The Real World: The First Years Out

  • Chance Morgan

Let’s be clear: your first years out of college will be extremely difficult. Unless you are extremely lucky, this is a given. I was pretty lucky, all things considered, and it was still one of the hardest times of my life. This will likely be the time when you most need help, and odds are good that asking for help will also be very difficult.

Hopefully you pursued internships or field-relevant work opportunities while you were still in college, because you’re going to need every advantage you can. The job market has never exactly been easy for the artistically inclined, and at time of writing it is especially difficult. Trying to get work of any kind is frustrating, exhausting, disheartening and tedious, and trying to work in the arts is no different. You will be rejected often, you may get interviews without job offers, and a lot of potential employers will not even respond to your application at all. It can feel paralyzing to go without work, and it can be very easy to lose confidence. The best advice I can give on that front is: the job search never ends. When you have a gig, you should be trying to find the next one. Most entertainment positions are for predetermined lengths of time, so try to line up as much of your future as you can.

I was lucky enough to have consecutive internships lined up and waiting for me directly out of college. I had also only received offers from four or five companies out of the twenty-odd that I had applied to. At best, I had received offers from one-fifth of the places I applied to, and that’s a far better percentage than most people manage. I managed to choose wisely, and those two internships not only kept me fed and in rent-free company housing for nearly a year, but I also got to make wonderful connections, learn about myself, and expand my skills. They were extraordinary experiences, but they would not have happened had I not been extremely proactive. I had applied for both during spring break of my senior year, and the first did not start until after graduation. You’ll have to plan months in advance if you want to have a shot at getting the jobs you want.

Someone once told me that the secret of getting to where you want is not in taking the perfect next step, but in simply not taking the wrong step. When you don’t have work, it may be very tempting to sign on to the first offer you receive. Always do your research, learn about the company, and most importantly, have enough self-respect to know when a given job would require more of you than you would get out of it. I have successfully avoided several potentially horrible jobs this way, and I’ve been stuck in some truly miserable work when I decided that minimum wage (or less) was more important than my self-worth or my health. The best jobs I’ve ever had were those that left me feeling better about myself at the end of the day, and I advise you to find jobs that you think might give you the same feeling.

That said, sometimes life will throw a monkey wrench into your plans. It happens to all of us eventually. This is why you need to plan ahead, have several backup plans, have some savings, and most importantly, ask for help when you need it. You never know who might offer a hand to help you up.