The Realities of Graduating

With my college graduation looming, the prospect of getting a job is terrifying. Am I prepared for the real world filled with 9-5 days? Probably not but it’s reality. 

Daunting is the state of the U.S. workforce. Unemployment for recent graduates stands at 5.2% in 2011, which is up from 2.4% in 2007. Figures like this are scary for people like myself who are about to graduate with almost $30,000 in student loan debt. 

The Department of Education reported that 9.1% of the 4.1 million borrowers have defaulted on their student loans in the 2010 fiscal year. The report also stated that an average senior in the class of 2010 graduated with $25,250 in student loans. 

What is especially scary about this sort of debt is that salaries of recent grads isn’t what it needs to be to effectively pay back student debt. The Wall Street Journal reported that on average the starting salary for bachelor degree recipients is only about $27,000. This figure is 10% less that what it was 5 years ago. Many resort to taking jobs that they are overqualified for. 

The upside of the story is that the economic climate is slowly getting better. In fact, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) projects that the class of 2013 will see a 13% hike in employment.

With things looking up in the job market, hopefully graduation won’t be as scary as it seems. 

Top Career Lessons

1. Be a Beta 

I think the best piece of advice I got heard from the interview with LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman was to be a beta. Beta is essentially the rough draft version of a new technology, a work in progress if you will. Hoffman asserts that you should present yourself as a beta to employers because it means you are adaptable and being able to adapt in a ceaselessly changing workforce is invaluable. 

2. Truly Educate Yourself

Scott Adams points out in his article that experience is what a true education is. You can go to class all you want but most of your learning will come from hands on, tangible experiences. These experiences will be applicable to countless future situations. The more experience you get, the better your chances are of being hired and the better you will look to future employers. Also a true education will just increase your value to a company. 

3. Learn to Read Everything

I liked this point given by Nate Silver. Recently, I’ve begun reading a ton of online articles from various sources. Being a well informed citizen is fantastic. Especially with elections in full force and news rapidly flowing every second, it is important to be reading. Reading is fundamental to understanding what is going on on the micro level to the macro. Read. Read. Read.

4. Being an Entrepreneur

This insight also comes from Nate Silver. Basically, what he is saying is that you should be considering yourself as a brand. In everything you do, you should be aware of its marketing potential and the effects of your competition. Being an entrepreneur effectively allows you to maintain a diligent eye on any opportunities as well as giving you a slight edge above the competition. 

5. Structure is Organic

This comes from the interview with John McPhee. When asked about structure he says that it is something organic, it grows from the work you do, in his case the words he writes. When it comes to a career, I interpret this as structure being your career. The work you do shapes what your career is and how it will be defined. As you grow and your work progresses, so does the structure – your career. 

Presentation Numero Dos

For the next presentation I would like to cover Mary Elizabeth Williams, a blogger for the Life section of Salon. 

She seems to post on a daily basis, minus the weekends, and covers a range of topics. Unlike Steve Kornacki, Mary Elizabeth Williams will write about anything that catches her interest, whether it be politics, fashion, social problems, or the latest celebrity gossip. I’d like to cover a blogger like Mary because she doesn’t stick to one general topic, but rather a range of topics. 

Along with Mary Elizabeth Williams, I am considering covering Wayne Bennett, aka “The Field Negro.”

Wayne Bennett has a very plain spoken blog regarding everyday topics with a refreshing perspective. A lot of his writing is tongue-in-cheek, as they say, and I love it. What I like most about him is that his writing is extremely easy to read. Although I don’t ever see myself writing in the context of the “black perspective,” I think Bennett’s blog is really great, and really interesting. 

Greeks Gone Mild

Recently, UMass Amherst and the surrounding town have begun a crackdown on student partying and under-age drinking. Fraternities typically exacerbate these problems and the community shows no signs of encouraging their growth, or so it was thought.

In the spring of 2012, the town and school came together to put an end to the “Zoomass” stigma. Efforts to thwart student partying ensued. The PVTA, the area’s transit authority, detoured certain routes to known party areas during the last weekends of the semester. In conjunction with bus detours, police would be out in full force.

The UMass Police Department, Amherst Police, and state police all worked together to prevent rowdy parties and under-age drinking. With so many officers roaming the streets, especially high traffic, off-campus areas, would help minimize the number of violations and incarcerations that come with rowdy students.

With strict policies on partying and under-age drinking, the town and school is keeping a closer eye on the growing Greek community on campus. With movies like Animal House creating negative connotations towards fraternities, it’s understandable why fraternities are targeted for rowdy parties and under-age drinking. This isn’t always the case, though.

