In a few weeks, I will celebrate the three-year anniversary of what I jokingly refer to as the “worst day of my life,” my graduation day from Boston College.
Shortly before dawn on that fateful morning, I gathered with my fellow members of the class of 2009 to watch the sun come up over the Boston skyline. It never did.
It turned out to be a rainy May day in Chestnut Hill, with a high in the low 40s. I was sleep-deprived, freezing and emotionally exhausted. I sat bleary-eyed through a four-hour ceremony, only to have to return to my apartment and pack up my belongings before 5 p.m.
As my parents’ minivan made its way down Commonwealth Avenue, tears streamed down my cheeks. I sobbed until we left the outer limits of Boston.
When my father noticed my crying, he said: “It’s OK. You can come back.”
To which I irrationally responded: “No, I can’t. I’m moving to California.”
Months earlier, during the holiday break, I had been swarmed with the overwhelming question, “What are you doing after graduation?”
I set about weaving a safety net for myself. An English major, I knew my academic choices had not left me many practical skills. My internship experiences only went so far. So I applied to graduate school and eventually accepted a position at a school in Los Angeles.
For my friends entering the workforce, the gloomy graduation day seemed the perfect metaphor for the months to come. Several took jobs in retail or food service, or turned to temporary staffing agencies to help ride out the down economy. A huge percentage moved back in with their parents.
Those were not unusual occurrences then and, sadly, they are not now. The Associated Press reported Monday that one-half of college graduates are without jobs or underemployed. An astounding 85 percent of college seniors plan to move home following graduation, according to a November CNN report.
On Thursday, I had the privilege of talking with two job recruiters about this issue during a GoErie.com online chat. Their advice for job-seeking college graduates was to network, whether by completing internships, approaching potential employers or making profiles on professional social-networking websites like LinkedIn. You can read a transcript of our conversation at GoErie.com/chat.
Happily, I can report that since graduation, the vast majority of my friends have found jobs they enjoy. Some have returned to school to pursue new opportunities. And the economy is faring much better than it was in the spring of 2009. It’s still not ideal, but we’re getting there.
I will also be celebrating another anniversary this May: my graduation from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism one year ago.
On that day, I basked in the California sunshine as I received my degree. There were no tears, only smiles.
And a matter of weeks after leaving school, I packed my life into a car yet again. My destination: Erie, Pa., a new location, a new adventure and, most importantly, a new job.