Post College Jitters: To be Young, Educated, and [Un]empolyed

As my college career came to a close, I’ve been continually getting the question: what are your plans after college?

Wide eyed with a blank look on my face, I answer, “I’m still trying to figure it all out.”

If you ask any of my fellow seniors who are graduated in May, their answers will be fairly similar. Of course some are more confident than others, luckily grabbed and accepted their post college jobs in whatever field of their choice. Others decided to go straight to graduate school. Some decide to travel to places like India or China for the summer. The summer post college is a time of transition, and what a summer it has been.

However if you scroll down your news feed on Facebook another tune is being sung: finding a paying full-time or even part-time job is extremely difficult. Even my brother couldn’t find a part-time retail job when he was home. Having a degree may actually hinder you because you’ll be considered “over qualified”.

To be completely honest, I actually did have some sort of plan. I’m not completely a deer caught in the headlights. During my last semester of college I was able to secure an [paid] internship with prestigious media company and over the last few months I’ve been trying my hardest to network like crazy. In media, it’s more of whom you know rather than what you know. Of course don’t expect to keep your job if you don’t know anything either!

My internship put me in a better position than a lot of my peers, giving me experience and the ability to network.  However, it also doesn’t automatically give me employment. It’s a good start though.  According to this article in The Atlantic, paid internships are more likely to lead to jobs as in comparison to unpaid internships.

The first half of my summer was dedicated to volunteering a few hours a week as an unpaid intern for a production company. Not my ideal situation, but to stay home all summer sulking about being broke won’t change my situation. I also really loved it. It really set the tone for the kind of work I hope to do soon.  By my luck I was able to secure a paid internship in July, with a educational advocacy group working in their communications department.

Currently I’m still employed, my summer internship is keeping me on for another few months.

If you’ve been following the news like I do, there is probably a news article, editorial, or news story about our current unemployment rate every day. If you look at the numbers for recent graduates and young people between the ages of 18-21 it’s not a pretty sight. The statistics for women and people of color are even more discouraging.

This also hits on the debate of unpaid internships

With the court ruling earlier this summer, Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Judge William H. Pauley III of New York ruled that unpaid internships are unlawful. In this case, interns who were working on the film Black Swan should have been paid for their work.

Because of this case, multiple interns are coming out of the wood work to sue their former employers. Donna Karen International, is the newest company to be in the spotlight as a former intern is seeking a class-action lawsuit against the company. They’re claim? That they were told the internship would be a learning experience, but it ended up being an unpaid errands boy.

We’ve all suffered through a few unpaid internships throughout undergrad. Unpaid internships seem like the passageway to employment, or at least that is what we’ve been told. Fetching coffee or running errands seem like part of the job description, that is until it comes down to finding your first job and you realize your resume is filled with fluff.

The reason why unpaid internships are harmful is not because of unfair wages, but because of the unfair wages you would make once you join the workforce. Entry-level positions in companies are becoming more scarce. Employers can hire unpaid interns to do the work instead, thus saving them money to hire people who would be full time and with benefits. Can you imagine how attractive that is to employers? That you can hire a new batch of interns each semester without ever paying them or just paying them the bare minimum?

It wasn’t until my last semester of college that I acquired a paid internship. However most of my money went towards transportation and food. Commuting from Westchester County to New York City wasn’t cheap. A third of my earrings would go towards transportation alone. One aspect I realized many of the students at my internship had in common was that most were attending school in the city or was lucky enough to find an apartment in a nearby borough.

Another aspect unpaid internships that doesn’t get talked about is the privilege that comes along with it: having the means. If your parents are already paying for school or rent, you may not be so hesitant to take on an unpaid internship. Which means you’ll have more time to work there, which could lead to a better chance of being employed there eventually. So the real question is, who gets hurt the most from these unpaid internships?

Internships should be a learning experience, but you shouldn’t be taken advantage of because you’re a student.

Finding a new path

This summer I’ve applied to over 30 jobs. All of them are in media, video production, social media, and/or communications. They range from full-time, part-time, freelance, unpaid internships, to paid internships. So far I’ve had three call backs, six rejections, one unpaid position, and one paid internship.

Summer did get stressful. Sometimes I wanted to give up. Sometimes I worry if I picked the wrong profession. I’ve even considered going back to school. The problem is, for what?

But it’s only been three months since I graduated. I’ll drive myself crazy if I don’t have a bit of positivity when it comes to the job hunt. Taking on an unpaid internship seems a bit backwards, but I actually gained more experience and did actual work. Volunteering my time actually benefited me in the end because I’ve been able to secure some paid freelance gigs.

As the summer draws to a close, I feel a little more confident than I did three months ago when I started writing this post. Now that I experience my first post college summer, it felt appropriate to finally publish this piece…after a bit of editing may I add.

Right now I have my summer internship, a possible apprenticeship with a graphic designer, and possibly some freelance work with my old job. It’s not glamorous at all, but it takes me one step closer to finding that “dream job” and moving to my “first dream apartment with my best friends”…or just starting to pay off my college loans.

My advice to all you young, educated (college or not), and unemployed little adults out there: stay active, stay productive, and stay up on current events. Also, stay hopeful. I basically didn’t get my dream job that I’ve been wanting since January and it hurts, but at least I didn’t give up. Cliche to write, but cliches are good sometimes.

We’re the next stock of future doctors, writers, politicians, and much more. Without being completely cliche, it’s time we take back the workforce and it make it our own.

1 comment
  1. Alicia said:

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. I graduated in 2011 and have been published once! Countless rejections, lots of tears and plenty of venting, had left me hopeless.. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I have decided to give this dream job my all. The struggle is real for post graduates and all young people with degrees.. I hope companies keep this in mind when deciding if they should pay their interns.

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