Survival of the Fittest: Life After College.

Life After College.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of GradImages.

It’s pretty common and it isn’t a terrible idea for young adults to move back in with their parents following graduation from college. While the arrangements may not be ideal, for some grads living at home can provide the stability that is needed to sort out finances and ambitions.

I graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York (CUNY) last year and on June 3rd, 2016 I celebrated my one year anniversary of my post graduate journey. I completed my first year of graduate school at Hunter College, another sister school within the CUNY system but I have to admit even though I am so close to finishing up my degree and becoming the first in my immediate family to obtain a master’s degree, I still have this fear that I will not make it and my aspiration of becoming a Family & Marriage therapist will all be for nothing.

It’s completely normal to feel anxious and out of place after graduation but let us not forget how much we have accomplished in our lives and what our new beginning has in store for us all. I hope you find this piece to be helpful and maybe a little bit motivational to continue your journey of becoming an adult and to never lose faith in yourself. 

1. Cover Letter & Resume. Everyone wants to land their dream job right after college. A full-time, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., full health coverage and other amazing benefits to top it all off. A quick Google search or resume scan can tell an employer what they need to know about a job candidate such as: where they went to school, their past and current work experiences and any major awards or accomplishments—the list will go on and on. With this in mind, having a cover letter and resume is an essential piece of your post graduate journey. Make sure to proofread and get a second opinion before pressing the send button.

2. Interviewing Skills. Practice, practice, practice! Like many of our sport coaches have said to us before practice makes perfect. Having good interviewing skills goes a long way especially when you are fresh out of college looking to secure a job to pay back your student loans or to save up enough money to move out of your parents home. Mock interviewing is a great way to demonstrate your interviewing techniques and practice more effective ways of interviewing, after all there is always room for improvement.

3. Graduate School. Depending on what profession you desire to be in the near future, it may require you to obtain a master’s or doctoral degree. For some graduates, graduate school is considered to be more serious and requires a lot more time and patience. After four years of undergraduate who the heck wants to go back for more schooling? Graduate school could also be looked at as a burden for some whether it is being able to fully fund the program of choice or being mentally prepared for a higher level of learning. Consider graduate school as an option in your post graduate journey. For me, it’s changing my life as we speak.

4. Fellowships. Having experiential learning and training is important to your growth as a young professional. Generally, fellowships provide a unique experience that are not typically available to someone starting out in an entry-level position. They are also known for their commitment to the professional development of the individual and often times include intensive training. By securing a fellowship after graduation is a great way to gain some work experience while it could also help you figure out what your next move maybe.

5. Networking. The power of networking is a crucial part in your professional development. Nowadays it is not about what you know and about who you know. Find yourself a few individuals who are in the field you want to be in and ask them to be your mentor. Having a mentor can expand your network and being able to a variety of individuals to network with could only help you in the marketing world.

6. Volunteer. What employer doesn’t like FREE labor? I know, I know. You’re a fresh college graduate and got bills to pay so volunteering isn’t much of an option come to really think of it. Still consider volunteering at places that interest you because you never know the job you volunteer for may turn out to be your next job.

7. Budgeting. One of the major tips to surviving life after college is effective budgeting. Budgeting is hard to do. My advice for people who find themselves struggling with budgeting would be find alternative solutions to your habits. For examples:

  • Food. Buying lunch every day can result to a total of $80.00 weekly and sometimes food prisoning instead consider buying groceries from a local supermarket such as: fresh fruits and veggies, cold cuts, bread and some plastic containers so you’re able to bring food you made from home.
  • Online Shopping. Don’t get me wrong there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look good or fashionable but remember that you can’t spend $800.00 dollars on a pair of Chanel sunglasses if you don’t have a job or the money to begin with. Consider using websites like retailmenot.com, ebate.com, Groupon or Living Social to find coupon codes for your next online purchase. P.S. shop wisely by subscribing to your favorite stores to know when they have the best deals.
  • Public Transportation. For all my peoples who live in the city we all know and understand the total struggle of constantly buying a metrocard. A New York City monthly metro is $116.50—check to see if your employer has a transportation program such as: Wage Works that deducts pre-tax money for your transportation expenses. If not, no worries consider opening up a separate bank account and submitting a direct deposit form with the amount you desire to be use for public transportation purposes.

