Morgan Grain is a recent Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Atlanta, Ga. During her time as a student journalist she served as editor-in-chief for her university’s student magazine Journey. Two of her issues helped Journey win first place in the Southeaster Journalism Conference’s “Best College Magazine” category. She was also awarded third place in the SEJC “Best Magazine Writer.” She’s a lover of three things: reading, writing and traveling.
After interning for Time Inc. for two consecutive summers at ESSENCE and InStyle magazines, she quickly realized that the fast-paced life and entrepreneurial spirit of the big city was where her media career would flourish. During her internship at ESSENCE, she was able to write her first nationally syndicated article, which was published in the December 2012 issue. She is currently working toward receiving her master’s degree at New York University’s Gallatin Individualized Study program.
To say that the workforce in today’s society is extremely volatile would be a negligent understatement. To be quite honest, there aren’t enough jobs for the amount of graduates universities and colleges are pumping out twice to three times a year with the fleeting promise of job security fulfilling careers. That doesn’t necessarily mean that receiving a bachelor’s degree is useless or that investing four years of your life into formal education is a waste. Now more than ever students need to approach education from a different perspective and use that time to discover not what they think they should be doing, but practically pursue their passions in life.
Establish Multiple Streams of Income- In an ever so volatile job market, where one day an employer can tell you that they see you as an asset to the team and want to provide opportunities for growth and 11 months later they are letting you go under budget cut pressures, it is very advantageous for students to begin thinking early in their college careers of ways to establish multiple streams of income. It is always great to pursue what you are passionate about and make what you love into a career. But one mistake a lot of college students make is not making practical decisions about what they want to do. You may love ceramics and pottery making, but do you really have to major in it? Create a ceramics and pottery business on the side while you are in school and sell them to friends or family members. Research places where you can teach pottery classes on weekends for extra cash. One of the joys of today’s world are the advantages of technology, where you can build customer bases online. To help expand your business, you might major in entrepreneurship or business administration making you more marketable than if you pursued a degree in ceramics. When you graduate you won’t feel the pressure or depression that comes with not finding a job immediately after college, but can glean from the success of your side hustles until the dream job you want at a furniture company comes along.
Build Your Brand- Believe it or not everyone is a walking billboard of self-promotion. Through social media and self-publishing sites it isn’t hard for people to find what you are interested in and how well you are able to promote yourself. IF there is something you enjoy doing or a field you want to break into, make yourself a young expert in that field. Curate that knowledge and genuine interest and make it applicable to your environment. One thing companies love is a passionate and educated person within their niche market that has innovative ideas on how to expand their own brand. If you have already established a strong brand within yourself, it will be easy for companies to recognize your worth and how you will contribute to theirs.
Know Your Worth- Speaking of companies recognizing your worth, they can’t do so unless you have already recognized it within yourself. This doesn’t mean being cocky or believing that companies would be stupid not to hire you, and sometimes this is true. But knowing your worth comes with educating yourself on what specific field you want to enter, recognizing the previous trends of this field, anticipating future trends of the field and placing yourself in the position to fulfill those needs of the field. I once heard that the people who are never unemployed are the people who create jobs for themselves. Once you can identify where a company is struggling and can apply your specific expertise to fixing that, you have just established your value in your classrooms and in the workplace.
Don’t Network, Build Relationships- Most of my helpful industry relationships did not develop after I graduated college, they developed while I was in college. I’ve come to learn that being in college is the best time for anyone, because 1) employers and industry professionals know you are still learning and are more willing to help you 2) they don’t feel you are reaching out to them just to ask for a job and won’t feel pressured when you ask to meet. Don’t be afraid to ask for informational interviews with people at companies you see yourself working with after graduation Take the time in college to develop strong relationships with people in the field you aspire to work in, so that when you actually do enter the field you already have some allies that can vouch for you. It really is about who you know that can recommend you to the right person, you just have to make sure you are well versed in your field, because who you know might get you in the door, but what you know will keep you there.
Gain Experience- With such a large number of people searching for employment, things can get competitive during a job search. What makes an interviewee stand out more than anything is valuable work experience. You may graduate with a 4.0, but if all you did was bury yourself in your books and didn’t learn how to apply all of that wonderful knowledge nobody will hire you. Many schools have emphasized the importance of internships, but any internship won’t do the trick. It has to be the right internships with the right companies and the right learning experience. I’ve been on internships where the company really nurtured me and wanted to teach me how to be successful in my field. And I’ve had others where all I did was get coffee and lunch and made copies and shred paper. That type of internship will not get you a job, even if it is with a great company. Employers want to know if you can perform tasks, critically think and innovatively work. Search for reputable internships that put in place to develop strong relationships, and establish a personal brand that will help you succeed in your classrooms and in your career.