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Ask Amy: College grad wonders when real life will start

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • April 18, 2013 - 6:14 PM

Dear Amy: I am a 24-year-old college graduate living in my parents’ basement. I never have a day off because I work seven days a week — weekdays as an unpaid intern and weekends at a minimum wage job. I’m ambitious with a clear head on my shoulders, but entry-level jobs in my field seem to have disappeared. Since graduating two years ago, I’ve applied for 140 jobs.

I feel overworked, underpaid, overeducated, in debt with student loans and stuck. It’s as if I’ll never have my own place and be a real person. The tunnel seems long and dark, without any light at the end. I’m wondering how long it took you to launch into full-fledged adulthood and if there’s any hope that one day I’ll reach it.

Amy says: I graduated from college into a tough economy and with no clear direction. The difference between then and now is that companies did not expect college graduates to provide unpaid labor. I worked in a bicycle shop and an art gallery, at a movie theater and as a lounge singer at night. I never lived at home post-college, but I rented a small room in a group house. It took me three years to get my first “professional” job.

If you are confident that your internship will yield opportunities, then by all means keep at it. But you are applying for jobs right and left, which tells me that your internship might not be the answer. My advice would be to work more at your paying job and less at the internship — and continue to look for entry-level jobs in your field.

You are already a “real person.” And this is real life. You will succeed.

Thanks for the hard truth

Dear Amy: You published my letter recently. When I read your response (to my question about my son who is angry with me for charitable donations I’ve made and plan to make), my first reaction was: How dare she tell me I am being manipulative? And yet, I see it. I have long said that I would keep learning until I draw my last breath. This is another learning experience for me. I have work to do. My deepest thanks!

Amy says: Thank you so much for getting in touch. I especially appreciate that even though you did not necessarily like my response, you are open to it.

Your money is your own to spend as you please. Your choice to force your son to react to your spending (even when you knew he disagreed with it and would react poorly) made me wonder why you would repeatedly confront him with it.

We all have work to do. I applaud you for facing this reality and thank you for getting in touch.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com.

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