8. Getting Lit and Turning Up. Going to happy hour after work is fun but it is also a sure way to: (a) become an alcoholic and (b) blowing $200.00-$300.00 a month on liqour. Join the happy hour crew once every two weeks but limit how much you spend on alcohol as you get adjusted to your new budget.

9. Social Support System. Life after college can get really depressing at times, hell being in college and juggling academia and work was stressful. But I always had a small circle of friends who always motivated and encouraged me to go above and beyond. Build as many friendships and relationships with others as possible, you never know who you will meet or who will be your next boss.

10. Be Passionate, Confident and Positive. As much as college was a drag to deal with, we cannot deny that great feeling of walking across the stage and shaking your college president or the moment when you turned your tassel from right to left for the conferment of your degree. Always remember that when the going gets tough, overcome your obstacles by searching for support.

Lastly keep grinding, stay proactive and positive!

Slay Your Next Interview: Tips to Land Your Dream Job.

Nervous about your next interview? No worries, I got you covered.

My last semester of my senior year at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York (CUNY) I became a Peer Career Educator for the Center for Career & Professional Development and through this position I looked at nearly 50 students and alumni’s cover letters and resumes while also picking up some valuable interviewing tips on how to ace your next interview.

Before the interview. Close your eyes, sit back, relax and picture yourself entering the doors of your interview and responding to the questions with confidence.

  1. Eye Contact. In some cultures not looking at someone when they are talking to you is considered to be disrespectful. With this in mind, having enough eye contact in an interview demonstrates nonverbal communication that you are interested in hearing what the other person has to say and you are actively listening.
  2. Silence Your Cellular Devices. Nothing is more embarrassing than your ringtone of the latest Rihanna hit single Werk going off in an interview. Put your phone down and on silent before the conversation begins.
  3. Social Media Presence. As technology is advancing ever so rapidly, employers are turning to the internet to research their candidates. Having a resume doesn’t depict your life story or make you worthy for a job, however, having an assortment of social media channels grabs someone’s attention in a way that makes you credible and unique. Try using website like LinkedIn.com, Twitter.com or Facebook.com
  4. Do Your Homework. Knowing a company’s mission and vision will go long way and knowing any recent news about the company also shows your commitment to growth and professional development.
  5. Don’t be Shy. Interviews can be a pain sometimes. But the purpose of an interview is to have a conversation to get to know who you are. As much as they are interviewing you, you too are interviewing them as well to see if they are the right fit. Remember to be bold, be fearless and of course be you.
  6. Follow-up. We may sometimes forget to appreciate others. Handwriting or send a thank you note/e-mail to the interviewer(s) and be sure to send the note within 48 hours of your interview.
  7. Think Positive. Job searching can be extremely stressful at times. We can apply to 30 job openings and only get 2 interview offerings but always remember that you are doing your best and something good is bound to happen.

And finally, be mindful of how you treat everyone who you come into contact with because you never know who will have input in the hiring decision.

Good Luck and Happy Interviewing!

7 Principles of a Working Marriage.

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  1. Establishing Love Maps Taking into the account of where you have been and where you want to go.

  2. Nurturing Fondness and AdmirationRespecting and having a general positive view of each other.

  3. Turning Towards Each Other Instead of Away – Keeping alive real life romance by letting your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life.

  4. Letting Your Partner Influence You – Consider each other’s perspective and feelings. Honoring and respecting both people in the relationship.

  5. Solving Solveable ConflictsMaking decisions together and search out common ground.

  6. Overcoming GridlockComing to compromises with one another.

  7. Creating Shared MeaningValuing the moments whether it is the good, bad or the ugly.

Real Talk: Why I Choose to Study Mental Health Counseling.

