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Graduating seniors prepare to enter the workforce as college years come to an end

March 17, 2022
<p>A graduation cap and gown photographed next to a laptop on April 22, 2020.</p>

A graduation cap and gown photographed next to a laptop on April 22, 2020.

Tick, tock. The countdown has begun. Tick, tock. Only two months until this semester's graduating seniors, well, graduate, and begin their lives after college — may that entail joining the workforce or pursuing a postgraduate degree. Tick, tock.

Entering the workforce is scary, and finding a job that will bring one joy and a livable salary can be overwhelming, especially when finishing out a college degree.

"For me, the biggest challenge has been that my class schedule is not really conducive to when recruiters call me and when they would schedule interviews because I'm either in class, or this semester, I have my main clinical (which) is the night shift in Grand Rapids,” nursing senior Grace Murphy said. “So when I have a night shift, I have to sleep all day the day before and the day after, so it's been difficult just being able to find time to actually do the interviews that doesn't conflict with my class schedule."

Although most entry level jobs are sub-par, graduating students still do not want to feel as though they are settling.

"The hardest part about this is finding the right job, or finding the right job that I want, that I really want,” public relations senior Daniel Dejene said. “And even though some of this is an opportunity that I think looks kind of promising, I'm really taking the time looking into more about whatever company it is that's reaching out to me, thinking about my living situations post graduation and stuff."

It can be daunting to think that the job you get fresh out of college will be your forever one, but that is not always the case. Some people do not even stay in the same field or choose to pursue a higher or different degree in the future.

"I'm not really thinking that my first job out of college is going to be where I'm going to spend the rest of my life,” social relations and policies senior Brooklyn Peppo said. “I think I'm definitely 100 percent going to go back to school. I don't know if that's going to be law school or grad school, but right now I'm really just looking for experience any way I can just put something on my resume, and hopefully something that will move me out of Michigan."

Peppo is not the only one choosing the path of entering the workforce before going back to school. Human biology senior Austin Outlaw will continue to work at the cardiology office he is currently at until taking the MCAT and attending medical school later on.

"I chose that route because, one, I think I needed more time to kind of mature,” Outlaw said. “I'm pretty young ... I feel like I didn't really get the whole, like, you know, kind of college experience type of thing, and since things were shut down because of COVID, I really don't have a lot of volunteer and healthcare experience, and I wanted to make sure that I was 100 percent ready."

There are also programs in which people just beginning to enter the force can partake in rotations to figure out where exactly in the field they would like to spend the rest of their lives.

"Getting to travel to a bunch of different areas, I think it's kind of a unique experience to be able to be in a program like that ... just having the opportunity to try out a bunch of things because I have no clue where within engineering I want to end up,” mechanical engineering senior Nathan Clinger said.

Many students have internships that help determine where they want to work and that help build their resumes, but some degrees also require this. The nursing program is an example of this.

"I did get really lucky cause my clinical placement is in a neonatal ICU, and that is pretty much the only reason that I am being considered for the jobs that I want most because I have so much experience,” Murphy said. “For example, there's 80 students in my cohort, over 20 of us requested peds for this clinical because it's kind of our final immersive, you do everything, clinical. Of those over 20 of us, five of us got peds, and two of us are in the neonatal ICU."

Internships or jobs in the field one is hoping to work in brings a new perspective to the field one is hoping to join later on. Outlaw explained that he saw a whole new side of medicine in the short time he has worked at the cardiology office.

"I always knew that I wanted to be a physician, but just in my four weeks of working at the cardiology office, my whole perspective of what physicians do, how they work, what a medical assistant does, what goes into scheduling appointments, all of those things that I really had no idea about, all of those perspectives have been changed,” Outlaw said. “So just being able to actually be in a clinic, it gives you a whole different perspective of medicine, so I wanted to be exposed to that."

Internships do not guarantee a job straight out of college, however. 

"Right now I applied to probably 50 jobs on both handshakes and indeed, which is similar to handshake,” Peppo said. “I guess I haven't the best of luck ... I don't have an actual job on my resume. I only have internships. I'm hoping once I get a real job, it'll be easy to get another job."

Another thing that makes entering the workforce a bit easier is having mentors to guide you through the application process or help you make connections with people or with businesses.

"My aunt is a nurse,” Murphy said. “She's a Michigan State graduate as well. So she's been giving me some advice. And then during downtime actually, when I'm at my clinical, the nurses there have been helping me with applications and prepping with interviews, so that's definitely been really helpful to have that resource."

Networking and talking to people in the field one is hoping to join can also be helpful in getting advice for the future. Clinger explained that those he worked with at his previous internships have given him advice for how to balance work and a personal life.

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"Having things to do outside of work seems to be a big thing,” Clinger said. “So having either a friend group or joining some sort of sport, club or activity, so that you can have something that grounds you."

This transition period from college to the workforce is certainly a bittersweet one.

"What excites me, for sure, is the chance of a new chapter in my life,” Outlaw said. “College has been absolutely fun and fantastic. It's had its ups and downs, but I'm ready to be done, quite frankly, I am ready to be done. So I am looking forward to something new, and not even possibly just a new career, new lifestyle, but also possibly a new place to live."

Outlaw is not the only one looking forward to moving to a different state or city. Many graduating seniors have been in Michigan for much of their lives and are ready for something new.

"I'm looking to move to Chicago, hopefully, but I've also applied to jobs in Denver, Miami, Seattle, California,” Peppo said. “... I just lived in Michigan my whole life and I just want a change, don't want to move back in with my parents right away."

Of course, along with graduating and entering the workforce comes other stressors that adulting brings, such as being the sole caretaker for yourself.

"I think the biggest challenge is not really knowing what's next ... once school heads, it's like, you're an adult now. I'm an adult now,” Outlaw said. “So it's finding a house, being the only person that I guess is responsible for me, from now on ... like, I ordered my cap and gown yesterday, and it was ready for pickup today, and I'm like, 'Mom, can you pick this up for me? I don't have time to do this.'" Just the hardest part is being okay, with being uncomfortable."

In moments where moving on to this new phase of life seems overwhelming and scary, it is crucial to be confident in yourself and remember that everything will end up working out.

"I would tell them that it's gonna be okay,” Outlaw said, talking about what he would tell people anxious about graduating college and joining the workforce. “Whenever any minor inconvenience comes up, I tell myself, 'If this is the worst thing that happens to you, either in your life or today, then you're gonna have, one, a pretty good life, and, two, a pretty great day, because at the end of the day, when that thing is over, it's over. I think just being able to be not so uptight as I am. Not everything has to be ABCD. There can be one A two A two B, and everything will be just fine."


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