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Gina Ciliberto Headshot

A Letter to Early Graduates

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muharrem öner via Getty Images
muharrem öner via Getty Images

"I hate to break it you, but school is the best thing you'll ever have."
"Honestly, the only people I ever hear say that are people who don't make any money."
-Girls, Season 3 Episode 2

My brother has decided to graduate (from undergrad) a year early. I want to be happy for him, to congratulate him, to tell him that the best is yet to come. I have had some of my most incredible moments since I graduated. I saw the world. I made friends. I learned languages. I taught people stuff. I got published and wrote music. Nicholas, and all early grads, I know that you'll do the same. But, because you're smarter and more spry and better looking and much more talented than I am, your lives will be awesome in even more profound ways. College might feel hard to leave, but, trust me, it gets better than bad beer in a dorm room.

Yet, the media says that my optimism for you is unfounded. It says that we Millennials are unreasonably positive for a generation that's doing significantly worse than the previous two. Something inside of me -- some squeaky, squirming part -- feels that my optimism is unreasonable, too.

When I graduated college, I dismissed everyone's warnings on grounds of crochety-ness. "I'm scared for you," well-intentioned passersby would tell me. "It's a bad job market out there.

I shrugged them off (though never face-to-face). The job market might be bad for other people, but it will surely be fine for me, I thought naively.

I see now that I shouldn't have been so quick to dismiss the warnings. In truth, while I know that you have loads of fun waiting for you in your life post-graduation, while I believe that you will, ultimately, find employment and reach financial independence, I am also scared for you. I understand now what those people I ignored meant. It is a terrible job market out there for the both of us alike. There's a good chance you'll spend time feeling useless and totally discouraged at the hordes of people who won't even answer your emails, won't even give you a chance.

Alan Alda was right when he said that the world is running about as smoothly as a car with square wheels. I'm not suggesting that you live in fear, but rather that you brace yourself for what's out there. Make professional connections now. Take every opportunity to work for free (after graduation, state labor laws will make unpaid internships impossible, thereby ruling out a slew of ways to get your foot in the door). Start aggressively job searching. Do everything you can think of to beat the job market so as to avoid the job market beating you.

There's a lot of joy in this post-grad universe; the magnificence of it all will blow your mind. But parts of it are scary and unrelenting, too. Don't underestimate the difficulty of finding employment/a place to live/a social life in the "real world." Shield your heart for it. Be proactive. And, as you do so, remember that I, all other grads, are here in the same boat, ready to brave the storm with you.