Two years ago I was debating whether or not I wanted to pursue a master’s degree in Social Work or Mental Health Counseling. Everyone told me to go with the Master’s of Social Work (MSW) route because New York State is primarily dominated with social workers and I would be able to do more with the degree. But for me I wanted to genuinely make a connection with others and here is why.

There were cockroaches running up and down the living room walls. The smell of five month old spoiled milk smacked me in the face and the sound of twenty screaming children starched my ear drums as I followed Karen into the bedroom to meet her mother. The cluttered room filled with bags of clothes had one queens size bed, a dusty giant brown teddy bear, a metal chair with a soft green cushion attached to the seat and a 1980’s television set on the tile floor.

I have been an interviewer intern at the Child Psychiatric Epidemiology Group (CPEG) at Columbia University Medical Center/New York State Psychiatric Institute for eight months. I assisted with the data collection of a newly designed study entitled “Stress and Well-being” which examines the long-term effects of disaster exposure (particularly, the events of 9/11) on child behavior and mental development. When I first began my internship experience with CPEG, I thought the experimental group would be the individuals who would have the most clinical issues. But having completed more than 30 baseline interviews in both the experimental and control groups, I realized that it is not whether a person was directly impacted by the events of September 11, 2001 but, rather it is how these individuals cope with previous traumatic life events.

*Experimental Group – Persons who were directly affected in the events of 9/11. Sample was recruited through the World Trade Center Health Registry (WTCHR).

*Control Group – Persons who were not directly affected in the events of 9/11. Sample was recruited through an outside source and through the Queens area.

I was assigned to a control interview with a mother about her child in Astoria Public Housing on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon. We started off together as a family going over the study consent forms. Ms. April was a middle aged woman with red and black highlight braids. She immigrated to the United States from Barbados having only completed some of her high school education. She had a tough time understanding some of the study forms but I was there to help her through the process. My assignment for the day was to conduct and complete an in-person structured interview to learn about Ms. April’s unique 9/11 experience and other traumatic life events she may have experienced and how she deals with daily stress.

It was hard to conduct the interview. Her answers to my questions were yes and no’s but other times she would run into tangents about other traumatic life experiences that I had not yet asked about. The interview lasted about seven hours and I had walked away learning so much about Ms. April’s personal life circumstances. She shared intimate details about hardships she experienced such as making a suicide attempt, being a victim of child abuse and having had anticipated homicidal thoughts. It was clear that she was experiencing depression as she expressed her extreme sadness and feelings of hopelessness to me.

I was stunned and taken back by her life story of being sexually abused as an eight year old girl. She was so depressed about how things were going in her life, that she wanted nothing but to be dead.  Her stories touched me deeply but it was this particular interview that redefined my motivation to become a counselor. My encounter with Ms. April was important because all people’s lives matter and there is a essential need for more Mental Health Counselors to provide mental and emotional support for all individuals.

I walked away from this experience thinking to myself, I should have done more and that I failed to help someone who was crying out for help. It was hard to deal with the aftermath of the interview because as a former student leader at John Jay College, I prided myself in helping students with their questions and needs. My encounter with Ms. April caused me to feel vulnerable and helpless because I wasn’t able to effectively make a difference. I replayed her stories in my mind like a broken record for a week going over every small detail of her stories with a comb.

I ultimately dealt with this situation by seeking the advice from those who currently serve as advocates within the field of human services and by doing this I was able to gain a greater understanding and learn a different point of view of the role of a counselor. I was able to debrief and reflect on the situation with professional’s in the field. This ulimately allowed me to talk about how the situation made me feel and allowed me to develop skills to use in the future.

I was unprepared and very inexperienced at the time but hearing Ms. April’s story has only motivated me to continue growing and developing into a better counselor. 

Please note for privacy purposes the names of all characters were changed.