Ask Ayana Iman: I am 24 years old. I just graduated from college with my B.A. in sociology. I have many dreams, goals, and ideas that I can never see to fruition.
I'm really into social justice and policy. Ultimately, I'd like to have my 9 to 5 based in the field of social research for the purposes of policy-making. However, I don't have much experience. I did hold two internship positions throughout college but they're not adequate—at least not to me. Right now, I'm searching for a job that is not retail, so that I can feel better about spending all this time and money in college. I want to go back to school but my college career was not my best. I know I want to go to grad school and grad school is one of the best ways to increase my marketability in the job world, but my GPA from my undergrad years is extremely low, so I am very hesitant about even applying to any schools. And whenever I apply for a job sometimes, I see that they have a GPA requirement. And it just makes me feel even worse, because I know I am extremely competent and capable of doing whatever task that is put in front of me.
My GPA does not tell my whole story. I do better in the field than I do in a classroom. And now, I just don't know how to move forward.
I'm starting to feel like a waste of potential at this point because I have always been the smart one in the family. But things took a turn for worse when I entered college. School was "my thing," and when I started doing poorly I lost "my thing." My family had always put me on a pedestal and conditioned me to believe that I was the one destined to be so great and extremely successful. Now, I'm here and my life is not going as planned. What do I do now?
First things first, you are not a waste of potential sis; in fact, you are fully capable of achieving your dreams. You've done the hard work of identifying what you love, which is a career in social justice and policy. We need people like you to carry the torch. I suggest moving forward with looking for work in your desired field. Try the non-profit, healthcare, government sectors, there are plenty of entry-level positions available for recent grads, including paid internships. And don't discount temp agencies. Having work experience will create three opportunities:
- Help you build skills and open up new opportunities for your future.
- Possibly pay for school as part of your benefits package, help you personally fund your education, or give you time to apply to scholarships to defray the cost of attendance.
- Reflects positively with admission offices to show your work ethic, giving them greater reason to accept your application.
In addition, you have the option to look for schools without the GPA/GRE requirement. Also, try submitting a transparent admission essay chronicling your undergraduate experience and what you'd hope to gain from the program.
Here's how to maximize your job opportunities:
Fine-tune your resume
Take the time to research roles on LinkedIn and companies that you love to see the most commonly used job titles. This will help you gain clarity on the role and how it may vary depending on the company. Check out the skills section and make sure the keywords are used in your resume.
Get a recruiter
A recruiter can help you get access to positions that may not have been on your radar. Most recruiters prep you before interviews and give you pointers on how to leave a lasting impression. Ask questions and get feedback on how you can better yourself, it's crucial to your success. Just remember, there is never going to be one person that has all the answers, but their POV can give you an added perspective.
Build your social profiles
Unblock your pages and clean up your profiles. Utilize your posts to build your personal brand. Identify the issues you care about the most and align your thoughts with them. Just make sure you share fact-based information and it's not radical. The goal here to show potential companies your work ethic, not to eliminate opportunities.
Your network is your net worth
Issa Rae said it best, "We have a tendency of trying to network up, but it's really about networking across." Identify young professional networking opportunities, including group chats, and get involved. This is your chance to connect with recent graduates and people in mid-career that can share their insights with you. Take the discussions offline and meet up IRL to nurture relationships.
Leave the nest
Have you thought about looking for jobs in other areas? I know it can be scary, but experiencing new places is good for growth and expansion. You're in a great place to take some (calculated) risks.
No matter where you go, you take yourself with you. Listen to your self-talk and replace any negative thoughts with positive ones. You got this!
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