the beach — and now, our society has moved from the Great Depression to the Great Recession. In true Darwinian form, our generation is adapting and forming a new way to job hunt. It is no longer a simple transition from an interview after graduation to a hiring in mid-June. Graduates now feel the pressure to load up on grueling entry-level positions and to build extensive professional connections in order to get their careers of choice.
As we adjust to the fact that choices made during our college years will inevitably determine our futures, it becomes apparent that this is not the time to make rash decisions. However, a delay in careers does not have to be a frustrating period of anxiety, but rather can be a time to explore a plethora of post-college prospects that have invigorated this generation into adopting the new mantra of: “Y not play?”
Dream On: Want to get away? Voyage abroad and become famous by promulgating your newfound wisdom through a blog. What’s a few thousand dollars more in loans after the five years you spent at Carolina? Choose any exotic* location where drinks are cheap, the people attractive and English is prevalent. While there, be sure to diligently write about the epiphanies you experience as you change locales every two weeks. Make money by hopping from hostel to hostel, offering up your services as a bartender, concierge clerk, translator or scuba-diving instructor.
Get Real: While traveling is a great way to experience culture and learn others’ viewpoints, as a former student presumably paying off “book money,” look for programs that help cover your costs abroad and give you résumé-worthy skills. From teaching English in Slovakia to working on an organic farm in Japan, multiple organizations are out there to utilize your youth and knowledge. These are desirable getaways if you are altruistic in nature and have yet to see the world, if you want a career in foreign affairs or policy or simply aim to continue your language development.
Both the Peace Corps and Language Corps are increasingly popular among young graduates. Don’t have the experience? Consider joining a cruise ship crew.
Dream On: Take time off after college to find yourself in high-altitude places. Out West in Aspen, Lake Tahoe or Jackson Hole, philosophize with astute minds that have not yet departed the oasis of superiority that their alma maters provided them. In order to justify your move West to Mom and Dad back East, explain that it is imperative you commune with nature before you are old and plagued with arthritis. Whether you work at a ski resort, teach white-water rafting or sail catamarans, any of these skills will help in impressing your future, cubicle-numbed co-workers and Scotch-slamming bosses. It will only be a matter of time before your friends give you “unique” trinkets of antiquity with slogans reading: “I’d rather be sailing” or “Gone Fishing.” So, perhaps this is the time to do exactly that.
Get Real: Both the National Outdoor Leadership School and AmeriCorps are notable organizations, but if you are more suited to staying in one place, national parks need people to dress as Native Americans, and Vail, Colorado needs constant streams of seasonal workers to appease the tourists untouched by the recession.
Dream On: Fame may come easily to some — Antoine Dodson, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, anyone? However, the odds of being able to use tabloid infamy to supplement your income are lower than Snooki’s IQ. Thus, enter the internship — the love child of overachievers and stingy companies everywhere.
Get Real: Opportunities exist in all fields with the basic internship, and younger undergrads should consider interning as early as their first year. Internships can possibly prevent a career of unhappiness. Before starting law school and realizing that politics are not what you thought (or what “Legally Blonde” led you to believe), interning for a political campaign or firm can show you where your heart lies (or doesn’t). Though the hours are grueling and the pay nonexistent, internships will get your foot in the door and yield impressive letters of recommendation. USC offers its own internship search aid and other popular databases are geared toward specific industries, like idealist.org for you philanthropists or ed2010.com for journalists.
Dream On: Fortunately for those who might not want to pursue a demanding internship or risk exposing their skin to the harsh conditions of the Rockies, there are always jobs in modeling, writing or entertainment. For those who feel the allure of the Strom during your time here, maybe you could model, but if you’d rather not lose 30 pounds, develop your art or comedy routine. You can hold out to be “discovered” while performing at a Columbia venue. Parlay your wit and humor from your online blog into a book deal to be sold at Urban Outfitters checkout counters everywhere — think “Passive-Aggressive Notes” and “E-mails from an Asshole.”
Get Real: After graduation, move to a cultural hub, whether it be New York City, Chicago, New Orleans or San Francisco (maybe even Dry Prong, Louisiana). Take art classes, tour galleries and offer to work under new and emerging artists, musicians or cinematographers. It’s a way to build a résumé and give yourself exposure to ideas and creative people before attempting to emerge onto the entertainment/arts scene yourself. You can display and sell your work on websites like etsy.com and artfire.com, or work to advocate the arts through community theater and afterschool programs.
Whatever path you choose after graduation, the road to prosperity and success is what you make it. Whether you are the political activist championing a cause or the nature enthusiast seeking a “natural high,” the recession has made the world an enormous playground. After graduation, the choice to experiment with careers and invest in
personal development will yield more conscientious and well-rounded individuals. As a generation, we may begin to ask: “Y not us?”
(As likely to work out as Elin & Tiger)
Moving to the Gulf to sell beachfront property
Becoming a serial groupie for the Rolling Stones
Finding a cougar/priest to house you while this economic mess clears up
Starting your own Ponzi scheme
Walking onto the Philadelphia Eagles during tryouts — try the Lions
Special thanks to Delta Sigma Pi fraternity models.