Lessons learned from college experience

A conscientious student has undoubtedly heard it a million times: Unemployment and student loan debt are rising for undergraduates.  The paranoia invoked by this reality is often exacerbated by another often repeated cliché: Do what you love and don’t worry about money!

Graduates get creative in a tough job market.

So what should I do, drop everything and jump into a technology or engineering major — two of the fastest-growing employment sectors — or should I drop out of school and travel the world as a freelance writer? These paradoxical tidbits of advice that adults love to repeat can leave a student mired in doubt about what they should be doing to prepare for life after graduation.

As a senior who is at the end of a three-month job search, I have some thoughts for underclassmen:

• It’s not as dry out there as the media make it seem. According to the Washington Post, real unemployment rates are around 17 percent. The good news is that 83 percent of you will have more luck/qualifications than those who are unemployed. The better news is that, according to career services, 95 percent of the College’s students were employed within a year after graduation.  Personally, after an earnest search, I was able to find several opportunities and many of my classmates already have locked down great jobs. If you are industrious, there will be opportunities.

• Paying your dues. I know it’s oftentimes lost on our generation, but you might not be served your “dream job” within a year of graduation. In fielding applications, I applied to several places that wouldn’t qualify as my “dream job,” but I could see how working my tail off in those opportunities could eventually get me to where I wanted to be.  If your first options aren’t available, don’t hesitate to take the opportunities you do have and make something of them, reinvent yourself or teach yourself new skills.

• Don’t hate your Humanities and Social Sciences major! For the longest time I was upset at myself for picking political science as my major. I thought that the whole claim that liberal arts majors teach you how to think was a crock and I’d be giving up an advantage to business majors. However, looking back on my professional experience, I can honestly say the hours of reading, analyzing and writing have helped me to think outside the box and offer solutions to problems I definitely wouldn’t have thought of four years ago.

The bottom line I learned was — regardless of major, if you extend yourself in college, try new things and work hard to master them, you will have a suitable job for you by the time graduation rolls around. If the job isn’t what you had hoped for, don’t be afraid to prove yourself in the opportunities that are available to you, reinvent your skill set or start your own business.

I’ll close by using another cliché. This is America, the land of opportunity, and you are students of the College, a top-ranked regional school. If you work hard, think outside of the box and extend yourself, you will have success upon your graduation.