Familiar to most English majors is that moment of panic when we think about life after graduation. Some have their careers planned out, whereas some take opportunities as they come along, but leaving college and beginning anew is a universally daunting task. To acknowledge and address these anxieties, the English Department has assembled a panel of recent alumni to tell us their stories and answer questions–this Friday, February 1st, from 3:30-4:30pm in BC 207.
As a preview, alumni Erin Kelley from the class of 2010 answered some questions about her transition from college to becoming a Nike Digital Producer. Here are some of her words of wisdom:
What did you do before graduation to prepare for life after college?
Erin: This is simply one of the prices you pay as an English Major (unless you plan to teach). While your nursing/teaching/non-humanities friends are completing their clinicals (or what have you), you’re in the library researching for your upcoming paper on Swift’s nuanced critique of colonialism in Gulliver’s Travels. Unfortunately, your future employer probably doesn’t care a whole lot about that. My recommendation is to find an internship, (yes, even if it’s unpaid) that will allow you to get your feet wet in an industry you find interesting. I started my first internship the summer before my senior year, so when I graduated it was as though I already had a year of experience, which was a huge asset when I started looking for a full-time position.
I know, I know you’re so busy with taking seventeen ridiculous credits, and writing for the Beacon and let’s not even mentionthat thesis you’ve been putting off for months… but, trust me, make the time for an internship now and you’ll be so happy later on.
How did you find out about/receive your current position?
Erin: I have had mixed experience with finding jobs, but my first recommendation would be to start networking. Set some time aside to research informational interviews, and get in touch with UP alumni and friends that graduated before you. It may feel like you don’t know that many people, but if each person you speak to refers you to three other people, then that network can expand exponentially.
Additionally, go to as many relevant networking events as you can. You may feel awkward and out of place, but these socials are a rich opportunity to meet valuable contacts. I spent almost two years working at Google, and I got offered that position simply because I met the right person at the right time and place. The ratio of available jobs to unemployed people is daunting—you may have to hunt for a decent opportunity, but it’s out there if you’re determined to find it.
What was the hardest step towards finding a job after college?
Erin: This is the most difficult part about finding a job after college: no employer, no matter how simple the position they’re hiring for, wants to hire someone without any experience. At some point, you may end up feeling that it is impossible to find a job because every position requires experience, but you have no opportunity to get that initial experience. It is not impossible, though it can be deeply frustrating. The best advice I can give you is to look for experience in less conventional places and early on. Apply for any internship you can find. Offer to do contracting work. Shadow your current professional references. Pursue relevant experience, even if it’s unpaid, as it can really pay off down the road.
If you’ve expired all these options, consider starting a blog or a YouTube channel. Show your potential future employer that you know how to take initiative. Parlay that experience into your resume. Above all, stop thinking of professional experience as previous jobs you’ve held, and instead think of how your extracurricular experiences have informed and shaped your professional development. Frame your experience in that context and you’ll succeed.
What English-like hobbies do you keep outside of work?
Erin: I spend a great deal of time, outside of my “day job,” writing and otherwise managing my personal style blog (www.stumptownstil.com). It’s a lot of work, but it’s my creative outlet and therefore I believe it is essential to my sanity, even if it does drive me to the edge of said sanity some days.
The story goes like this: for years I firmly believed that I would work as an editor in the publishing industry after college. Of this, I was unquestioning, as though it were my predetermined fate. Specifically, I wanted to work as the editor of a fashion magazine. Around 2008, when traditional media (and the entire US economy) were essentially going to hell in a hand basket, I realized that this might not be the best long-term career decision. I made the difficult choice to go in a different career direction when I graduated, two years later, and honestly, I don’t regret having done that. I did, however, miss my fashion-editor aspirations. After I got my feet underneath me as a professional, however, I realized that while I would never live out that dream, I could still incorporate that passion into my life. I decided to launch a blog last year and, while my name isn’t up there with Anna Wintour’s, I still have the opportunity to do what I love and, really, that makes all the difference!