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A young graduate’s guide to the real world (by someone who says she still has no clue)
Some of the best days come when you’ve supported and encouraging emerging talent. It’s going to be a big part of my future. Kicking off with today’s guest columnist Jessica Edgson, a talented young writer from whom we’re sure to hear a lot more. Read her advice to fellow graduates on how to get a great job and make up your own mind.
By Jessica Edgson*
So, you leave college or university with all these great ideas in your head. You’re going to change the world and you know exactly how to do it. You’ve got talent, wit and the education to back it up. It’s only a matter of a few applications before you’re successful, intellectually stimulated and no longer relying on mum and dad.
And then you are rudely awakened by the alarm clock of saturated job-markets, lack of experience and, well… the real world. Here are a few things you’ll need to know, and do, in order to survive your first year out of the education bubble.
1. You’re not alone.
I don’t mean that in a comforting way. I mean that there are thousands of people entering the job market with the same qualifications as you and looking to be paid for it. Leave all notions of self-entitlement at the golden gates of academia because, when it comes down to it, you have a piece of paper that proves that you can pretty much colour between the lines and bullshit a reason as to why you did it. Even if you spent the last twenty-odd years playing every sport, participating in every after-school society, and taking up every cause… you’re still one of many that have done just the same.
2. Find a day-job.
Yes, I know, you’re the visionary of your generation. But you can’t buy toilet paper with raw talent. Face the grotesquely bare-assed truth of the matter: you have no experience and therefore no way to prove just how downright brilliant you are. You can choose to stay at home, teach English in Asia or get a job, any job. Of course, you should first try for your dream job… and then when they don’t reply, apply for your dream unpaid internship. If you don’t get that then apply for everything that remotely relates to your abilities and what you studied. I’m definitely not saying that you should give up on [insert idealised version of career here], but you need to do something while you wait for someone to recognise your genius. Even if you refuse to settle for less than your over-educated self-worth thinks you deserve, at least you’ll be trained in the art of the interview and (if you’re as good as you think you are) get a confidence boost.
3. Market yourself.
This may sound like something that the less-than-truly-brilliant need to do to get recognised, but suck it up because if you don’t you’ll be brilliant at being underpaid and over-worked for the rest of your brilliant life. Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest and blogs may seem like ways for mediocre people to make their lives seem interesting, but they are just the gateway of what’s to come. If you’re a writer that doesn’t have a Twitter account or blog, or a designer/artist that doesn’t have an online portfolio… you’re invalid in modern society. Social media is a powerful tool, but use with caution because no-one cares about what you ate for lunch. Be different but be yourself.
4. Get cocky.
Here is where the fun starts. You’ve got your day-job (whether it is the start of a career or a downgrade from what your less-than-talented peers are doing). It’s been at least three months since you first held that hard-earned piece of paper in your hand and reality has left teeth marks on your soul. You’ve done everything you can to get where you want to be – legitimately and politely. You have absolutely nothing left to lose. The time has come to let all insecurities, pretences and humility go.
The internet, although it may seem to largely consist of cats doing adorable things, is a powerful tool. Use the stalking skills you’ve picked up on sites like Facebook – you know exactly what I’m talking about – to get the e-mail addresses of your career crushes. Look, they are most likely work e-mail addresses (if they aren’t you either have mad Google skills or they are aren’t that sought after) and that’s perfectly okay.
After you’ve written them down, with old-school pen and paper, bullet point why they’re awesome and then why you’re awesome. Don’t be shy because no-one, besides yourself and your privacy-inconsiderate sibling/roommate, is going to know what you put down. Then psych yourself up. Look over previous work that you’re outright proud of, send insecure messages to people you know will bloat your ego, or – if it comes to it – get shit-faced. Let that arrogant genius inside (the one that common sense and societal propriety has silenced) out to play. Write an e-mail to each of your “heroes” and make it real and sincere. Don’t read over it. This is not the time for grammar and spelling (if you’re a writer then you shouldn’t have to go back). Tell them what you want and why you want it.
If you get no responses then follow the next point very carefully.
5. Rinse and repeat.
Start from the beginning and look for a new job that you hate just a little less or that pays just a little more. Continue to market yourself online and go over the old posts and delete some of them with the heavy hand of time and experience. E-mail new career crushes or bug the old ones with new content. Just go back to the beginning every time you hit the end of the cycle, because if you don’t… you’ll never get anywhere. But please, never bullshit that last point. If you bullshit admiration you’re doing yourself, and the person at the other end, an injustice.
This is the guide that I wish I’d had. But it isn’t written in stone or even with ink. So, if you think you’ve found the golden pathway, then please follow it and send me a link. I’m only on my first cycle now… but I’m getting cockier by the day.
* Jessica Edgson is a young writer on a mission to land her dream job.
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