It’s hard to believe an entire year has flown by since I walked across that stage in a static-y black gown and a cap that threatened to teeter off my head with every last step I took as part of the graduating Class of 2012. After everything that’s happened since then, I look back on that nerve-wracking day in May with the clarity of hindsight that I had no idea what was in store for me once my days of attending classes, writing papers, and dwelling in the library were over.

You live a lot life in your first year post-graduation. The “future” becomes your present, no longer the abstraction it once was, and you’re expected to effortlessly join the fray. The time for Facebook posts about procrastination ends, and before you know it, you’re looking for a real job. It’s during this first year that it hits you: your adult life is really beginning, and the decisions you make carry a magnitude much greater than deciding whether you’re going out on Thursday night or staying in to study.

It’s from these harsh realizations and eye-opening experiences that I offer some unsolicited advice to all of my successors, the Class of 2013.

Dearest graduates,

First and foremost, congratulations. You’ve successfully made it through four years of attending 8 a.m. classes hungover, writing countless papers from sun down to sun up, and reading more than some people will read over the span of their entire lives.  Now that you’ve endured four hours of pomp and circumstance, you’ve earned that multi-thousand dollar piece of paper, known as a degree, which will look great framed on your wall. The path that lies ahead of you is not easy—take it from someone who’s been hobbling along its beaten trail for a year now…

You’ve probably heard the rumors about the job market, and sadly, most of them are true. It’s probably easier finding Waldo to help you search for a needle in a haystack than it is to secure a job within the first 10, 20, or even 50 applications you send out. Maybe you’ll be on of the lucky ones who applies at the right place at the right time. Maybe you had some kickass internship that gives you an edge over the competition. Maybe you’ll spend six heartbreaking months filling out applications, going on interviews, and receiving rejection email after rejection email. Whatever lies in store for you, you need to keep a few job-related things in mind:

Your first job probably won’t be your dream career. Your first job is probably going to be a stepping-stone—a way to get your feet wet. Even if you have some idea of what you want to do with this vague degree of yours, when you actually get out there and start living it, you might change your mind, and that’s okay.

Image source: Bro Bible
Image source: Bro Bible

In your desperation to secure full time employment, don’t throw all your job wish list items out the window just so you have a job. Some sacrifices may be necessary, but if you accept the first mediocre job that’s interested in you, you’re selling yourself short. Three years from now when you’re still working there, miserable, you’ll resent yourself for not holding out for something worth the four years of work you put in at college. You deserve a decent salary. You deserve some kind of benefits. You deserve to work at a company where you have an opportunity to grow.

If you do end up taking a job in a field that you may not be all that interested in, find ways to do things there that you are interested in doing long-term. At these kinds of jobs, you need take ownership over your own experience there. If you take a secretary job and only order pens all day long, you’re only making your resume suffer. More importantly, you’re only prolonging the time it’ll take to find a position doing something you’re actually interested in, because despite holding a full-time job, the experience you’re getting isn’t relevant to anything else, unlike your career goals are to follow in the path of Pam Beesly from The Office. At any position you hold, maximize the potential you have to gain the skills you need by involving yourself wherever you can.

When you’re at this first job of yours, people may not take you seriously because you’re young. They may resent you for even being there. They might even be jealous. Ignore all of them. Don’t surrender to any kind of age apologetics. Your point of view is valuable, and you have an outlook that is significant. You bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to the table. You may not have the experience that they do, and Kermit the Frog said it best, it’s not easy being green, but know this: it’s important. Harness your youth as a strength; don’t explain it away as a weakness.

If you’re one of the less lucky ones (like me!) who spent several months looking for a job, keep two things in mind: don’t lose hope and be honest with yourself. Make time to search for jobs every single day. Don’t limit your search—use every website. Check the newspaper. Use your college’s career center. Exhaust your connections, if you have them. When you go on interviews, ask yourself, are you doing your best, or are you being a dipshit? Appraise yourself honestly. When an interviewer asks if you have any questions, always ask one or two. …If you don’t know what to ask, consult Google—your fairy godmother. Don’t let the numerous rejections wound your pride. Some HR folks seem like they don’t care about you or your humanity—when you get rejections from those types, ask yourself, “Is that really the kind of place I want to work for?”

