School Was My Hustle: Grad School & The Job Hunt (Part 1)
Last Thursday I turned in my thesis for my Master’s degree. I suppose it’s what I’ve been working toward since I began my journey of higher education almost five and half years ago. A year and a half ago, coming out of undergrad I didn’t know much. (Still don’t know a lot). However, I knew that I didn’t want to return home to Chicago and I also knew I didn’t want to work fifty hours a week for slave wages. Since I can remember I’ve been good at school. It’s been my ‘hustle’ of sorts. So it seemed like the natural step to take my behind uptown to Columbia to get my graduate degree in Film Studies (the same field as my undergrad degree).
Prior to accepting my place at Columbia, I was told by countless individuals that perhaps getting my degree in the same field wasn’t the wisest choice. And that advice was actually probably spot on. I probably should have gotten my MA or PhD in Africana Studies. But as a wise man once told me, it’s Columbia and you don’t turn down Columbia. Still, I had the opportunity to take some classes in the Africana Studies department whilst obtaining my MA, and those were the classes where I actually got A’s and kept up with the reading and was enthusiastic. It was in those classes taught by people of color with students of color, which helped me begin to shape my thesis. I won’t lie, I was fairly miserable in my MA film classes. I’m not saying the faculty wasn’t up to par; I was just bored and uninterested. Frankly I spent a great deal of time being irritated that I was the only Black person or brown person for that matter in my program. I also lost my dad at the beginning of the second semester, which was devastating for me, and caused me to retreat inward. (I’m severely non-confrontational and my coping mechanism is to retreat.)
Luckily as I tend to do, I figured it out. I made it out with a pretty decent GPA, a piece that I’m extremely proud of, and a full ass graduate degree from an Ivy League University. Not so shabby I’d say. The question that I’m grappling with now is what’s next?
|On Figuring Out What's Next|
Probably almost a year ago now, my best friend called me all excited. She’d just finished reading this book called The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter-and How to Make The Most of Them. She raved about the physiologist who wrote the book and she talked to me about the different case studies that were presented. I promised to read it ASAP. Well, seasons passed as they do in life, and the book just sat on my Kindle wish list. This past October my best friend came to NYC to visit and she brought with her a hard copy of the book. I picked it up two days ago and I’ve nearly finished. The book promoted me to write about my own experiences, specifically about work/career thus far.
WORK. I’m certainly no stranger to it. Since leaving my graduate assistant-ship in May my brain has been consumed with the idea of work, of finding that job, that career starter. I won’t lie my motivations are mostly money driven; I want nice things (a nicer apartment, more clothes, traveling funds, etc). The position I had all of last year was fine, but when the school year ended I decided not to continue, hoping to find something in my field. Higher education was never anything that I’ve been interested in, and the office environment where my position was held was rapidly changing and not in a good way. So I went home to Chicago for a while, got my parents house cleaned out and placed on the market and came back to NYC for a summer position. I won’t say much about the summer position other than, I will NEVER do something like that EVER again. The saving grace for me was that it was a couple of blocks away from my apartment so I didn’t have to pay that $112 monthly Metro card. At the end of the summer, I was offered a position there permanently, which I swiftly turned down with a polite NO. So there I was jobless with a full thesis to write. Though I was still a full time graduate student, I felt, and I still feel that I should often be doing more. More of what? I don’t know but definitely more of something. I interviewed for a couple of full time positions and though I made it to the final stages of the interview processes I was turned down in favor of someone who had more experience.
|Things I say when I'm feeling sorry for myself|
I’ve found in my measly years on this earth that blessings are often hidden in setbacks. A woman who I interviewed with for a job I did not get told me that a really great company was looking for interns. I was irritated. My resume is FULL of internships. I’ve gone on a MILLION coffee runs, I’ve babysat dogs in luxury apartments in Mid-town and I’ve been treated like trash all in the name of an internship (All this while going to school full-time, working part-time and being an RA slave). SMH. Anyways I ended up accepting an internship with this company and it turned out to be a great experience. Everyone was extremely nice and respectful, I felt moderately useful most of the time and in my downtime I worked on my thesis.
And yet, the money was still on my mind. For the past three months, while interning and writing my thesis. I submitted hundreds and hundreds of cover letters and resumes to no avail. As Thanksgiving grew near I became more and more anxious. I attended THREE career sessions and several panels, to try and get better insight into the entertainment job market. Not to be rude but after awhile it’s the same ole shit. It was the final two career appointments the put me over the edge. I was told that perhaps I should continue interning and that maybe I should consider this that or the third which had NOTHING to do with what the F I want to do! Like I said, I’m very non-confrontational by default but I was forced to get the women in my final career advisement appointment together.
|My response when I was told to try for another internship SMH|
I sat there and listen to her spout the same crap I’ve been told time and time again. “But your only 23, you’ll land on your feet. I’m not worried about you...” Blah Blah Blah LISTEN I know these people meant well but honestly, I felt that advice and affirmations like that are both condescending and unhelpful. I have no interest in just “landing on my feet” so to speak. I realize the economy is still shit but, I’ve worked damn hard and whatever job I receive will be both meaningful and a stepping-stone. If I wanted to do just anything or work anywhere, I would have accepted the job that I was offered at the end of the summer. Or, I would have taken this other position I was offered recently where I was going to be paid minimum wage. Do I put a lot of pressure on myself? Yes, I probably do but it’s because I know how great I can be. Reading just the first section of Defining the Decadehelp reaffirm that for me.
Being 20something obviously means being plagued with uncertainty. I’m already a chronic worrier (I’m trying to do better). But, there are some things I DO know. I know what I am passionate about and what I am capable of. If I’m going to spend my days worrying about my weight, my new hairstyle, or guys, or whatever; then at the very least my work life should have some direction. It should have some intention to it. Yes, I could spend my time just anywhere for now and wait and worry about “later” however, “Doing something later is not the same as doing something better.”
So I left that final career advisement appointment feeling extremely pressed. I still had my thesis to edit and my inbox was about as dry as possible in terms of the job hunt. Just as I began kinda sorta pondering a PhD program things began to happen. I got the ok to write for any extremely dope website which I’ve mentioned here before. (Hopefully I will have some great posts there I can share in the New Year). I got a job interview with a really cool company that I’m waiting to hear back from. And, most excitingly a recruiter for a huge media conglomerate got in touch with me about two job positions that I’ve had the opportunity to interview for. So for now, I’m playing the waiting game and that’s not necessarily comfortable but in my opinion its better than taking “just anything.”
To Be Continued
Xoxoxo Chocolate Girl In the City xoxoxoxo