The diplomas are handed out, the graduation caps are tossed into the air and pictures are taken with everyone, everywhere. After all the tears, cheers and celebration, that’s when it hits you: What now?
For those not entering graduate school, the next step after graduation is to enter the working world.
“It’s one of life’s most difficult transitions,” said Marcie Kirk Holland, “leaving the unstructured world of college, [where] there still is a lot more flexibility than once you go into the world of work, where it tends to be a 40-hour work week and set vacations.“
While this might sound daunting, graduating seniors Sophie Taylor and Matt Houser are optimistic about what lies ahead.
Houser, a communication and film studies double major, has applied for and received several internship opportunities in the field of public relations. He is currently looking into a public relations firm in San Francisco and is excited to be joining the workforce straight out of college.
“It’ll be different, but I can get used to it,” Houser said. “I’m hoping it will be a good transition.“
He opted to postpone graduate school because of the expenses and to get a better sense of what he wants career-wise in the future. For Houser, this step is necessary.
“This way, I can see if [public relations] is something I want to do and besides, a lot of grad schools want people to have some job experience.“
Taylor is also counting down the days until graduation. Although she will be receiving a degree in German, she dreams of a career in graphic design for a fashion company.
“I’ve always looked forward to working, and my field is a fun one, though sometimes very stressful,” Taylor said. “I’ve had a few graphics jobs on campus, and I have freelance clients in six U.S. states and three other countries, so I feel very prepared.“
While visiting family in Germany a month ago, Taylor managed to score an interview at Puma headquarters for an apparel graphics internship.
“Doing graphics for Puma is my dream job, so I was thrilled that they thought I was qualified,” Taylor said.
She finds out sometime next week if she gets the job or not. If not, she plans to move to Germany or Toronto to pursue two design studios that have expressed interest in her.
Although Holland, project manager of the UC Davis Internship & Career Center, encourages students to go for the jobs they desire, she warns that it’s not always as easy as people would like it to be.
“Don’t give up on your dreams, but be aware that there will possibly be many small steps towards attaining them,” Holland said
Change of plans
Deanna Tuxhorn, who graduated from UC Davis with a degree in international relations in 2007, found it difficult at first to find a job that suited her interests. She feels that many new graduates tend to encounter a similar problem.
“I think some students are too narrow-minded – even I was at first,” said Tuxhorn in an e-mail interview. “They have their heart set on a certain position, but the truth is there are so many incredible positions that you find out about after you get into the workforce.“
She was offered several positions before graduation, but none of them really appealed to her.
“They just didn’t feel right,” she explained. “I ended up taking a part time job at the Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce and was able to work my way into a full-time position.“
“By the time people graduate, sometimes there idea of a dream job is no longer the same as what their major is,” Holland said. “There’s not always a connection between a major and a career.“
Holland emphasizes that while it’s a good idea to have a plan after graduation, it is necessary to keep an open mind to change.
“Be able to take advantage of those serendipitous moments that will present themselves to you that will make for a rich and fulfilling life,” Holland said. “What we’re really talking about is career life planning.“
For the most part, Holland said that students shouldn’t worry about having the “right” major. She explains that the curriculum at UC Davis teaches students transferable skills that can be applied across many disciplines.
“Most of the time, people have developed a set of skills while they’re in school,“ Holland said. “You’ve generally learned how to write, how to do research, had some kind of a course related to statistics…. You learn how to make and form an argument and build evidence that supports [it].“
In the first three months of 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has recorded 240,000 job losses. As of April 2008, the unemployment rate has increased to 5 percent. The numbers could be much worse, yet the economic downturn is causing a ripple of fear to move throughout the U.S.
“Anytime the unemployment rate is higher, it affects everyone looking for a job,” Holland said. “So that will certainly be a factor, but it doesn’t mean that new [graduates] will necessarily have a harder time than anybody else.“
According to the Bureau of labor statistics, employment has continued to decline in construction, manufacturing and retail trade, while employment increased in health care, professional and technical services and food services.
“With that said, if people are prepared to articulate what it is they have to offer to an organization, … their chances of being the ones selected for that opportunity go up dramatically,” Holland said. “And that’s what [the Internship & Career Center] is here to do. To help people be able to do that.“
The ICC aims to guide students into their chosen careers. They offer career source manuals, online mock interviews and different workshops that help students become competitive applicants. For more information, go to the ICC’s website at iccweb.ucdavis.edu.
“We have lots of services and we would like for students to come see us before they graduate,” said Holland. “We want to help that be an easy transition.“
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