Every year, after spending four years (give or take) in an area with 15 times the people on the same amount of acreage as your hometown, thousands of young adults graduate from college armed with a degree and varying levels of unbridled optimism.
Graduating from college is different for everyone and yields consistently inconsistent results. Along with being a roller coaster of emotions, there is usually uncertainty about the rest of your life. Relationships and career trajectories are thrown into the air, and most grads are just trying to control the general area of where those things land.
It’s time for the “real world” — said as if the stress felt for the past four years is somehow devalued and belittled now that responsibilities are changed. No pressure, right? Here’s how the path often plays out:
One day after college graduation: Everyone is still celebrating. Friends, family, and strangers are excited about your accomplishment. You say goodbye to friends you may only see once every few years from now on. Some, you are OK with the distance. Others, you want to stay near in perpetuity.
One week after: If you are like most, a job is not waiting for you. The dreaded question that has been following you for the past year becomes more and more frequent. “So what’s next?” To which an answer could be anything from, “I’m going to work on the farm back home,” to “I’m starting my own business.” Other responses include: “I’ll be working with ‘X Company’ doing ‘Y,’” or, “God only knows.” My default answer was, “I have a few things in the water, but for now I’m continuing my internship and freelance opportunities. Why, have you heard of something?”
Two weeks after: If you haven’t been bombarded by well-meaning friends and family already, right about now is when you can expect text messages, calls, emails, Facebook messages, and carrier pigeons with links or info on open jobs. Most likely, it will not be something you are interested in or trained for. Sometimes there are not-so-well-meaning people saying things like, “At what point till you take just any job?” That one always stings.
Three weeks after: You start to accept that the plan of whichever deity or external force you choose. It can be liberating to put everything into another’s hands. Or, if you are like some, the thought is infuriating and propels you into more aggressive means of finding a position. This can include cold calling, applying to places you are vastly underqualified for, and politely inviting yourself into situations that have even the smallest chance of getting a lead on a position.
One month after and beyond: Eventually, you will get a job. It could be related to your field of study, or not. You could love it, like it, or hate it. You could be making the same amount of or more money that when you were a student. No matter what, you will find something, and it will pay your bills. You will work hard and impress your colleagues and superiors, eventually earning a promotion, pay raise, or a solid recommendation letter.
Overall, remember that having a job lined up before you graduate is not the norm. Whatever path you take is your own. There is no right way to do it.
Graduates from a rural background have a particular advantage to those who come from suburban or urban areas. By working with nature your entire life, you have a respect for the time and energy it takes to have a successful career. Patience is key here. Ultimately, even if agriculture is not where your career or life is going, has shaped each person it connects with in a positive way. Use those lessons learned in the field or pasture, and you will not fail.
Jessy Woodworth is a graduate of The Ohio State University, where she studied agricultural communication and animal sciences.