Illustration by Madeline Cox

Post-college anxieties prevalent among LC’s graduating students

Many seniors feel a great deal of stress in the weeks and months leading up to graduation. Some look forward to established careers — others are still sorting out their plans. Both will have to get used to life beyond the Lewis & Clark community.

According to The New York Times, college graduates often feel pressure to find a meaningful job.

“The unemployment rate for adults 25 and older with a college degree dropped to 2.0 percent in May, compared with 3.9 percent for those in the same age group with a high school diploma,” the Times said. “But what those statistics do not show is how workers feel about the quality of their jobs and whether the jobs are leading to a career. They also do not dip into the pressure graduates can feel to find a job that is meaningful.”

LC students are not immune to this pressure. Megan Anderson ’21, graduating senior and first-generation college student, said she held quite a bit of weight on her shoulders going into college.

“Being a first-generation student is hard,” Anderson said. “You could change your family line. You are no longer people who did not have the chance to go to college; you are the start of something new.”

As a psychology major, Anderson was uncertain about what career to choose. She said the stress hit her in October.

“I was having an existential crisis. I was like, ‘What am I going to do after graduation? What am I going to do with my degree?’” Anderson said. “So I set up a meeting with the Career Center.”

The Career Center offers a wealth of resources for students at all stages of the college process: from those trying to choose a career to those who are applying for their first post-college job. Adonica De Vault, associate director of the Career Center, recommends making a check-in appointment once a semester.

De Vault sees career development as a marathon. When she meets with students, she often starts by asking them a question.

“If you could do something to change the world, what would it be?” De Vault said. 

Then she breaks that goal into small parts. 

“(Ask yourself), ‘What can I do in a small way to move towards the larger goal?’ Accept that it takes time. It’s about tiny steps,” De Vault said.

Her first recommendation is to ask family and friends what careers they envision you being good at.

“People often have ideas for us that we do not have for ourselves,” De Vault said. “Then you have to try it on. And that is where the internships or community service and leadership can be very helpful.”

In terms of worries about graduation, De Vault strongly emphasizes incremental steps toward a meaningful goal.

“That reduces the anxiety and the stress if you take some of those steps,” De Vault said. “This is your life. You get one chance to do something that you love. And I really am a firm believer — everybody in our office is — that you should do what you love.”

That said, she does not recommend stressing about long-term career goals. After soliciting ideas from family and friends, she recommends trying to get an internship during the summers after sophomore and junior years. The post-graduation application process should start over the senior year winter break.

“You need to know that it takes anywhere from three to six months … to secure the kind of work that you want,” De Vault said.

This includes applications, interviews and onboarding at a new job.

“You have got to get yourself out there and cast your net wide,” De Vault said.

The Career Center has a myriad of  resources for students feeling uncertain about college, from  resume-building services, to strategies for narrowing down career options to help applying to jobs. Students can book an appointment at the Career Center’s website.

Anderson’s story ended up as an example of success. The Career Center helped her realize that she wanted to work with children, and her girlfriend suggested becoming a behavior technician and working with children with autism. Anderson applied to some 30 jobs in December, was hired, and is now working full time. She plans to go on to get her master’s in applied behavior analysis.

“I don’t even feel like I go to work,” Anderson said. “I literally feel like I just get to hang out with kids and watch them grow. It’s the best thing ever.”

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