“What are you doing after you graduate?” When you are in the very thick of your very last semester of your masters degree, these words may make you want to run for the hills, slug the question asker in the nose, or curl up into a tiny ball and cry softly (this may be a tiny exaggeration…but only tiny).
It seems normal to have this anxiety, judging from past experience and those of my colleagues in the Journalism MA program, when faced with the prospect of emerging from the cocoon of graduate school and spreading your professional wings. You knew graduation day was coming. You put everything toward this very day, so why is it so scary?
As you know, journalism is a rapidly evolving field, and the job market is adjusting accordingly as newspapers cut positions, the ripples of recession still reverberate within newsroom walls, and news organizations of all stripes struggle to figure out ways to get paid for the content they produce.
Many of us also have student loans coming due after graduation, which means that our dreams of freelancing our way into bigger and better publications may not be as financially feasible as we hoped, especially if those bigger and better publications would rather pay freelancers than hire full-time reporters.
Add into the mix the fact that we are single-mindedly busting our buns trying to graduate on time in December and make rent every month (friends, family, sleep, and personal hygiene be damned!), never mind hitting the pavement, resumes in hand.
That said, I don’t know one person among my cohort who isn’t also incredibly excited to be turned loose upon finishing his or her degree.[flickr id=”8144416176″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”]
Because while we’ve been single-mindedly working towards graduation, the great thing about Columbia College Chicago’s Journalism MA program is that its professional orientation means we’ve been spending our three semesters single-mindedly building our portfolios and personal brands, networking, and working in the field. We’ve already been hitting the pavement and getting our names out there.
When you treat every story you write for class, every photo you take, every blog post you edit for the student magazine as a possible portfolio piece, life after graduation doesn’t seem quite as scary. It seems, in fact, like a realization of the work we’ve prepared to do, the work we’ve already started.