“What do you want to do following graduation?” I don’t know. What I do know is that at the break of dawn on May 13, much of the AU graduating class, myself included, will need a next step.
However, the best employers aren’t lining up for us. Not yet anyway. As of 2010, 5.1 percent of American’s already with a bachelor’s degree were unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics.
So, come late-May, with the solacing feelings of graduating quickly waning, you’ve got to stay ambitious. Get out of that Dorito-encrusted bed and spring into action while you’re still hungry.
Instead of leaching onto what’s easy and convenient — sending mass emails and cover letters to any relevant Monster.com listing — physically get out and network, face-to-face.
Pick the minds of anyone you know who is employed. Who’d turn down a free cup of coffee or beer? Ask questions and listen well, and be careful about alluding to working for them. From those personal interactions will come more connections, and a foundation for a post-bach plan.
Alternatively, reflect. Take time off and be patient and think about who you are and what makes you tick. What are your interests? What do you enjoy? What were your hobbies as a kid?
For instance, the creator of Words with Friends, Paul Bettner, liked to play chess. He grew up and reworked Scrabble to replicate that interest. Now, the game has just fewer than 9 million daily users, according to TechCrunch. He’s now vice president of Zynga, a social network game-developing giant.
Thus, taking a step back and re-evaluating your interests might yield the best plan.
Regardless of preparation, we’re young and naïve, itching to get hired. Let’s slow down. English professor and award-winning writer, Dawn-Michelle Baude, didn’t hesitate in telling me she’s taking her son, Alex, “right” out of high school once he graduates to take some time off.
Despite planning for some reflection time in the fall, over this past winter break, I went out to LA and San Francisco in search of potential master’s program I could apply to for 2013. It would build on my past summers spent studying Industrial Design in Manhattan and Providence.
Along my West Coast journey, I met up with my good friend Kevin who studies car design at Art Center in Pasadena. He drove me up the hill to a menacing black fortress. We toured the barren hallways of this infamous art mecca, notorious for gobbling up the best artistic talent and spitting out a few lucky designers.
Afterward, we headed downtown to Intelligentsia to talk. Ten-dollar siphoned coffee and bowtie-clad brew “gurus” decorated the setting as we sat down with something free-trade, 100% Ara-bi-ca and overpriced.
Sitting down, I eccentrically fussed over how many things I like and would like to do. But, after siphoning through the heap of ideas I’d managed to pile up, Kevin helped me realize that I’d been on a quest for the perfect job title, when really, I needed to be acquiring the skills that would foster my diversity of interests and feed my curiosity.
That type of inquisitiveness is reminiscent of a rebranding tool used here at AU— WONK!, or know backwards. The convergence of a wonk with a desire for special skills begs the question, how?
For me, it’s getting the knowledge to acquire the skills, starting with Web design courses at NYU and Design and Management at Parsons.
Us Wonks are problem-solvers. A problem solved is innovation. And from one innovation will surely come a greater hunger to achieve something better.
This process, beginning with dedicating time to self-exploration and seeking advice from people with jobs, and ending with instituting positive change, could fulfill our needs as progressive thinkers.
In the end, it’s a fail-safe strategy to supporting yourself following graduation, because, no matter the monetary incentive or occupational missteps made, you’re doing what you love. And I’ve heard if you do that you won’t have to work a day in your life.
Class of 2012