What Not to Do After College (aka What I Did)

6 11 2012

Guest post by Kristie Lewis

So you’ve seen a lot of great advice here about how to make the transition from pizza-eating dorm rat to productive member of society. Here’s a cautionary tale from my own experience.

I graduated from a prestigious private university in the South, at a time before the current economic freakout had set in. At that time, in the relatively sheltered and spoiled demimonde I was coming out of, everything seemed pretty much set up for us to succeed. I also, as a liberal arts major, had a certain philosophical insouciance toward material gain. This despite the fact that my parents were pretty broke throughout my childhood (as in, we all lived together in a single motel room for a couple months when we couldn’t find a house we could afford), and had persistently, even annoyingly, proclaimed the primacy of a good hard work ethic above all other values.

So, idiot that I was, I wasn’t particularly worried about getting a job. I had some friends moving to Boston and getting a house together, so I figured, who cares if I don’t have something lined up, I love that city, it’ll be a blast, why not?

Well, the rent in Boston, is why not. Having worked a bit in publishing, I interviewed for many jobs in that sector (which is pretty abundant in Boston, especially academic presses) but was coming up dry. Summer was fun, of course, but by the time the leaves began to change, any graduation gift money I had received had long been spent.

Full-time gigs were not forthcoming, but I tried a series of little jobs that never quite paid the bills. I worked for a time in a soon-to-be-closed video store, 10 hours a week (which was about as long as it seemed I spent on the bus to get there). I interned one day a week, and ushered nights, at an arthouse cinema in Cambridge. That place was absolutely fantastic, so much so that I would gladly hang out there for free…which in fact I did, because being an arts nonprofit, it was very tight on funds.

Similarly, I next fell in via Craigslist with a tech entrepreneur, who had a very innovative mobile gaming concept, but alas, the big round of venture capital never appeared, and it sort of wound down slowly while I hemorrhaged cash, working pro bono toward the end because the project I was working on was so cool, and I hoped having it on my résumé might take me somewhere interesting.

Toward the end, I began to put rent on promotional-rate checks sent to me by my friendly neighborhood credit-card company. [NOTE: this is a really bad idea.]

I thus took my place as one of the infamous “boomerang generation,” forced to move back into my parents’ house and regroup. After age 18, your mental health requires that you never spend more than two weeks at a time with your parents. It’s bad for your stress levels, your self-esteem, and above all your love life. It was good to reconnect with family, and we were all aware that we would never get quite that much quality time again, so there was a silver lining, but the importance of my genuine adult development required that I move on, sooner rather than later.

My saving grace was SAT tutoring, the best way for a bright college graduate to stack quick (and often tax-free) cash money. This finally gave me enough momentum to achieve escape velocity. A few “real” jobs later, I’m doing just fine, but I’m here to tell you: it’s probably easier to get it right the first time. That said, if things get rocky, don’t feel like you’ll end up living beneath an overpass. It’ll be OK.  Just be more cautious than me.

Byline:

This is a guest post by Kristie Lewis from construction management degree. You can reach her at: Kristie.Lewis81@gmail.com.

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