You got to be startin’ somethin’

By Carlye Wisel

To my fellow future graduates:

We’ve put in four rough, stressful years, riddled with meetings we didn’t want to attend, late-night library trips we dreamt of sleeping through and Friday afternoon discussion sections we finger-crossed would be canceled. We invested time, energy, knowledge and discipline, expecting that over those years, our tiny experiences would mature into ink-stained lines on a resume redeemable for the reliability and security of a full-time job. But, with an employment shortage and the Dow tanking like a drunk girl in heels trying to waltz down a stairwell, it’s possible that even by doing everything right, we couldn’t have prevented what’s going to go wrong.

Before, if you worked hard in college, you were generally rewarded with a job afterwards – effort and dedication at nineteen yielded a 40-hour work week at twenty-two. And, for many of us, this hard work included one, two, or even three unpaid internships under the mindset that workplace opportunities would increase exponentially with our experience. Now though, considering the current crappy state of the economy, the hopeful confidence of that equation has collapsed unto itself. Regular people – not even interns or recent grads – with skill sets and day-to-day experience who were actually in the workforce months, weeks or even days ago are struggling to find employment in the depleted job market, into which thousands of Illinois students will be squeezing come May. Considering the effort we’ve put forth and the potential failure we’ll get from it, there seems to be a question lingering silently and until now mostly unrealized, like a proverbial, depressing elephant in our classrooms – what if the Class of 2009 is completely screwed?

If your main source of income comes from the person you were birthed out of or raised by, you most likely haven’t noticed the market’s effects. Regardless of how terrifying today’s news headlines are. If the ‘rents paying for food and shelter and basic clothing is a given, it’s still affordable to live a collegiate life considering the main social cost, besides trying to get someone at the bar out of that clothing, is cash frivolously spent on video games, concert tickets, apartment decor or other voluntary costs. Though it’s assumedly always hard to leave behind the land of cheap drinks, food and fun for a pricier adult life elsewhere, it’s going to be harder than ever for us to adjust as the possibility of landing a great job dwindles.

Personally, I’m as tolerant with my realistic post-college prospects as Sarah Palin is with same-sex benefits. A career in magazine journalism was a tough enough aspiration from the start, and at this point, it seems drearily impossible. As my mental list of future aspirations consists of such occupations as driving the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile or following the newly reunited Phish on their inferable summer tour, I’ve begun to crave something different for my future. Instead of giving up the masthead dream and looking into newspapers, weekly publications or public relations, I’m thinking about putting it all on hold and taking a risk – trying something new, creative or even fun, just to avoid the misery a job hunt will bring.

There’s opportunity out there, and it doesn’t always come in the form of a black suit, briefcase and business meeting. Over the weekend, I met Sean Moeller, a writer from Rock Island, Ill., who left his years at the local newspaper behind to start Daytrotter.com, a brilliant website featuring hundreds of in-studio sessions with some of today’s most promising bands. Discussing my career aspirations over the sounds of Born Ruffians tuning their instruments before recording, it was obvious that Moeller is living an incredible life because he chose to take a chance and do something unconventional.

Maybe it’s time to follow your dream and not your major, let the entrepreneurial bug catch hold of you or even spend some months working in a different country. Because of the way things are, many of us could and likely will give up our initial aspirations upon graduation in order to be employed, only to find ourselves in a few years stuck in a career path we didn’t intend to follow. All of our hard work will not have paid off, our goals will not be met, and we’ll collectively feel unfulfilled. It might not be a bad idea to put your career goals on hold and try something different while the market rebuilds itself. And hey, if you’re lucky, I’ll even give you a tour of the Wienermobile.

Carlye is a senior in news-editorial journalism. Hire her! Hire her! Hire her! Hire her! Hire her!