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Senior Moments

By Jennifer Gabrielle ’06

This is the second in a series of essays by Gabrielle, an intern writer in the Office of College Relations, on being a Smith senior nearing graduation.

Coffee’s On at the CDO

“I plan to be Iron Woman.”

That’s the answer I give people when they ask me, almost daily now, The Question – What are you going to do after you graduate?

This exchange usually provides a window of opportunity to at least change the subject, especially if people actually wish to discuss my triathlon training strategies.

But in reality, I do not plan to be Iron Woman. I do not plan to go to graduate school. I plan to get a job.

As a direct result of that decision, I have set up camp in the Career Development Office. In addition to the hours I’ve spent researching careers and alumnae networking opportunities, I’ve eaten lunch there on several occasions and even written an essay for class while I waited for a drop-in appointment. I’ve become as regular a feature as the coffee pot in the waiting area, only not nearly as useful. I would gladly accept a 50-cent donation, though. At the rate my job search is going, come graduation I may need all the pennies I can get.

My first senior-year visit to the CDO was last October, back when I was still ahead of the game. I was told the fall semester was a time for narrowing down your search. January and February were for sending out inquiries and conducting informational interviews in your field. There was no need to apply for anything until March or April unless you came across a specific deadline.

In October, it sounded like a breeze. I had plenty of time.

I was clearly delusional. Without warning, Interterm hit. By then I had managed to narrow my job search to a single city, which enabled me to focus my energy on only a few thousand job opportunities instead of searching haphazardly across several continents. However, it was difficult to find job postings online, since I was so specific about what I wanted to do and where I wanted to do it. Where was my dream job and why couldn’t I find it? I tried asking Jeeves, but all he did was shrug.

How hard could it be for me to find a job as a writer? At this point, Iron Woman seemed like a more realistic goal.

As of February, I kept my coffee pot of future employment on the back burner, thinking there was still time. Then news began rippling through the class of 2006: students all around me were receiving grad school acceptance letters, finding employment opportunities and scheduling real live job interviews.

“How did this happen? How did I get so far behind?” asked we plan-less ones. We found camaraderie in our panic, and bonded over the ambiguous future in gales of laughter -- nervous, frightened gales, that is. “They’re just crazy overachievers,” we said to comfort ourselves. But we’d have gladly been crazy, too, if it meant an end to the uncertainty that ate away at us every day like coffee on an empty stomach.

I returned to the CDO in March to fill up on something more substantial. I came away with research tips, names of alumnae to contact, a plan of action and, most importantly, a promise for help whenever I needed it.

One of the scariest things about graduating is leaving behind such a tight community of friends, professors and supervisors, all in one tidy, on-campus package. It’s comforting to have someone to guide you through the process and answer your questions so you’re not forced to prepare for this big departure alone.

These days at the CDO I pour out burning questions about resumes and cover letters. The advisers’ answers leave me feeling as if I’ve accomplished something, as if I am one step closer to the future me.

I wonder: What will she look like, this new me? Where next will she call home?

When I finally do leave my regular spot at the CDO in May, they’ll have to make do with the lone coffee pot in the corner and without my donations. And despite the lack of 50-cent donations made to me, I’m confident I’ll be ready to leave when the time comes. In my new life beyond Smith, I’ll have a whole new pot of coffee to brew.

I might even give Iron Woman a shot after all.

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