Last Thursday I went back to high school. A 2009 graduate of Bermudian
Springs, the last time I had been in the cafeteria was when I was
dressed in the symbolic cap and gown. But last week I was there, returning
as a writer, sent to cover the end of their 13 years of school.
Those 136 graduating seniors were so excited. I distinctly remember that feeling—ecstatic euphoria perhaps twinged with apprehension or maybe even sadness. On that night three years ago there was no nostalgia, no sadness, and no regret from me. Echoing the attitude of many before me, I was ready to be done. Move on to the bigger and better. Grandeur awaited.
Three years later those dreams and hopes are not crushed, per se, but
greatly tarnished by the harsh reality of the economy.
Graduates of 2012, I hate to tell you this, but it’s rough out there. Jobs
are scarce. Internships are hard to get. And no one wants to pay you a
lot, if they pay you at all.
Before I turn you away by my jaded rant, it’s not all bad. There are jobs
and opportunities available, but you’re going to have to work for them.
You’re going to have to work harder than you ever thought. Forget about the
time-consuming senior research paper for your 10th-period English class;
that pales in comparison. Basic challenges like getting someone to call
you back for an interview will immediately present themselves.
Navigating this desert economy looking for more than a mirage of a job, if
not a career, I have learned some simple rules:
1. The squeaky wheel gets the grease
A favorite saying of my mother, she would always use it to remind her
daughters that those who speak up, and those who are persistent will get
noticed. I always roll my eyes when she says this to me, but she’s right.
The job applicant that calls after not hearing back from a submitted
resume or interview shows interest in the job. Ten other people applied
for that same job — show them that you’re interested in their
store/business/company, and that they should be interested in hiring you.
2. Network. Network. Network.
You don’t need to memorize the Who’s Who directory of your area. A lesson I
keep learning over and over is the best job connections come from family
and friends. When your Aunt Joan says she might know someone from a former
job, or even her book club, give it a chance. Even if they can’t give you
a job, maybe they can give you the phone number of someone who can.
3. Take what you can get
Be prepared to take an unpaid internship. Another quote from my mom: It’s
called “paying your dues.” That unpaid internship will help set you up for a
paid internship, or even a job. No jobs in the field you want? Start
waitressing, bar tending, or take whatever other minimum-wage job you can
get. You can still look for other jobs, but making money is always somewhat of a
Looking over this list, I need to clarify that I am in absolutely no way
an expert on jobs. The thought is laughable. Yet I wish as that former
bright-eyed high school graduate someone would have told me what to expect
as I searched for my first internships and summer jobs.
This December I will again don a cap and gown, but this time it will be
for my graduation from college. As I move on from internships, and into
the search for my first post-college job, I hope to retain some optimism
from my high school years, yet stay grounded in the job market’s
Hey, even if I have to bar tend for the first couple of years after college, at least
I’ll know how to make a really good margarita.