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Life > Experiences

The Ups-and-Downs of Post Grad: A Personal Reflection

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Towson chapter.

By Ayotomi Akinlosotu-Williams

It’s back-to-school season! Even more importantly, it is soon-to-be grad season for many hard-working students. Before you know it, the semester comes to an end and the next thing you know, you’re crossing a stage and accepting your diploma. All of those college experiences come to a halt and you are thrown into adulthood. The good news? You’re officially free of the shackles and structures that come with school. The bad news? Well, that’s up to you to decide.

Personally, post-grad has been nothing short of a wild roller coaster. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and it only becomes more apparent the older we get. There is a lot of pressure to not only graduate in a 4-year-time frame but to come out with enough experience to launch into a career. Nine months after graduating from Towson University in December 2022, I have finally landed a job that aligns exactly with my career goals. 

Let’s take a deep walk down memory lane. 

The COVID-19 pandemic changed my home situation drastically. Students with emergency situations were allowed to live on campus during the summer, but as this was only a temporary solution, I had no choice but to begin financially supporting myself. As a self-supporting student during my latter college years, I had to focus on earning enough money to pay rent and keep myself going until graduation.

Later college years happen to be the primetime for finding an internship. “Entry-level” jobs these days expect one to three years of experience, at the least, so getting your foot in the door during school is the ideal timeline. Most advisors will steer students down this path as well, especially because of resources such as Handshake and the Career Fair that give students opportunities to be recruited. Despite this, I am one of those who never had an internship until after graduation. 

At the time, I didn’t think it made a huge difference. My priority was to support myself and the few responses I’d get back were about unpaid or very low payment roles that didn’t match my living costs. I didn’t take it too hard and just focused on the multiple part-time jobs that were getting me through college at the time. I figured I’d easily be able to find an entry-level job in my field once I got my diploma, not knowing what I know now about the job market. 

As a mass communications major and political science minor, there are quite a few fields I can fall into (i.e. media journalism, PR, corporate communications). Throughout my senior year, I began applying to every internship under “communications” on both LinkedIn and Indeed. Once again, my lack of experience kept bringing me opportunities with little to no payment, forcing me to keep searching. This is a scenario many students with little financial support face: finding the time to gain the experience while still being able to survive.

One day, a couple of months before graduation, my close friend randomly sent me an Instagram post from an organization that was seeking out Journalism majors for a paid federal internship. She was aware of how stressed I was and sent me it as a last hope. I applied immediately, and lo and behold! I got a response a week later. Following a lengthy interview process, I landed my first internship at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in Arlington, Virginia, where I worked in the Office of the Chief Operating Officer as an intern completing digital journalism tasks from January 2023 to April 2023.

After that contract ended, and my professional growth was beginning, I was fueled to push myself further. I had been taking a project management course on Coursera for a few months, so I felt that I could dive into that industry as well. I began rapidly applying again for both communications and project management jobs with competitive salaries. I spiced up my resume as much as possible and tried to hype up even the most common skills I possess. Also, I had a mall job on the side that was helping me support myself in the meantime.

Many, many, many rejections later, I got hired at BARE International as a Junior Project Manager. Although this job was not the pay I needed to live comfortably, it was the only offer at the time and I knew I was being thrown a life jacket by the universe. 

Finally, a month after working at BARE, I received an interview request from another recruiting organization on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A full-time position with the exact pay I was searching for, working towards a mission I am passionate about and doing the things I enjoy (writing and creating). 

Fast-forward through a lengthy interview process and background check, I have now officially begun this week! I’m super excited to see where this career path takes me, and I can’t wait to play a part in bettering this planet.

My advice to current students? First, START APPLYING NOW. Some recruiters take literal months to respond, or the posting may be for an internship starting a semester away. Whatever the case may be, getting an early start on applying never hurts.

Second, DON’T be picky! Sure, we all want to land our dream company and focus right after graduation. But, life is full of blessings in disguise. Passing up a less-glamorous internship in hopes of landing your dream internship might just leave you with – no internship! Every little bit helps and recruiters love to see what skills you have picked up. Focus on building your resume, and that dream company just might seek YOU out one day!

Lastly, avoid comparing yourself to your peers! I graduated a semester late due to switching majors, which gave me mega-FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I felt like I was behind the class I started with because most of them left before me. Even after that, logging onto LinkedIn and seeing constant job announcements from my classmates while I was still searching would leave me with the same feeling. FOMO is a normal feeling, especially for humans who thrive on community, but it’s important to remember everyone’s timing is different. We all have different life experiences that we handle differently, and for all you know, they might not even be in the field they want to be in! 

Whatever the case, make sure you are following your true path and being your authentic self. The transition from college to adulthood is daunting, to say the least – whether you’re still at home or already moved out, the one thing everyone can do is stay vigilant, never stop learning, and never stop improving!

Tomi plans to impact the world with her words one day, currently pursuing a career in journalism. A Nigerian PG County native, she can be found outside having a blast, or inside binge watching TV shows with her beloved cat Salem. Her favorite parts of life include cheesy foods, nature, R&B, the fantasy genre, books, musicals, traveling, and photoshoots!