Words from a College Senior

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By Danielle Farage

I remember the day my mom lost her job during the 2008 recession. I was 10 and I had no idea what a recession really was. As soon as we heard the news, my family life began to change dramatically: vacations stopped, summer camp was suddenly not an option, and my full-time working mom was home all the time. Every morning before school, I’d open the front door to take my dog for a walk, and at my feet would lie images of Occupy Wall Street on the front pages of The New York Post. Weeks went by listening to the news, and I vividly remember the moment I learned that this economic downturn was affecting college graduates. I felt my anxiety levels rise as I realized that my older brother was preparing to go off to college.

Needless to say, my fear of the future stemmed from the idea that this recession could impact my own brother’s career and ability to get a job. However, as I better understood the helpless disposition of millions of college graduates that fear turned into compassion. At 10 years old, I got a taste of the frustration and anger that I would eventually experience 11 years later.

Fast forward to today, I feel like I just stepped outside my door, looked down, and was suddenly on the front page of the New York Post.  I never thought that would be me. Never in a million years did any 4th year student, including myself, imagine that the cause of this economic struggle would also abruptly end our college years. The feelings of anxiety and fear, those have returned. But the compassion I feel for my 2 million fellow seniors is why I’m writing this message.

Like many who might be reading this, I’m a 21 year old gearing up to graduate from a 4 year university that I worked my butt off to get into. I completed four years of high school, balancing 5 extracurriculars, weekend jobs, days full of 8am-5pm classes, and of course, multiple all-nighters for AP courses. I got into my dream school, USC, moved far away from my family and friends in New York, and completed more schooling. I also worked part time internships every semester in order to get a sense of what I might want to do. As I began to visualize what my life could look like and prepare for my post-grad plans, a virus shook the world.

As soon as reality hit, I realized that I will likely never see the people I’ve spent the past 4 years with again. The senior events I’ve waited for and watched my older friends celebrate, those are gone. The graduation you attended for your older siblings, either postponed or totally cancelled.

That feeling is painful, and personally, I won’t let myself go there yet. But I believe that in every dark moment or hard time, there is a silver lining.

What we do have is time, and as you may have heard from older people in your life, time is valuable! We have the time to pick up a new skill, connect with old friends, learn a new language, or create a photo album of college memories. If you’ve never been tested by life’s tough circumstances, it’s probably in your nature to focus on what could have been because we were so close to it, we could almost taste it. But, when you face challenges, the way that you choose to deal with them builds character.

If you decide to live in the moment, focus on what you DO have, and do something that makes you feel good, you’ll survive and come out of this in a good headspace.  The positive mindset is what will help you get through the really tough challenges that life will throw your way and you’ll know how to persevere.

The other part that is really scary and something all of us should try to figure out is: how are we supposed to get a job? How do you start a career in a recession? Again, we lived through the 2008-2010 fiasco, but we weren’t adults and didn’t really understand the implications of what was happening around us.

Here’s what I DO know from having multiple internships throughout college: skills and experience will get you hired. If you don’t have experience, odds are, you won’t be able to get that before May. However, you CAN use this time to learn skills that will increase your chances of getting a job after all hiring resumes.

My internship at PathMatch has been a huge help in opening my eyes to the challenges that students face in that we’re SO closed off to the working world. Unless you have internships (which I only knew to pursue because I had older siblings), we essentially graduate blind to potential opportunities, we have almost no insight or understanding of what our careers could look like. Many of our professors haven’t worked in the real world ever or in a long time, and the people at the career center have ALWAYS worked in academia.

What I’m really getting at here is that if you’re unsure of what you want to do after college, now is a good time to take PathMatch’s free career assessment, which will point you towards different career paths that fit your personality, interests, work preferences, etc.  Based on that, PathMatch will give you a holistic understanding of what your life could look like, and then help you start exploring those paths, and building your skills.

In conclusion, my best advice is to focus on what you CAN control~because focusing on what you can’t won’t get anywhere besides crying in your mom’s lap. Positivity is what I’m focused on to help me move forward, and I hope you find what makes you happiest in the moment, as we are all taking this one day at a time.

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