“So what are you doing after graduation?” asked every one of my relatives over spring break.
As the end of my last semester of college draws closer, and graduation inevitably comes with it, I find myself being asked this question over and over again. Each time, I give the same answer: I don’t know. I don’t have a job lined up for after graduation. And I know of countless other seniors who don’t, either.
I’m not going to lie and say that it’s not scary, because it is. The unknown is always scary. There is nothing more ominous to a college student than the real world and the unfamiliarity that lies outside this institution’s walls. However, what I’ve failed to realize over the last three years and what I’ve recently began recognizing is that having a job lined up after graduation isn’t the be-all and end-all; I’m tired of people acting like it is.
Graduating from college is a major life milestone that not everyone reaches. Yet, the excitement and sense of accomplishment and pride that should be brought on with it are overshadowed by the fear, stress and anxiety caused by the job hunt. If that job hunt doesn’t yield results by the time you put on your cap and gown, graduation is considered a burden rather than a blessing.
This shouldn’t be the case, as the fact that someone doesn’t have a job before they graduate does not discredit all of the time, effort and dedication it took to earn their degree. Moreover, the fact that I’m still figuring out what I’m doing after graduation and where I will start my working career is not an invitation for pity; this is the norm for college seniors across the United States.
According to a study by Accenture Strategy in 2016, only 21 percent of college graduates nationwide graduated with a job. While this is up from 12 percent in 2015 and 11 percent in 2014, the vast majority (79 percent) of seniors are graduating without jobs. As bleak as it may seem, graduating from college with a steady, career-type job in place is an exception to the rule. Plus, there are many options out there for the majority of graduating seniors who will not have a job right out of college.
From paid and unpaid internships related to your field to transitional jobs in retail, food service, etc., there are many ways to make money and gain additional work experience until you find that first job, which doesn’t take long for most college grads. The same Accenture Strategy survey found that 61 percent of 2016 graduates found a job one to six months after graduation. Six months in an internship or retail job isn’t that long, giving you more time to research, apply and interview for positions in your field that will start your career.
It also might be comforting to know that in March 2017, the unemployment rate of people over 25 with a bachelor’s degree or higher was only 2.5 percent, which is a full 2 percent lower than the overall rate. So for those of us who don’t have our life — whether it be short- or long-term — figured out by the time that diploma is in our hands: that is okay.
There’s no set time frame for when your career has to start; whether you have a job or not, all college seniors should treat graduation as the major life achievement it is, rather than letting the stress of not having a job eclipse how hard you’ve worked to walk across that stage.
Giovanna Bernardo is a senior double-majoring in English and political science.