Uncovering why some UNG graduates are having trouble in “the real world”

It’s safe to say that just about every college student is constantly bombarded with the frequently asked questions, “what are you majoring in” and “what are you going to do after you graduate.” While some pretend to know in order to avoid embarrassment and ridicule, others suffer in silence, all the while, feeling overwhelming pressure and anxiety over figuring out answers they don’t have.

Contrary to popular belief, the looming question of “what will my future look like” isn’t something magically answered prior to graduation. Not everyone experiences an easy transition from being a college student to thriving in the real world. In fact, most struggle for a little bit before figuring out where they want to be.

After speaking with five recent University of North Georgia graduates, it became clear this transition into “adulting” is something some UNG grads are struggling with. However, there are certain trends that can be linked to amount of immediate “adulting” success (or lack thereof). This poses the question: Where are UNG students going wrong?

Musician and UNG graduate Mark Stokes performing. (Photo by Adair Kucera)

Well-known local musician, Mark Stokes, graduated in May 2016 with a B.A in Music. Throughout his undergrad, Stokes worked consistently towards a career in music but realized he had “no true plan” post-graduation. While Stokes had goals in mind during his time at UNG, he says he lacked an overall sense of direction. “I chose a major that I care about, but I have struggled with what I actually would like to do with my future,” Stokes said.

While  at UNG, Stokes sought out some help from Career Services, but didn’t find it overly useful. “Career fairs do not favor musicians and advisors were generally the worst with helping,” Stokes said. While this type of guidance is recommended due to its potential to benefit students, it may not be as helpful to all students.

Similarly, Studio Art Major, Makenzy Horne, claims that she didn’t have a real sense of direction when she graduated from UNG in December 2016. “I knew I wanted to either work in an art museum or gallery and spend more time on my portfolio in hopes of selling my art,” said Horne.

Feeling as though there isn’t a clear-cut standard for how to conduct a job search in the art field, Horne sought out advice from her professors and started job searching online. However, she found there were limited options in her chosen field and felt overwhelmed just trying to graduate. “I was in the middle of my senior capstone exhibition and I chose to put my full focus into that,” Horne said.

Along with Stokes, Horne didn’t utilize tools such as Career Services prior to graduating. “I honestly didn’t know a lot about it and didn’t have any peers or professors nudging me in that direction so I didn’t really think about it,” Horne said.

The Career Fairs held at UNG didn’t seem a helpful tool for Horne’s budding art career either, as she mentioned it didn’t seem worth her time. Between working on her senior capstone, passing classes and working part time, Horne’s full attention was captured, which left no room for planning for post-grad success. Having graduated without a solid plan and feeling pressured to quickly find a successful “adult job,” Horne struggled during her transition time with feelings of inadequacy. However, knowing that her chosen field would be difficult to break into may have led to some of Horne’s struggles, anxiety and hesitation during her transition.  “I mean I was an art major not business or biology; so I knew what I was getting into” Horne said.

Looking back, Horne admits focusing more on planning ahead and getting more information on career options may have been helpful. “I should have taken a few more trips to Career Services to get a little more information on my career options” Horne said.

Casey Gill, a political Science major with a minor in Business, graduated in July of this year. Like Stokes and Horne, Gill’s biggest struggle post-graduation has been feeling lost, and unsure of what he wants to do as a career.

Interestingly, while attending UNG, Gill also didn’t seek assistance from Career Services prior to graduation. “I didn’t know UNG had Career Services and so I didn’t realize the university helped in those areas,” Gill said.

Though Gill has spent his time since graduation working and searching for the right entry-level jobs to apply for, he’s struggled with not finding a company he would actually enjoy working for. Dreams of “somehow working for [his] favorite soccer team or being an executive for a successful company” occupy his thoughts.

In retrospect, Gill mentioned wishing he would have done an internship while in school.

“I have found out that experience in an actual workplace besides retail and service industries is a crucial piece” Gill said. “I also would have gone to more career fairs and sought help from Career Services.”

