Are Your Post-Grad Expectations Matching Reality? Interview with Kristen Rivera Stegall
If you haven’t noticed, I’ve taken a couple months off of creating content for YouTube and this blog (I’m sorry!). To be honest, I feel like I’ve been flailing a little bit with my career and social life. I think a big part of it is moving around so much recently and not having a job (yet!). However, this is the state that I am currently in and want some answers! Do other people feel this way too? Does anyone else actually have their life figured out? How to maintain friendships, fitness, cooking, cleaning, and happiness?? So I’ve decided to start a new series on my blog where I interview other people my age, to see what’s really going on in their lives and if they have any words of wisdom for me and you!!
This is my first interview for the series and it’s with such a gem- Kristen Stegall! I went to Meredith College with her and she was such an inspiration! I knew Kristen through running cross country together and she used to be a roommate of one of my best friends in college. In college I remember Kristen being everywhere! She was Corn Co-chair (it’s a Meredith thing) and creating marketing videos for the college. She took on so many other leadership roles and was amazing at it!
Kristen majored in communication with the hopes of becoming a video producer one day. She went on to pursue her Master’s degree at Elon University in interactive media and then quickly moved to Charlotte, married, and started her career. Through social media, it looks like Kristen has it all together and is living her dreams with tons of friends by her side. She seems like someone where everything just kind of worked out perfectly on the perfect timeline for her and is working in the industry that she actually studied. But when I met with her, I found out there’s a totally different story.
I met with Kristen at a coffee shop. As soon as we saw each other we did not stop talking for 5 hours! I wanted to know everything about her life and how she made it all work and she was very willing to share. She told me that her life wasn’t really going to plan like she thought. For her first job post-grad, she had to accept part time and low pay just to maintain something that kind of related to what she wanted to do. She said that she was so defeated thinking that this is what she went to grad school for? This?? After working there less than a year, she moved to a full time job but still has her sights on being a video producer. She is currently trying to build her experience at her current job while also fulfilling some creative projects on the side.
Kristen shared with me that she didn’t realize that she would be at such a disadvantage due to her lack of experience (and she’s already been working for 2 years and had 3 summer internships!). She thought her extra degree would give her that edge that she needed for the competitive job market. Many jobs that she applied for required extra years of experience that she did not yet have. So what does that mean? Starting at the bottom no matter how many degrees you have.
She has started to reach out in other ways such as meeting with influential people in her field over coffee to chat about their experience and network. Kristen told me that this could be scary, but no one has told her no yet! Any time that she meets someone who she either wants to work for or learn from she invites them to coffee. She has also tried to be more involved in networking groups in the area and volunteers to be on leadership committees within the groups. She believes that her best chances of landing her dream job in video producing is to keep reaching out to others and gaining that experience. She is learning to “trust the process” and hopes that the investment that she makes with her time now will pay off later.
One thing that she said that really stuck with me was when she told me “You know, I really think that I peaked in college.” Kristen was had so many leadership roles and was so well-known around campus, so I’m sure it’s hard to start at the bottom again- except this time she’s in the real word. Does anyone else feel like that? I don’t know if I feel like I peaked in college, but sometimes I do feel like I was a lot happier in college. Do we only remember the good feelings? I remember having all my friends around me all the time and thinking that life is just going up from here. That I was learning all this information and having all of these experiences that will help me to have a job that I absolutely love- and it’s just not like that. At least right now. How do we fix that? Do we just have to readjust our expectations with our new reality?
Kristen said that she’s just been trying have courage to be as involved and network at events that she’s actually interested in. Some of her attempts were awkward and didn’t work out, but eventually found some great groups to be involved in. She also uses her YouTube channel and soon-to-be podcast (the instagram is @grownupguide) as another channel to pursue production skills outside of work. And I think that she brings an important point- don’t just settle. There is always a way to keep trying and pushing forward in the direction that you want to go- even if you have to make that direction for yourself.
Action Points from Kristen’s Interview
1. Become involved in networking groups that you actually enjoy. It may be awkward at first- but seek out the other individuals and soon that feeling will pass.
2. Meet with those with more experience in your industry. Reach out and ask to chat and hopefully they’ll remember you when they have a vacancy at their job.
3. Take a survey of your life and ask if you’re really happy. IF not, reach out to those who can help you. There are people that want to help and can greatly benefit you and your career.