If you’re asking yourself, “How did I get here?” you’re not alone.
Matt Wright, a 2012 graduate of Rogers State University in Claremore, Okla., says he’s confused as to how he ended up at his current job.
Wright has been the intramural sports assistant at Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) since August, and says that while he doesn’t dislike his job, it simply isn’t what he thought he’d be doing with his sports management degree.
His duties at OCCC include overseeing the intramural sports program, making tournament brackets and occasionally driving a bus full of over-eager flag football players to out-of-state games.
At 23, he says that he is making good money, so he wouldn’t call himself technically underemployed, but said he is intellectually underemployed.
“I wanted to be a sports agent,” Wright said. “Like, I’ve got some athletes that I take care of and make sure they aren’t getting into trouble. I knew that as soon as I graduated I wouldn’t be representing Dez Bryant or anyone, but I really wasn’t expecting to be doing this.”
“What’s worse about this is that it turns out I don’t even really need a degree to be doing this job,” Wright said.
Unfortunately, Wright is not the only recent graduate disappointed with the uselessness of his degree for his first job. Today, 53% of college graduates are jobless or underemployed, and while Wright is lucky enough to have a job, he wishes it was one that used his degree or was more along the lines of his idea of sports management.
While Wright could have avoided his current situation by doing more research on jobs available to those with his degree before choosing it, other graduates who seem satisfied with their schooling sometimes fail to realize that what happens in the classroom doesn’t exactly translate into what will happen on the job.
In some instances, getting an internship can prevent situations like Wright’s. But for those studying to enter a field that may not offer many internships, like Wright’s idea of sports management, preparation can help the chances graduates will not be disappointed with their first job.
Justin Day, career services consultant at Oklahoma State University, said professors always hammer in the importance of obtaining an internship, but don’t discuss what to do if you don’t get one.
“Getting some kind of experience in your field before graduation is crucial, but doesn’t have to be done with an internship, necessarily,” Day said. “Volunteering, observing and shadowing are also alternatives, but they aren’t as discussed as they should be.”
Yes, as unorthodox as it sounds, simply volunteering at a company in which you’re interested can help you gain direction. It might not be as structured as an internship and there may not be other interns, but the potential to make connections, observe and network in your field of choice is something that can help a major-confused undergraduate immensely.
Despite preparation, sometimes the future doesn’t always go as planned after graduation. This is a reality that some recent graduates may have to come to terms with.
Jordan Miller, 25, ended up on a career path far from where he thought his film studies major would take him. Miller, a 2009 graduate of the University of Georgia, is now a manager of a nightclub in downtown Athens, Ga.
Miller said that he always thought that his degree would have taken him to New York or Chicago to be a playwright, but the state of the economy when he graduated forced him to live within his means and stay in his college town. After a few months of waiting tables, he got involved with the bar Cloud. Three years later, he is the manager and says he is pretty happy.
“I never thought that I could be happy doing something other than film,” Miller said. “But I’m making the best of the situation because I really don’t have a choice.”
While Miller said he is happy in Athens, he thinks he would rather be in a big city putting his expensive degree to work. However, he said he ignored his advisers’ advice about how hard it would be to break into the industry in such a competitive market.
“I had a dream and I was dead-set on following it,” Miller said. “I wasn’t approaching the situation logically. I think that a lot of college kids think that having a degree in something will automatically get them that job. That’s not how it works. Believe me.”
Miller said he doesn’t know if he will end up living out his real dream one day, but he will continue to take steps to make it there. “I still write plays and hope to live out my dream someday, but right now I’m putting that on hold and just making money,” he said.
Wright and Miller both say they wished things had gone differently for them, but Miller said that the unexpected changes are somewhat refreshing.
“Life is boring when everything goes according to plan,” Miller said. “That being said, be smart and proactive about your future. Make strides now to get to where you want to be. It’s never too early to start planning.”
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