Questioning my decision to enter grad school. Now what?
April 9, 2012 1:53 PM   Subscribe

I am stressing about my life post-graduate school. Special snowflake details after the jump.

I'm 29 y/o male in my first year of graduate school. The program is geared towards design and technology. My entire time in school I have been having existential meltdowns due to the amount of student loans I am taking on, and I keep telling myself it will be worth it in the end.

As much as I enjoy the work in the program, I have this overwhelming feeling that I am going to be stricken with debt for years to come, and question how much of a boost this program is giving me in terms of being an attractive candidate for employment. Ideally I am aiming for a tech start-up here in NYC.

What has me questioning my viability for employment is my lack of real-world experience. A lot people in my program come from a design background. I don't, and I feel that I am always playing catch up. I think I had this vague idea that this would be solved with the courses I take. Unfortunately that has not happened.

I have been applying for graduate internships for the summer, and it appears that I do not have the portfolio necessary for these internships. So far I have applied to four internships, and have been rejected by two.

While I am not completely hung-up on getting an internship, this feels ominous, as if this is sign of a larger problem in terms of being employable.

I guess what I am looking for is advice on how to cope with this feeling of malaise.

Thanks.
posted by helios410 to Education (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do something productive, its the only cure. Can you do some volunteer design work or something independent or basically anything at all to get experience?
posted by fshgrl at 1:55 PM on April 9, 2012


The NYC startup scene is cool and all, but I think you'd feel a lot better if you had a backup plan. I mean, today, a company that adds sepia tones to photos you take with your cell phone sold for $1 billion. The bursting of the bubble can't be far off, now.

Where have you been applying for internships? Are they at white-hot NYC startups, and if so, have you considered applying at a established company, maybe even one that doesn't make a tech product?
posted by downing street memo at 1:56 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Even outrageously employable people get turned down for jobs. Keep applying!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:57 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would highly suggest quitting the program and cutting your losses if you cannot arrange for a decent internship this summer, simply because the experience you get during a summer internship is what you will leverage into a full time job after you graduate.

If your graduate advisor and your program isn't guiding you towards the experience-building internships and helping you make the connections within the field that you need to get something out of the program, then you should bail out.... or even just go on "leave of absence" to build the experience you need before giving them even more of your future earnings.
posted by deanc at 2:18 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Keep going. Also, add some self teaching to those areas where you feel weak. School teaching is not the only way to gain information. If you feel you can't educate yourself, take some extra courses, not for credit, but for actual knowledge to fill in your gaps. If you start to think out of the box now, in terms of our education, it will be refreshing to your future employers.

College teaches you how to think. But you can't rely on it to give you all the education you need.
posted by Vaike at 2:32 PM on April 9, 2012


it appears that I do not have the portfolio necessary for these internships.

Well, that's pretty concrete. Is that what someone has said, or your own guess? Are you going to have the portfolio required for the graduate positions you want? If not, why not? What would it take to build it - looks like you might have a free summer ahead, right? Is it possible to build it? If a portfolio is necessary to get the jobs you are supposed to get after this program, and you don't see any way to building a portfolio, and your school and advisors can't help you with this, then there is no real point to completing the program is there?
posted by jacalata at 2:40 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have this overwhelming feeling that I am going to be stricken with debt for years to come, and question how much of a boost this program is giving me in terms of being an attractive candidate for employment. Ideally I am aiming for a tech start-up here in NYC.

I say this with nothing but helpful intentions, but this isn't special snowflakeness in any way, shape or form. This is insanely common.

You got turned down by, what, two startups? Here's the thing: Startups are busy. Their founders are usually just figuring out what in the hell it means to hire actual employees, let alone spending time on interns. And hot startups get way more applicants than they can possibly deal with, resulting in them turning down even massively qualified candidates.

Go through all of the Made in NYC companies, even the ones that you haven't heard as much about, or that seem less sexy. Find the ones that have an open source project you can contribute to, or that are largely community-focused in a way that you can participate in usefully. Then just start doing the job that you want to do. Answer the tech support questions they're getting on Twitter. Start a Tumblr pulling apart each UI and UX decision they make in their app or product, and talk about what they did right or wrong. If you've got the coding chops, build a feature on top of their API that they don't know they need. If you're more of a business-focused design/tech person, write one solid blog post every week about a company they should be partnering with, and how that partnership should work.

In short, show, don't tell. Make sure your bio for your Twitter or Tumblr says "looking for an internship at Company Name" and I promise, they'll reach out as long as you do a few of these things aggressively and consistently for a month or so.

And if you're at NYU ITP or SVA IXD, make use of your school's placement programs to help get connected to good startup opportunities. Don't be afraid to follow all of these tactics for bigger companies, too — you might find that you love being at IBM or Bloomberg.
posted by anildash at 2:51 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are you stocking up your portfolio with projects you work on in your classes? The things you work on in classes can and should go into your portfolio, especially if you document your projects along the way. People hiring you want to see your problem-solving process.

It's relatively easy to get through grad school. To get value out of it requires focus. After being there a year, how do you feel about what you want to get out of the experience? Try to align the projects you work on in class, the thesis you might have to complete, the internships you apply to and the side projects you work on. Advisors can help, but it's much better to find people doing the jobs that you want and seeing the paths they took to get there.
posted by sub-culture at 3:05 PM on April 9, 2012


I have been applying for graduate internships for the summer, and it appears that I do not have the portfolio necessary for these internships. So far I have applied to four internships, and have been rejected by two.

Are you saying you were accepted by the other two? Because if you are and you maintain this hit rate on job applications in later life then you are likely to do quite well, especially as 50% in a depressed economy will translate to an even better score post-depression. Accentuate the positive as they say in song, stop whining as we say in more enlightened regimes.
posted by biffa at 3:45 PM on April 9, 2012


Does CUNY have a similar program that you could transfer into so that the tuition hit wouldn't be as bad?
posted by Jagz-Mario at 8:08 PM on April 9, 2012


Hey, I'm in the same boat, I think. I'm a first-year IxD grad student with no design background. Are you in a similar program?

What sorts of internships are you looking for? I'm also searching and haven't found anything yet, but I've only applied to three, with another 20 I've bookmarked and intend to apply to within the next week or so. Here are some of the things I've been doing: As for how to cope: what does your support system at school look like? Talk to your graduate advisor. Can you talk to any of your classmates? If you don't have that sort of rapport with them, feel free to MeMail me. :)
posted by kiripin at 10:30 PM on April 9, 2012


« Older How should I plan and make a s...   |  Two weeks in Italy, from Rome ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.