It’s almost April, and even though I’m atrociously near-sighted, I can tell that graduation is around the corner.
For the past month at the UNC School of Media and Journalism, my professors have graciously invited professionals to speak about the job search, look over our resumes, teach us how to leverage LinkedIn and even provide contacts for recruiters at companies of our interest.
While the resources and advice are incredibly helpful, it’s impossible not to feel overwhelmed think about the other 1.8 million college graduates who are going to enter the work force at the beginning of May.
This is the real March Madness: staring my future in the face only to realize that it is a big black hole of uncertainty and indecision. My feelings toward this black hole can be completely summarized by the full-bodied cringe I experience every time someone expectantly asks, “So what are your plans for graduation?”
It’s not that I’m not trying to make plans; believe me, I’m trying. Personally, I’d rather spend my whole paycheck on Blockbuster stock than have to honestly answer “I don’t know.” Because not knowing is terrifying.
In an effort to internalize as much professional advice from anyone who offers it, I cannot help but quote the former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, who once speculated: “There are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also known there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” The last of these is the most terrifying, but it’s also the most helpful.
Let me start with the known knowns:
I know that I am not alone. There are almost 2 million people graduating in the same week as I am, not to mention the ones who graduated last May but are still looking for work. As part of the largest living generation, I should feel a mental solace in this united effort for the job search, but after hearing what hiring managers think of incoming millennial new hires, I’m not so relieved. According Newsweek, we can be summarized by the following things:
- Millennials are entitled. They feel that after graduating, they deserve a job that they actually like, an income worthy of their college debt, a work environment that is supportive of their individual passions.
- They aren’t easily satisfied. Millennials hop around between jobs, take a gap year, pretend that we need an “Eat, Pray, Love” episode to find ourselves.
- Millennials are high maintenance. It wasn’t just a phase of high school. They need a praise from the boss, but they don’t want to be micromanaged. Millennials want a pat on the back but they also need room to breathe.
These qualities are glaring, and while they might not be written explicitly on a resume, they can still be interpreted before the interview even begins.
Now for the known unknowns:
As a member of the UNC School of Media and Journalism’s Class of 2016, I can confidently say that we are smart, driven, innovative. What we lack in experience, we make up for in skill. We are talented, we make good first impressions, we network, we leverage our resources, we bring more to the table than just a resume. But for some reason, that is not enough.
- What is enough?
- How do I know that I’m doing enough?
- What makes my “enough” better than another candidate for the job?
- What happens if I’m not better? Where are the 40% of millennials who are unemployed? Do they work waitressing jobs until they get wifed-up by a hot shot who comes in every day for lunch (See: My Big Fat Greek Wedding)? Is there a corporate Rest Home for Burnt-Out 25-year-olds all across America for all these applicants who sleep on stacks of unread cover letters?
- Is anyone reading our cover letters?
And lastly, the unknown unknowns.
The things millennials don’t know they don’t know. The things no one is going to tell you, because nobody told them.
- Moving back in with your parents isn’t self-defeating. They probably miss you, anyways.
- The first job doesn’t have to be the best job. The best job probably requires experience at inferior jobs.
- In order for people to care about you, you have to care about yourself.
- You can do this.
- We can do this.