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February 10, 2009

by Nak

Remember when you thought graduating from college would be awesome? You’d find a job within a few weeks of graduating. You’d have bills, but be able to pay them. You’d figure out where your life was going.

And then you graduated. And, NEWSFLASH, things were not as you expected. Finding a job was much more difficult and took much longer. Dozens of resumes were sent out, with minimal responses. You finally found a job, but not one that you want to make a career out of. One that pays the bills. And now the economy sucks, and finding a new job has become even more difficult.

This story is all too familiar to me. I studied hard all through high school, earning an academic scholarship at a fairly well-known university in Boston. For five years, I worked towards a Bachelor of Arts. Fortunately for me (or so I thought), my college offered a combined degree program, where I could earn my Master in the Arts of Teaching simultaneously with my BA. So I jumped right on board. Through both cooperative education, part time work, interning, and student teaching, I came out of college with close to two years experience in my field, as well as a license from the state.

With all this experience, a MAT, and a license to teach first through sixth grade, I thought the job offers would be pouring in. My first interview was in April, before I graduated. They wanted me to come back for a second interview, but I foolishly declined. I wasn’t ready to make a commitment, thought the pay was too low, and expected other options. Well, it quickly turned into August, and I hadn’t heard from any of the dozens of school systems I’d applied to. It was extremely disheartening. I’d spent all this time and money on my education, and it didn’t seem to be helping me at all. I ended up taking a job at a childcare center the last week of August. At that point, I was just happy to have a job!

Over a year and a half later, I teach at an elementary school, but still not one that I plan to stay with long term. Many of the classmates I graduated with are in graduate school or have jobs that are not even related to their degrees. It makes me feel much better to know that I’m not the only one still in a transitional place in my life.

Then I look at my husband’s friends. Many of them own houses, and most of them are married. Although I am married, we are not even thinking about buying a house! What an intimidating thought! After spending time with this group, I feel like my life should be much more on track.

Lately I’m starting to think that maybe it’s not so important to have it all together. Although it would be nice to be able to buy a house right now, with the market so low, I realize that’s not right for me. There are still many things I want to do, such as living abroad, that I would not be able to do if I owned a house. Besides, the thought of being stuck in one place, tied to a property, does not appeal to me. I’m starting to be okay with the idea of not knowing where I may end up, where I might be living in six months.

I realize that many of you might find yourselves in a similar position. You may not be in a place that you like, or may feel bad about yourselves because you cannot afford some of the things societies tell us we should. Instead of putting all our effort into searching for careers, maybe we use this time to do the things we never thought we would: the things we always wanted to do, but never thought we’d have the vacation time or the money to do them.

I, for one, am going to try to live abroad. I did not take advantage of study abroad, and I really regret it. Since I am not working towards a pension or permanent status in a school, I’ve decided to apply for teaching positions in American and international elementary schools throughout the world. If I were in a place that I wanted to stay in right now, I would not be so willing to just up and leave. I would have to sacrifice the pension and permanent status for the dream of living abroad.

So, if you find that you are having a difficult time getting your life together, consider the doors that are open to you. There are things you can do now that you would never be able to do if you were settled in one career. Maybe we can somehow take advantage of our disadvantageous situations, while making ourselves more marketable as potential employees! Imagine what a year or two working overseas in a multicultural environment, volunteering locally (especially in something outside your field), or being a summer tour guide would do for you resume! When it comes down to it, this downturn in the economy might offer you the chance to think outside the box, to do something you would never be able to do if you had found that dream job right away and stuck with it for life.


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