, Salem, MA


May 21, 2013

Column: From Silicon Valley, advice for graduates

For many college seniors these days, the thought of approaching graduation is burdened by fear of unemployment and lack of direction. This isn’t helped by the fact that almost every day someone asks what we’re doing next. As a graduating senior at a liberal arts college near Boston, my answer has been relatively vague so far. Panic and apathy jostle for the upper hand. But I want to avoid pessimism and denial — because the reality is that college ends, and something, no matter what, comes after it.

So for spring break I escaped New England’s stormy weather and flew across the country to sunny California. But I didn’t dig out my bathing suit and head to the beach. Instead, I packed a skirt and prepared myself for two days of interviews in Silicon Valley. I wasn’t going for job interviews. I was going to interview professionals — to find a clue to the future.

I asked five people for their advice to graduates. It turned out that one piece of advice I received I was already following: Don’t ask for jobs, ask to interview people.

Informational interviews can help expand a graduate’s network and give them insight into various careers. But people also told me it’s a myth that I ought to know what I’m going to do by the time I graduate. I won’t know what I’m supposed to do until I’m about 35, they said. And it’s also a myth that my major will determine my career path.

Whew! That was a relief to hear, since I’m a philosophy and political science double major. Sometimes I worry that I should have majored in something like business or journalism. What do you do with a philosophy major? But I’m not as worried now. There are far more options than there are majors.

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