Life After College During a Pandemic
I’m a planner. I love the anticipation before milestone events, enjoying them many times over in my mind as I prepare for the big day. I enjoy the satisfaction of designing my own path and following it to the end. But, as the old Yiddish proverb states, “Man plans and God laughs.”
I had arrived at Roger Williams University with what I thought was a well-designed path. As a midwestern transplant, I knew adapting to college life on the East Coast would be a challenge, but I also knew my main goal: become an elementary education teacher. That plan clearly did not stick as I changed my major a total of four times. After struggling to find a different path, my school’s Center for Career and Professional Development helped me to identify the obvious best fit: public relations.
I was back on track, looking forward to graduating and starting my career in PR. In March of 2020, my roommates and I were so excited for one last Spring Break together before our final exams. That excitement quickly came to an end when we realized we weren’t going back due to Covid-19. My college career was suddenly, unceremoniously over.
The last few months of every student’s college education were completely turned around, which meant so was the job search. Knowing that the job hunt would now be more difficult than usual, I got a-head start by applying to positions before “graduation day” arrived.
After a few months of no responses, I finally started getting some virtual interviews scheduled. I often made it to the second interview but then encountered the same feedback over and over: “We went with a candidate with more experience.” I reached out to recruiters and a career coach, yet found myself not making any more progress. At this point I was starting to second-guess myself. “Is it me, or is it the pandemic?”
The self-doubt was getting to me, so I took a break; a long one. I knew I would be able to get a part-time job as many places were short-staffed. For about nine months I was in between two part-time jobs trying to stay afloat. Time went by, and I was constantly playing the game of comparison: I would see my friends with the same credentials and same level of education flourish in their entry-level positions. I was seeing undergrads get accepted to positions when they had yet to graduate, while I could barely seem to find a position I was interested in applying for.
Once May approached, I knew I would find more opportunities. I started the job hunt once again, yet was still unlucky. My confidence was shaken, but I was determined to start my career. I started to apply to internship opportunities available to further my experience. I immediately ran into an issue: many internships offer school credit in lieu of pay, and I was no longer in school. Just when I was preparing to discard another plan, I stumbled upon a public relations intern position at Caster Communications. I fit the requirements and knew I had a chance at an interview, so I applied in a heartbeat. My luck turned around. Next thing I knew, I was driving to Caster to have my interview.
I sent over some writing samples after the interview, and a few days later I received an offer email for the public relations internship position. I knew that accepting this offer was both the best option currently on the table and a way for me to further my PR knowledge while getting my foot in the door.
On my second day of the internship, I was sitting in our founder Kim Lancaster’s office going through what my days would look like as an intern when suddenly, she asked my age. I stated, “23, why?” She had responded thinking I was still in school, having yet to graduate. The next thing I heard was, “Do you want a full-time job?” I immediately responded with a yes, but then hesitated and honestly expressed I was nervous about my lack of experience. She said, “That’s why you are here; you’re going to learn.”
As I was leaving to go home, I stopped by Kim’s office to say goodbye and she handed me the full-time offer papers to sign and come back with any questions the next day. When she asked me if I wanted a full-time position here at Caster Communications, I didn’t think she was serious, nor that it would ever happen that fast.
I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. My job search experience as I began life after college is a testament to the fact that if you are struggling to find a full-time job, you are not alone. This is truly an example of “good things come to those for those who wait.” Though it was a struggle to get here, I finally feel like I am where I’m meant to be, after about a year and a half of applying. Now that I’ve got my foot in the door, I’m going to kick it the rest of the way open.