This is an informal letter to my fellow future college graduates, but most importantly, a letter to myself. I took a trip out to California recently and it made me realize I needed a little direction in my life. I got it through some tattoo therapy. If you’re anything like me– a little confused on which path to take next, an avid “what-if-er,” a little curious if you’ve made the right career choice studying these last four years, and little cynical about your future, then you’re not alone.
Over the last few months, I’ve spent hours sitting in front of my computer screen looking at entry-level job posts all over the country. Every “Salary” section spelled out in large, agonizing letters, “STUDENT LOANS,” “RENT,” or “JUST MOVE BACK IN WITH YOUR PARENTS.” Every “Experience Required” section basically said I needed to be 25 years old with 30 years of experience. (Sarcasm not lost.) None of these I could ignore or wanted to come to terms with.
I once had someone tell me, “Communications majors are destined for nothing.” From that moment forward, I promised myself I would prove them wrong. But what do you do when you realize four years before you know what real expenses are means that the the career path you’ve chosen is underpaid, requires working long days and nights, and potentially moving constantly as you move up in the markets. By now you might have guessed that I want (or might want) to be a news reporter.
It’s been said that if you’re doing something you love, you’ll never “work” a day in your life. I’m starting to believe that is untrue. If you’re busting your ass and hustling day in and day out- you’re working. You’re working to achieve and maintain success. You’re absolutely working. Success is the outcome of working at something you love. But getting there- that absolutely takes work.
I also believe that money is the root of much evil, but I’m coming to terms with that too. I didn’t work a full-time job during any of my semesters in college. I lived off of borrowed money from student loans and the money I saved from working full-time at my summer job. That summer job and that money have basically been the only definites for the last three summers and four years of college. I spent too much of it during the school year on things I probably not have- like socializing (read:drinking), knowing that I would be able to go back the next summer and make it all up again.
As the money I saved began to quickly dwindle in first few months of my last year of college, the reality set in. If I wanted a big-girl career in my field, I would have to move out and away from my sheltered little South Jersey town to a small-market area in a big city all by myself, and away from my summer job and the money I was assured to make.
My bank account showed the reality of this scenario. My bank statements said that I couldn’t exactly afford the gas in my Jeep to get across town, let alone pack up all of my belongings and drive across the country. At this point, I realized I couldn’t even afford it go get a big-girl job… isn’t it ironic? I’ve heard horror stories from recent graduates about leaving home without enough money saved and I didn’t want to be ‘that girl’ who needed to choose between paying rent and buying groceries, or worse – moving back home. So, I realized that it might be smart to save that cash again this summer instead of running after a position in my field, like I hoped I would. And I’m realizing, that’s okay.
I’ve always been a Go-getter. I’ve done a lot so far with my life and enjoyed a lot of success doing it. I’ve always wanted to be one of the success stories my previous teachers and professors tell their future students about. My worst nightmare is to be forgotten. My ego is too big to be someone working a minimum wage job when I just paid almost a hundred thousand dollars for a degree, but my ego needs to roll with the punches. Because, one more thing I’ve learned: to gain success, sometimes you gotta suck it up before you can go out and conquer the world.
Comparing my own to other people’s success has always been my toughest challenge, but also my biggest motivation. I want to stress, however, success isn’t instantaneous. Even though I’ve busted my ass through college, got involved, did internships, and graduated with honors, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to land my dream job right away. I’ll need to take certain other steps.-Build connections. Network. Gain unpaid experience. Practice. Learn from others’ mistakes. Be well versed in every aspect of my field. Don’t rush success. Where ever I’m going, sometimes it’s a long climb to the top.
My advice to you: Be the one who has a realistic side and knows money has a huge effect on where you’re going, but it shouldn’t be your only guiding factor. Be the one who doesn’t settle for the job you hate because of great benefits and definite money. Be the one who takes risks, but knows the consequences. Be the one who prepares for those consequences ahead of time.
Tattoo therapy is something I strongly believe in, hence the compass tattoo, that inspired these thoughts, which inspired this article. I don’t know what direction I’m going in, but I now know how to find my way.