Meagan Tracey, a senior English major at UMass, agreed that fraternities at UMass do come with a reputation of nonstop partying and drinking. While she is not in the Greek system, she was quick to point out that plenty of fraternities do give back through service projects. Tracey also hoped that the new UMass Chancellor, Dr. Kumble Subbaswamy, as well as the Town of Amherst, would reach out to the fraternities and sororities on campus to lessen the complaints made against UMass party goers.

An inside look at fraternities at UMass shows that they do make the effort to give back instead of partying all the time. Timothy Silvernail, President of Phi Gamma Delta at UMass, claims that people (students and community members alike) tend to focus more on the negative aspect of fraternities rather than embracing the more positive attributes. For example, Phi Gamma Delta, also known as FIJI, has logged a total of 104 community service hours since the start of the fall 2012 semester. Silvernail looks forward to changing the image his fraternity, like all others on campus, suffer from.

However negative the image for fraternities at UMass is, there is a silver lining. The lining lies with the town officials. On October 22, 2012, Amherst held its Select Board Coffee Hour, an event in which town leaders and student leaders meet with goals of progress in mind.

Maura Plante, assistant director of the Amherst Senior Center, thought very highly of fraternities after the event. Fraternities to her are just another resource that she can tap in to for volunteers on the various projects that need to be taken care of. For instance, Plante found a service ally in FIJI, as contact information was exchanged in order to have volunteers from FIJI rake leaves for Amherst’s senior citizen homes.

Robert Morra, Amherst’s Building Commissioner, expressed similar views of the fraternities and sororities at UMass. This being his first year as Building Commissioner, Morra thought it best to inspect the fraternity and sorority houses along with his team of inspectors. Surprisingly, he noted, all the houses were in proper working order, if not with a few minor issues to be found.

It seems like the days of “Zoomass”may be drawing to a close, with fraternities working towards bettering their image and the school doing the same. Looking ahead, a mutually beneficial program might be on the horizon, in which town officials and Greek leaders work to better the community encircling the UMass campus.

Steve Kornacki

For the last few weeks I’ve been following Steve Kornacki, a political blogger for Salon.com.

Kornacki blogs once a day, occasionally he will post a second blog. Each blog is pretty lengthy, at about 1000 words. For the most part, his blogs are his own interpretation of political discourses and events. He does a really good job at masking his own opinion on his highly polarizing topics.

Being an election year, it is no wonder that the majority of his posts have to deal with 2 things: the Presidential Election and the Massachusetts Senatorial Election.

From reading his posts, it is clear that Kornacki leans towards the left and and far more critical of Mitt Romney than he is of President Obama. For example, after the first Presidential debate, news centers around the country were citing how great Romney performed compared to Obama who appeared weak. Kornacki wrote this.

Because Kornacki deals with politics, he constantly needs to fact check. A lot of the time, his readers feel the need to fact check as well. In the link above, regarding Romney in the first debate, one commenter wrote “Nice try, Steve…again. You’re delusional.” Comments like these also bring out Kornacki’s followers, and they attack with a vengeance.

Kornacki is also a panelist on MSNBC’s “The Cycle“. The Cycle being a political talk show that began in June of this year. As well as participating in The Cycle and keeping daily posts with Salon, Kornacki also lives on Twitter through the handle @SteveKornacki. He tweets sporadically about day to day politics.

Given the depth and density of Kornacki’s material, I wouldn’t want his job. Political affairs can be interesting but its just not for me.

Ladies Speak Out

This evening was Alpha Chi Omega’s Luminary which was meant to make the UMass population aware of domestic violence.

The annual event not only brings awareness to a national problem but it also raises money to benefit UMass’ Center for Women and Community. This year’s event, we heard from the Center’s educator, Jill Grimaldi. She urged all those in attendance to “remain aware of the relationships [we] enter as they have the potential to be abusive.”

The goal of the event was to educate those in attendance on the types of domestic abuse as well as the key signs of an abusive relationship.

An event like this is the archetype of something positive the Greek system brings to a community. At UMass, 3% of the student population is Greek, most of them being members of sororities. The ladies of AXΩ proved tonight that it is often successful. They moved beyond the party scene that is UMass and brought a serious problem to the forefront of their focus and turned it into an educational opportunity for their fellow students, and Amherst inhabitants.

Events like this happen every semester, you just need to know where to look. Fraternities and sororities alike plan events to better the community and get students involved.