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A future not far off

Published: October 20, 2011, 12:11 am ET
Opinions Editor

I have this vision of myself this time next year. I am bumming around in the darkness of my parents’ basement wallowing in my inability to latch onto some noble, writerly pursuit.

Meanwhile, I imagine my sibling floating through medical school on a cloud that will one day shower him with public admiration, respect and financial stability.

I have panicked about my post-college potential to a friend more than once. She most recently tried to reassure me with the logic that my future is at least a year away. But is it? When and how will our futures begin? I feel the need to kick-start it now.

One blogger has magnificently expressed the fears of graduates: “Thirty years ago, we had Steve Jobs, Johnny Cash and Bob Hope. Now we have no jobs, no cash and no hope.” Based on this “9gag blog,” I look to some possible fears of my generation.

The year after we receive our undergraduate degrees, we may well be looking back and thinking how we had everything – the security net of our parents’ finances, a bed with fluffy pillows and a roof over our heads for which we did not have to pay the bills.

And  although I have practically no cash in my wallet, the blogger was wrong in two respects: there are jobs, and we should have hope.

According to the Richmond website, 97 percent of the members of the class of 2010 were employed within one year of graduation. Their average salary ranged between $40,000 and $44,999. And 28 percent of those graduates are enrolled in or have completed graduate programs.

If I was capable of crying from sheer happiness, I would have. Statistics can bring us faith. They can bring to life the potential  we so desperately want to fulfill. So can voices.

Leslie Stevenson, director of the Career Development Center, said: “Despite a challenging hiring environment, it is important for students to remain positive as they approach their career development.  Employers respond well to job seekers who are confident and display optimism.”

Yet of my friends who have graduated, one flew off to Uganda on a Christian mission, one has a corporate job and is living the life in uptown Charlotte and one is stuck at home in a seemingly endless and miserable job search.

So from where do we dig up our optimism? Do we follow the social or the statistical evidence that filters through our perceptions?

My eternally optimistic mother says that everything will work out in the end. But when is the end?

I feel the need to work in order for something to work out.

Even though we’re still in college, we can work. We don’t have to be employed yet to fast-track our futures. Stevenson placed emphasis on the effort to establish networks.

“It has been reported that up to 80 percent of opportunities are ‘unadvertised,’” she said. “Job-seekers can learn more about these unadvertised opportunities through their formal and informal networks.”

I feel a little behind. I have senior friends who had prominent business internships last summer and have already received and accepted job offers that will be waiting for them like neatly wrapped gifts come summer. They’re leaving me to sit and sweat out my anxiety while begging karma to be sweet to me for having two unpaid editorial internships.

But I’m starting to realize that, regardless of our certain or uncertain futures, we should be proud of ourselves. We’ve made it this far. We should be proud to tell others what we think we are capable of accomplishing, which internships we have had and how they humbled us.

So although I am still a parasite to my father’s paycheck, and although I am not ready to say it, I will: Within a year I will have gone through that process that begins with a “g” and ends with “raduation.”

Although I have friends who refuse to utter this word, we will all be ready for it, whether we admit it or keep our lips zipped. We should be proud to run from one interview to the next, flapping our resumes in the faces of distinguished corporate figures.

And if we get desperate, we may have our college years to pick us up. “A great way for University of Richmond students to strengthen their network is through connections with Spiders around the world who participate in the UR Career Network,” Stevenson said.

So there are people out there waiting for us. And I could stumble around outside catching falling leaves for luck. But sometimes advice from others is more tangible than what my hands can hold.

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