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just starting out
Editorial By Shaila Creekmore, Illustration By Brittney Guest

Eleven years ago this month, I received my diploma from Arkansas State University along with nearly a thousand other people ready to tackle “the real world.” Many of those walking with me already had jobs lined up to start within days or weeks of graduation. Others, like myself, had decided to wait until the summer to look for employment.

I was more concerned about my June wedding and honeymoon and was certain I could find a job afterwards. My soon-to-be husband had graduated in December and had spent the spring semester substitute teaching.

We were young, jobless and without a care in the world. We didn’t even care that we didn’t have jobs when we returned from our honeymoon. That would all work itself out. We had an apartment, degrees and enough money saved up for about three months of expenses.

Our parents said we were living on love. We laughed and said don’t worry about it. They would often bring groceries on visits or send us home with a bag full of food, extra things they bought and didn’t need. My mom would mail me coupons, just in case there were any I needed. It was their way of helping out without butting in.

For two months, I spent time setting up the apartment and Kevin played lots of golf. In early August, I said, “I guess it’s time I got a job.” I made a phone call, had an informal interview and started working four nights a week as a copy editor at The Jonesboro Sun. Later in the month, Kevin received a phone call that one of the Jonesboro elementary schools needed an additional fourth grade teacher and he started the day after Labor Day. See Mom and Dad, it all worked out – no worries!

But that was a decade ago when jobs were ready to be had and a career was only a phone call away. You could drop off a couple of resumes and wait on a phone call. I knew very few people we graduated with who were worried about finding a job.

Today, students graduating with college degrees are waiting tables and working at Wal-Mart while sending out hundreds of resumes and hoping that someone is hiring. Some are pursuing a master’s degree instead of entering the workforce just so they can remain on their parent’s health insurance.

During college, my husband and I only worked summer jobs to earn extra money for the school year. Now, more college students are working in their degree fields part-time or through internships just to try to get a leg up over the competition while working their way through college.

Looking back now, I can see that the world I entered 11 years ago was in many ways not “the real world” after all, but ideal circumstances that I happened to be lucky enough to encounter without realizing how fortunate we were.