Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

06 December 2006

A 'Harsh Letter' to My Post-Collegiate Peers

In high school I had this one friend. If she ever felt my behaviour or thought process needed intervention, she'd look at me and softly but firmly say, "I'm going to write you a harsh letter." And she would, outlining carefully what she perceived to be my error and how, perhaps, I could correct it. She always concluded with a reminder of how awesome I am as a person in general, like a peppermint at the end of a meal.

Her harsh letters served as handy yardsticks for me. It is always good to get constructive criticism on how you're faring from somebody on the outside, particularly when you'd rather just complain about your sad lot in life and be sympathized-with.

In her honor, this is my take on the harsh letter. It is written, gently but firmly, for my peers.

Yesterday someone sent me an article about how college graduates have a hard time finding the kind of work they want in this economic climate. They're also strapped in mountainous debt and consequently moving back in with their parents. This article pretty much tells the same story.

Say hello to our generation: the self-entitled, the bewildered, the indebted. It comes as a major surprise for some that those diplomas might not have been worth all the blood, sweat and tears. Oh yeah, and money.

Here's my perspective. If you go to college and study aborigine art, then for some odd reason try to land a financial consulting job, you're not going to get jack unless you have work experience in that field or can demonstrate on the fly that you've got savvy in that arena. I don't know how else you expect to go about it in a rational world.

The old adage about how college is about studying what you want really only works in two scenarios:
  • If you're willing to study what you want, which could be totally left of center, with the raw understanding that getting great work isn't about your degree; it's about selling yourself. That's tough and it requires some thought and skill-set development
  • If what you want to study happens to be in line with what you're actually going to get work in. Judging from the stories coming out of the woodwork, apparently this is harder than it sounds
Serious about committing yourself to a profession? Plan your curriculum and start easing the door open before finishing school. Nail an internship. Get to know people on the inside. I don't buy it when people say they can't study and work at the same time. I did it and while I wasn't a fantastic student I still got what I needed out of college.

If you go into sociology, for example, and would like to write a book on social welfare or the effects of culture on society, that's fantastic. But don't come out of the educational incubator wondering why social welfare opps at $65K a pop aren't falling out of the sky back home in suburbia. Take that waitressing job, volunteer at a non-profit (YES! For FREE) and go write your book. There's no shame in that.

Ayn Rand said it best when she noted that wanting something doesn't automatically entitle you. Show the world how much you deserve your heart's desire. Show the world you're willing to do it just to do it, like breathing. Then the money comes.

Just my $0.02. Take it "until your $#i+ starts to make cents" as Jay-Z would say. And yeah, lit-lovers, that's a pun. (English minor over here. Can you tell?)

When all is said and done, we as people change and so do our interests. It's not like we're married to whatever we choose to do right after college. But try to prepare for at least that first gig.

If you've already graduated, be practical and think systematically about how to get where you want to go from here. You can't demand a powerful, high-paying dream gig for no other reason besides an unmanifested belief that you "earned" it over four years bent over books.

This concludes my harsh letter. And because I'm kind, and because you're awesome, here's a bit of optimistic news - just for you.


Malachi said...

Real talk. Now I just have to get my brother to read this, ha.

Anonymous said...


I too am a soon to be post-collegiate human being.

All I can say about your blog is, that it was inspiring to read something on the real side. It's just probably the extended version of what my friends have been telling me about life after college.

Thank you.

chelsi said...

<3 I just realized how old this is. Thank you for loving me even then.