Carrie definitely has the dream closet.Image source: Jenny by Design
Carrie definitely has the dream closet.
Image source: Jenny by Design

While you’re pursuing employment, you might start thinking about some of your lofty post-college loft dreams you’d like to make a reality. Maybe you’ve already finalized the interior design of your Carrie Bradshaw-esque apartment or your neon beer sign-laden bachelor pad. Before you run out and sign a lease, let me suggest an alterative to seriously consider: living at home for few years. If your folks are amenable and your family isn’t Jerry Spring material, stay home and save up some money. I know it means sharing a bathroom and it may cramp your style, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Having your own apartment with your BFF as a roommate is a fun situation, sure. But you know what else is fun? Being able to plunk down a solid down payment on a house if/when you’re ready so your monthly mortgage payment isn’t astronomical. Paying rent means throwing money away on a monthly basis, because you’re not building up any equity living in your two-bedroom apartment. Don’t try to defend it by saying it gives you good credit–that’s what credit cards are for. Living at home may not be as “fun” or “ideal,” but ten years from now when your finances aren’t tighter than a size small skirt over Kim Kardashian’s ass, you’ll be thankful. Building up your nest egg doesn’t have to mean sacrificing all your fun and your freedom—but you need to remember fun and freedom don’t come cheap.

Image source: someecards
Image source: someecards

As you’re living your somewhat lackluster post-graduate life you may become more reliant on social media to keep up with your friends. Courtesy of Instagram, you may notice one of your college buds scored some awesome job at a great company that affords them rose gold Michael Kors watches. One of them might have leased an awesome Dodge Charger they can barely afford. Facebook may inform you that bitch from your biology class sophomore year got engaged to an engineer who bestowed upon her the most disgustingly sparkly princess cut Tiffany’s ring you’ve ever seen. In the midst of all their accomplishments, it’ll be hard, but remember this: don’t live on anyone’s timeline but your own.

Don’t be ashamed of your respectably-salaried job. Don’t feel embarrassed when you’re cruising around in the same car you’ve had for several years. …Still hate the bitch from biology class who got engaged to the engineer, but don’t feel pressure to get engaged tomorrow and do not force your temporarily-skewed expectations onto anyone else. You need to live your own life, and honestly, there’s always going to be someone who’s life makes your own look banal, or worse: ordinary. The more you evaluate your life in terms of everyone else’s, the more likely you are to miss out on appreciating all the wonderful things you have going on for yourself. Don’t miss out on your own milestones—big or small, Facebook-worthy or not—by focusing on everyone else’s accomplishments.

Image source: nerd scholar
Image source: nerd scholar

Finally, don’t let your inner critic get to you. In this first year post-college you’re going to learn a lot about the real world and about yourself, and there are going to be countless moments where you doubt yourself. There will be times when you’re going to make a choice and later wonder if it was the right one. You’re going to feel overwhelmed. You’re going to feel lost. You’re going to feel like adulthood is too hard. You’re going to miss “the way things used to be.”

As hard as it is, don’t let “the past” hog up too much of your nostalgic sensibilities. You’re going on to do great things, but getting to those great things will sometimes require weathering some shitty things first. You will make some wrong choices. You will be overwhelmed. You will be lost. Adulthood is hard. Just remember every moment before, especially in college, when you futilely thought, “I can’t do this.” You got through it then, and whatever’s posing a similar problem now, you’ll get through that, too. It may not be easy. It may cause fear or tears, but you’ll kick its ass in the end.

So, dear graduates, as you make this foray into the real world, remember there’s no right way to live this life, but at the end of the day, there are always these three constants:

Don’t be afraid to take what you deserve.
Don’t take shit from anyone.
Don’t give up.

From one former graduate to another, I wish you the best of luck in this important year in your lives.

…And I’m glad I found a job by now so I don’t have to compete with you.

41 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Class of 2013

      1. It could just be an open letter to the world about one tiny thing. Then you could address then again on another subject. At least your blog serves some sort of purpose.

  1. And make sure your silly FB account is private, if you’ve got horrible pictures or statuses of yourself on there. It may be why you’re not getting phone calls from employers. Lol.

    1. True story. On a related note, it’s probably not a good idea to stage your civil disobedience in favor of the legalization of marijuana by smoking a ton of weed a few days before your drug test.

    1. It’s interesting that it seems like older people and younger people are the ones who get the short end of the stick in the working world. Being middle-aged is the way to go.

      1. Haha yea, when you’re just out there you’re too young, when you’re getting up there you ought to go down cause you’re too old. When you’re in the middle..well, you’re just getting there, so might as well kick the bucket too. Nope, they’re just screwing with us.

  2. Brilliant post!!! Especially enjoyed the part where you have words of encouragement towards not judging ones self against their peers. Bravo to you!!

  3. The pain is so fresh in my mind. 😛 Great letter, very honest. I feel like it still applies to me, and I’m going on two years out of college.

    Another thing I’d add is even if you do get a job that’s not in your field, try to do things freelance/volunteer that are in your field. Learning more and more tidbits of your profession while you’re not in it can be helpful in the long run.

