Like most recent college graduates, my main concern after graduation was to secure a job within my field and save enough money to pay off my student loans. I was confident that I would land a job after graduating from college but that’s not what happened. I struggled to find a job months after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in public relations.
During my last semester in college, I worked at Safeway. The job had flexible hours and consisted of working in the back of the store and cutting fruit. I didn’t mind working there because the job was low-maintenance, paid well, and it fit my schedule. My plan was to leave Safeway after graduating, but I quickly learned that job hunting was harder than anticipated.
When I began my job search I discovered that many entry-level positions in public relations called for experience in the field. Since my sophomore year, I had to work to help pay for school and support myself. I prioritized school first then work but never had enough time for an internship. I rationalized that de-prioritizing an internship was fine because I did well in school and developed good relationships with my professors in case I needed recommendations later on. Admittedly, I felt behind seeing my peers take on internships, but I knew that my situation made it hard for me to pursue the same opportunities.
Since I didn’t have an internship during college, I felt underqualified compared to my peers vying for the same positions. Trying to stay optimistic, I shifted my job search to internships, both paid and unpaid, to gain experience. However, I encountered the same hurdle as when applying for full-time positions – all the internship positions wanted previous experience. The required qualifications were even stricter for graduates as it’s assumed that graduates would have previous work experience.
I felt stuck. I had been job hunting for months with no promising leads. I began to dislike working at Safeway, feeling I would never advance. Worse, I felt lonely as I saw all my friends getting employed in their fields. The experience was extremely discouraging.
I didn’t know what’d be next for me. Then one day, Young Invincibles reached out with an opportunity.
A few weeks prior, I had learned about Young Invincibles and their storytelling program, and I was open to participating. The opportunity entailed sharing my experiences and struggles with life after college with a reporter. I wasn’t sure about being so public about my struggles since I’m normally a private person, but I took a leap of faith and did it.
I got interviewed by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal who was working on a story about recent graduates working in jobs outside of their field. I decided to share my story because I didn’t want others to feel as discouraged as I did when job hunting.
I knew there could be a few possible outcomes from doing this article — like connecting with others and starting a conversation — but I never could have imagined what happened next. A few days after the article was published, I was getting messages and calls from employers and my former college administrators. Everyone was trying to help in some way. I was inundated with advice and offers, including receiving them quite literally out of the blue after job hunting for months and hearing nothing back. I decided to take all the advice I received to heart and restart my job search with a renewed sense of purpose.
Just as I was restarting my job search, I received a message from an employer that learned about my story and offered me a paid internship at his public relations firm to help jump-start my career. The entire situation left me speechless. While I opened up because I wanted to help others, I was stunned to find that it would also help open new doors for me.
I completed my internship last March and I’m proud to say the experience helped me gain invaluable skills and knowledge that will stick with me as I grow professionally. I’m so grateful that I took a leap of faith with Young Invincibles. Not only did I feel like I was helping others feel less lonely, but the experience also helped me professionally.
Fatmata Jarr is a 23-year-old post-graduate finding her way.