COLUMN: Transition from college to career — enter reality

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 | 4:31 p.m. CDT; updated 3:14 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I graduated from MU on May 14, and since then, have been asked no less than five times if I “feel any different.”

I think it’s one of those novel questions people think is cute to ask, but it just gets old.

No, I don’t feel any different. Sitting through an hour-and-a-half-long ceremony and walking across a stage after someone mispronounces your name, which you phonetically spelled beforehand, to pick up an empty black folder hasn’t magically changed my life. Yet.

I’m still living in the same apartment and still working the same part-time job I’ve had for the past six years. I’m still struggling to pay rent and bills. It feels like any other summer.

Speaking of struggling to pay bills, I had to phone my mom the other day to politely ask my parents for some financial assistance to pay rent. I took time off of work for finals week and graduation and, because my checks are biweekly, that time off is just now catching up with me.

My mom said I need to come home to Kansas City soon so we can sit down and discuss what’s going to happen now that I’ve finished college. She reminded me that my loan payments will start in half a year and asked if I was getting more hours at work.

All at once, adulthood came crashing down on me. And it was terrifying.

The transition from a college student to an “adult” is a bit jarring when I start to think about job-hunting. I’ve been checking websites with national listings for magazine and online journalism jobs, and I buckle just from looking at most of them.

My boyfriend forwarded me an application with some positions on it for a video game news website (see: dream job), and the only position I can apply for requires me to pretty much run the entire website on weekends while the full-time staff works on other stuff.

After being trained in the school of journalism and cranking out news stories and columns and editing for a weekly city magazine, the thought of someone paying me an annual salary to do this is somehow scary.

After all the editorial work I’ve done without pay in school, I suddenly don’t feel qualified to be paid for this work. It’s weird. Maybe it’s a strain of journalism Stockholm Syndrome. Yet, at the same time, I feel overqualified for internships, unless they’re paid, which is irritatingly rare.

Although my work was published every step of the way in the journalism school, as long as I didn't make any completely unethical or illegal mistakes, I could always fall back on being a student when I made minor mistakes. I was still learning. There was always a cushion.

I feel like when I get a “real” job, the cushion will no longer be there. I’m one of those people who takes a while to get on board with something new, and it takes a long time for me to settle in. Rarely do I jump right into the cold swimming pool. I’m a one-foot-at-a-time person. I hope this attitude doesn’t limit me in the workplace in the future.

I need to get a hold of myself and understand that I have some of the best training in the world, and I should be able to handle any job — journalism-wise. Seeing friends move to New York to work at big-name magazines a week after graduating while I still fold clothes for money is hard to swallow.

Magazines generally require you to be living in their home city to work at them. I can’t afford to move to New York or California and then look for jobs. Nor can I afford to take unpaid internships while working part-time on top of that to get more experience. 

I’m worried about my future, finding the job that I love and making enough money to handle myself efficiently. But I guess that’s specifically the point about transition from college. Welcome to adulthood.

Corey Motley is a recent graduate from MU, blogs about video games on his WordPress site and tweets regularly. He's also terrified of becoming what some people call an adult.

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Jimmy Bearfield June 2, 2011 | 12:10 p.m.

"My mom said I need to come home to Kansas City soon so we can sit down and discuss what’s going to happen now that I’ve finished college."

"Magazines generally require you to be living in their home city to work at them. I can’t afford to move to New York or California and then look for jobs."

There are magazine jobs in KC (e.g., Penton in Overland Park).

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