    1. Definitely! Even if you can’t do exactly what you want at your job, you can always work it into your hobbies or your free time somehow. You really just need to seize every opportunity and create opportunities where there are none!

  4. Wonderful advice! You covered a lot I wish I’d known with fresh diploma in hand — so glad to look back and be past that point in my life (fairly unscathed).

    Have you considered a career as a college counselor:)? You’re much more insightful than the advisers I dealt with in undergrad.

    1. That seems like the kind of job I’d quickly be fired from, because I’d be giving advice like, “don’t be a dick” and “get your head out of you ass.” But I’d be dishing out wisdom, too!

      Maybe there’s a college interested in an honest counselor with little (read: no) training…

  5. I absolutely consider Google my fairy godmother – delightfully put! Also, I love your piece because it’s practical but not cynical. Learning about how to be the first without becoming the second was a major part of my growing up after college.

    Also, I’d add this: don’t blindly follow every piece if interview advice you read on the internet. Last time my husband interviewed people for a job, one woman handed him a sealed thank-you note as she walked out the door. A real thank-you note, sent a day or so after a really great interview connection? Bad ass. A meaningless thank-you note clearly written before the interview had even happened? Yeah… she didn’t get the job.

    1. Google has provided me with many a pair of glass slippers in the form of information I searched for compulsively!

      What a tactless way of fumbling the thank you note. When done well, that’s your way in! But I’ve also had employers ignore ones I’ve sent, too. The job hunt was really a mixed bag of good and bad experiences, for me.

  6. Great article. Makes me nostalgic for those simple days. Great advice, I would only add do what you are passionate about, don’t worry about chasing the money, it seems like those I have known who do that end up miserable regardless of how much money they have. The people who follow their passion seem truly happy and often have plenty of money as well. I choose the happy with a bit of money over miserable with a lot of money. Thanks for the great post Katie. I would also say that renting is a lot easier than owning. A home is a pain in the ass. Just my opinion from my experience, I did not enjoy home ownership that much. 😦

    1. Great addendum! I totally agree. In the long run, the stress isn’t always worth the paycheck. I think you have more potential to be successful when you do something you love, too, because your job won’t feel like work.

      Home ownership isn’t for everyone, but I think if it’s something that’s on your radar, saving as much money as possible is the best thing. For me, I don’t like the idea of having a landlord to answer to when it comes to my residence, and to a lesser extent, the same concept applies to a homeowner’s association like you get with a town house. I like the freedom you get with a house, even if it does mean more money and more responsibilities.

      Plus, I want a yard!

      1. Then you should definitely get one! I look at it totally opposite now. There is a landlord to call to fix stuff when it breaks, which it will. but I don’t want to paint the picture it was all bad, home ownership had a lot of good aspects to it, but it is a lot more responsibility. I think your advice is totally sound, I remember owning my first home, it is a great, scary, satisfying, and weird feeling. One of those I think everyone should have in their lifetime. 🙂

  7. Pretty awesome advice there Katie. A lot of graduate are finding it hard. I’ve seen it myself. A lot of my friends are underemployed or can’t even find jobs in their field. But they’re driving on. Sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down.

    1. So many of my friends are underemployed, too. It’s really rough, especially if/when you get to that point where you have to settle for a job that may not be your first (or even second) choice. I was really lucky that I was able to wait it out for a little while. The job market has to stop being so shitty at some point, though.

  8. My only other advice is introduce yourself. Otherwise, it will be six months later and far too late and you’ll just have to pretend each other doesn’t exist.

  9. Oh, a-fucking-men. Yes. Sing it, sister. If only commencement speeches were this honest. Even though I graduated 23 years ago, it was true then too. It probably always will be. Great post.

    1. Yeah, all I got out of the commencement speech at my graduation was how glad I was going to be to get away from some of those people. Oh, and friendships last a lifetime.

    1. Oh jeez, I really think the job advice is good one year after graduation and then years after graduation… And twenty years after graduation, too. It’s rough–the whole process.

  10. Awesome post Katie! Very inspiring words. I definitely like the point that you made for people not to feel ashamed to live with their parents and save up money. I feel like that’s one of the smartest things people could do (unless their families are psychos).

    I just glanced up at the follow button and turns out I’m not following you even though I thought I was. Embarrassing!

    1. Thank you!

      I still live at home, and I likely will several more years. Sure it’d be great to have my own place, but it’d be ten times harder to save money and that’s what I need to be doing right now while it’s relatively easy.

      I won’t tell anyone about your shame.

Don't you sass me! ...Actually, please do.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s