For years, Madeleine Frank has known that she was destined to be a journalist. The Harvard University senior has interned at both local and national publications, and her ultimate career goal is to be the editor-in-chief of a women’s magazine.
But after Time Warner announced earlier this week that it might be selling a large portion of Time Inc., its magazine division and the nation’s largest magazine publisher — just weeks after laying off about 500 employees — Frank had to stop and pause.
“When I heard about the news of layoffs, I wondered what to do with that information — was it a sign that I should be totally discouraged and look elsewhere?” Frank wrote in an e-mail. “It makes me extremely nervous not to be fully informed about the future of these magazines.”
An industry’s bleak job outlook is enough to make any senior shudder, especially when they’ve been working toward that career for years.
Students in these situations have a decision to make: Do they wait until the market is brighter or do they dive headfirst into a temporarily unstable industry?
“Students shouldn’t wait to search for a job,” wrote Steven Rothberg, the president and founder of CollegeRecruiter.com, in an e-mail. “They should always be working on advancing their careers whether that means volunteering, networking, conducting informational interviews or interning.”
Until that dream job comes along, David Gaston, the director of the University Career Center at the University of Kansas recommends finding a way to earn money — whether that is waiting tables or working in a retail store — and asking your manager if there’s any way that you can bring your expertise to the company.
For example, if you are a graphic designer and work at a restaurant, check to see if you can lend a hand in redesigning the menu.
“You don’t want to have a gap in your resume while you’re looking for a job,” Gaston said. “You want to demonstrate that you’re a hard worker and that you have the resolve to continue and develop professionally.”
A master’s degree is another way that students can keep their skills sharp. But, Gaston says, there’s one caveat: Only consider graduate school if you are certain it will help to develop new abilities.
“If it’s just to get a master’s degree but there really hasn’t been any additional thought into that, I would recommend against that,” Gaston said. “Because if you don’t have resources to go on, then that’s getting you farther in debt, which is going to hurt you on the backend.”
That’s not to say that there aren’t other possibilities for further learning.
Rothberg says enrolling in non-degree classes at a local college, attending conferences and seeking certification in a certain area are all options.
“Never, ever stop learning,” Rothberg said.
Students could even parlay the skills that they’ve learned — both in college and post-graduate — to an entirely new field, as scary as that may sound.
Abandoning their original expectations might lead students down an even better path.
“The more open that you are to new things and finding new pathways, the more likely you are going to be more happy and more successful,” Gaston said. “Things change quickly, so that concrete vision that you have in your head, it may work out, but then again, it may not work out. Having a Plan B or a Plan C to go along with your Plan A is always a good thing.”
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