By Sean Wetselaar
It’s getting to be the end of the semester. And for some students that also means the end of their academic career. For fourth-year students, April looms with not just the classic crunch that comes with papers and final exams — it comes with the pressures of the rapidly advancing real world.
Perhaps the scariest version of this apprehension comes for those who are not planning to go on to another degree, or any other kind of school. Knowing that you are a month away from the real world, a month away from adult responsibilities with no student status to use as an excuse, can be a terrifying moment.
In our arts section this week, you’ll read about the struggle that photography students in particular face breaking into a shrinking industry. And that narrative has often been true for many students that choose to study fine arts — fine arts programs boast some of the lowest employment rates among graduating students. But especially for our generation, graduating into a difficult economy still largely occupied by baby boomers with 30 or 40 years of seniority on us, it can be scary no matter what you’ve studied.
That’s the bad news. If you’re a young person in university, you’ve probably heard some version of that a thousand times. But you can relax, because I’m not here to beat you to death with another version of it. I’m here to shine at least a little optimism on your futures, no matter how complicated your respective industries may be.
You all have the pieces that you need to make your degree work for you, and to grab that job that you’ve been dreaming about. You’ve heard people talk about all the pieces, in conversations that have probably happened so often you’ve begun to think of them as clichés: be your own brand, start your own businesses. If the mainstream parts of your industry won’t hire you, won’t listen to your ideas, do your own thing. Above all else, hustle.
You may have rolled your eyes at speakers that have told you things like that over and over again — trust me, I did. But the reality is that it’s good advice. The economy we’re graduating into has been called the gig economy for a reason. The days of grabbing that comfy nine-to-five with benefits and a healthy pension at the end of the line are long behind us. We need to take jobs where we can get them, and do what we need to do to make ends meet.
I know that can sound frustrating, unfair and terrifying. But the truth is that while we may be entering a tough workforce, our challenges can also be our opportunities.
Taking a lot of little jobs might make your pay more sporadic, but it also gives you the chance to only work on projects that matter to you. If you’re freelancing, working part-time or otherwise hustling in your industry of choice, you have a chance to try to focus on developing specifically the skills that got you interested in your field in the first place.
Try to remember why you applied to Ryerson — what made you excited when you got your acceptance letter. Think about what kind of work you dreamt of doing while you were finishing high school. Then, go out and do exactly that kind of work. Maybe nobody is hiring you to do it full-time.
But nobody is stopping you.
The millennials have been often criticised for a laziness that the older generations seem to have invented for our ilk to bear. Let’s go prove them exactly how wrong they are.