There are plenty of things to look forward to after graduation: a place of one’s own, freedom from those week-long stretches crammed with tests and papers, and, of course, a sweet goodbye to shelling out thousands of dollars per year in tuition.
Like any farewell, however, saying adieu to the Arch will be bittersweet for many members of this year’s graduating class. It is, after all, the place where three-day-weekends are the norm and lounging around the lawns in the park before class is expected and even encouraged. Perhaps most importantly, it’s also the place that provides us with a sense of unconditional professional security. We are students; for the four years we’re here, that’s our job.
But when we graduate, when we leave those shaky arms of Silver and towering stacks of Bobst, we will presumably be on our own again. We’ll be left to find our own jobs, which in all likelihood won’t have nearly as many four-day weeks or opportunities for lounging.
“I’m nervous because it stands as a large unknown,” said Erin Ward, a senior graduating in May. “It’s hard not to be afraid of not finding a job,” she said.
Yet, for all of the angst associated with finding employment, job prospects for graduating seniors are less bleak than one may expect. According to Life Beyond the Square, an annual survey of recent graduates conducted by the Wasserman Center, 91% of respondents from the class of 2011 “were either employed or enrolled in a graduate or professional school program.” This was up from the previous year, when respondents reported a placement rate of 90.5%. For comparison’s sake, the national unemployment rate was 8.2% last month.
Brooke Cassoff, 22, said that these statistics match up with her own experiences. Cassoff, who graduated last spring with a degree in Metropolitan Studies, is currently living and working in Ghana as a participant coordinator at ProWorld Service Corps. “A few months before graduation, finding a job seemed pretty dicey,” she said. However, she was able to secure her current job before receiving her diploma, and though her position is not one directly associated with her major, she said she’s able to apply much of what she learned to the things she sees at work.
This adaptability—the ease with which one can apply one’s skill set to a variety of positions—is something of a commodity. “Lots of jobs are looking for an educated and smart person who has a variety of skills,” said Trudy Steinfeld, the assistant vice president of the Wasserman Center. She said that she has seen liberal arts students entering the financial sector, for instance. “It’s not one-size-fits-all,” she added.
Cassoff, however, does concede that the process is a difficult one. “I wouldn’t say that outstanding job opportunities are pouring down from the sky,” she said, although she added that, as she continues to build up her professional network, she is finding that “more doors are opening.” The experiences of her friends have been similar; all of them, she said, have found something to do since graduating. Although it sometimes hasn’t been exactly what they were expecting post-NYU, “they’re figuring things out as they go along,” she said.
It’s a common refrain. Ward, who does not have a job lined up as of yet, said that plenty of people have graduated and been in a similar position to her own. “I’ve yet to hear of someone who was unable to carve out a space for themselves in the post-college world,” she said, even if that space is not the dream job some envision for themselves after graduating. Flexibility is key in any employment scenario, and it’s especially important at the beginning. “Your plans are definitely going to change somewhere along the line,” Cassoff said. “Just go with it.”