Early Childhood and Special Education majors, Shyana Delph and Ansley Thomas graduated this May and are currently teaching third grade inclusion. Delph and Thomas both experienced a smooth transition from being a college graduate to a successful first year teachers as they quickly found work in their chosen field.

I went on county websites, gathered information about schools and applied online,” Delph said. I also attended the career fairs.”

Having most of the responsibilities of the “adult world” while at UNG also seems to have helped Delph make her smooth transition.

Shyana Delph and her third grade students. (Photo by Justine Oh)

“I paid bills, student taught and held a part time job in college so the only struggle I’ve had post graduation is dealing with the stress of my job,” Delph said. Even though Delph did have a successful transition into the adult world, it was still a big change and adjustment, and while Thomas was able to quickly find work, she had to go through a fair amount of rejection before finally finding the right opportunity.

Thomas applied to over 80 international schools worldwide and was rejected by most for not having enough experience. Doors finally began to open for Thomas when she applied to multiple schools in Georgia in order to earn her certificate and gain more experience. Despite the initial disappointment of being rejected, graduates need to realize that some rebuff is part of the process and is nothing to worry about.

Thomas recommended not to get discouraged if job offers don’t come immediately. Similarly, Delph advises future UNG graduates not to procrastinate, to take a deep breath and have faith that the right opportunity will come.

For education majors, major-specific classes at UNG are helpful tools that directly aid them in skills they’ll need in the classroom. They are exposed to multiple class settings, offered training sessions and are taught skills that directly apply to their work. Having this specialized background along with hands-on experience certainly must be an important factor leading to the successful transition of UNG education majors post-graduation.

The fact is, while some graduates must sift through an overwhelming amount of career options in order to find their desired field of work, graduates with more specialized majors, such as nursing or education, are only looking for work in one area. This makes it easier for these graduates to focus on where to look for work, which in turn, may make their transition into a career in the real world easier.  

According to Diane Farrell, director of Career Services, with so many job options out there it can be difficult for graduates to know what they want to do. It can also be a challenge to get to know about career opportunities. Many students who don’t choose a more specific field have difficulty finding a career path, especially one that relates to their major. Ferrell admitted, “It is quite common to feel like you are working in a department that is not directly related to your major, but that does not have to be your measure of success if you don’t want it to be.” In general, when it comes to starting a career, Farrell says “some people seem to luck out while others flounder for awhile.” However, the best source of information about jobs are the people in the workforce. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to complete strangers and ask for some of their time” Farrell suggested.

So, where are UNG graduates going wrong? Unfortunately, the answer is, it depends. For some, the pressure to figure things out in a timely manner is overwhelming. Others simply have difficulty figuring out what it is they actually want to do, or become discouraged when the opportunities they are looking for aren’t abundant.

The truth is that the transition from being a college student to succeeding in the real world is going to be an adjustment and truthfully, it may first take a lot of figuring out what you hate to realize what you love. A word of advice, start looking for jobs early, plan ahead as much as possible, utilize the tools  UNG has to offer, don’t get discouraged and be willing to work hard and fight for what you want. Finally, remember the suggestions of UNG graduates past:

“Really focus on what you want to get out of your college experience.

   Mark Stokes

“Take a deep breath. The biggest thing is don’t procrastinate. You are entering the real world shortly so it’s time to buckle down.

   Shyana Delph

“Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a job immediately.

   Ansley Thomas

“Start deciding what you actually want to do. Go to Career Services, career fairs and start building connections.”

  Casey Gill

“Take your time and enjoy your experience, but don’t forget to plan ahead or be afraid to ask for help.”

  Makenzy Horne

1 Comment on Uncovering why some UNG graduates are having trouble in “the real world”

  1. “Plastics”. No, seriously, I have a BSME degree and am not naturally outgoing- but most of my career was in technical sales. I loved my job and was successful- worked full time until age 76. So- think outside the box. Seek out happy people and ask them what they do. Most will be flattered that you did. Especially salespeople.

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