Thursday, February 25, 2010

Three Tips I've Got For Current Undergraduates

I won't lie to you here kids. Life after college is NOT fun. Sure, you might only be a freshman now and think that the "real world" is light years away from where you stand today. Hah. Think again! Those four years are going to zoom by so fast and before you even know it, you're back at home, living with your parents, re-doing your downstairs bathroom because (a) you're unemployed and (b) pretty much expected to help out wherever you can now. Welcome home, kiddo!

In all fairness, I have a loving family that is supportive of everything I do, allowing me to take a temporary leave of absence from the working world until I find a job that suits me. So I can scrape off some wallpaper and do some white-washing in exchange for this fair arrangement. But as I prowl through job search engines hour after hour, day after day, I realize how much easier snagging a desirable job would be if I had simply networked back in school. And how easy it is to do that!

(1) Continue to be, or start getting, involved. As a high school senior with an impressive GPA and a never-ending list of extra curricular activities, I could have gotten accepted into almost any college I applied to. And that's because I was involved. Even after college, employers like to see that you were keeping busy during your collegiate years, whether it was through intramural lacrosse or becoming president of your student rights association (is that even such a thing?) Whatever. The point is, I didn't do any of this. And because I didn't do this, it's hard to impress potential employers with my undergraduate experience. But you can save yourself now by running that beer-gutted belly of yours to your school's campus center and signing up for math club, or something like that. You get the gist.

(2) Don't hate on your teachers. When I was teaching English in Vietnam last year, I managed to connect with a wonderful woman who was a journalism professor at SUNY Albany. I originally contacted her in hopes of finding someone who would publish an article I had written about my Nam experience for Albany's Last Word magazine. That never ended up happening, but what I got out of this mass exchange of e-mail was a connection. My newfound teacher friend would post some of my blogs on her own website (, which reached a lot more readers than mine did. I was grateful for it. And my point here is - teachers are your friends. They're not only there to make your life miserable by assigning pointless projects and erroneous exams, which they have and always will inevitably do. They're also there to help you. To write recommendations. To be a guiding light when you need career advice. So remember - there's no shame, only success, in becoming a teacher's pet.

(3) Intern. Boy oh boy, did I miss the boat on this one, big time. I realized just how unfortunate it was that I had never taken part in a hands-on work experience during my undergraduate years after meeting my roommate in Vietnam, Christine ( The girl had made it a point to intern for at least one semester during every year she was at Marist college. And many of the connections she has today are ones that she made during those internships. Smart girl. And even for people like you and me who might have easy-to-mock majors like history or Russian literature, there's always something you can intern for, even if you're not an expert in the field. So please, folks, don't do what I did and trade your books for booze - make something of your college experience, because the truth is well-known and painful: you will only have one shot at it. So make it a good one!

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