Spring 2012, Senior year at Trinity: I was frantic about finding a job and moving to LA as soon as humanly possible. I was trying to enjoy my last moments as a Trinity student, hanging out with my AcaBellas and Zeta Chis while I still could. Chunks of my hair were falling out from the sheer stress of wondering whether or not I’d pass Computer Programming. I was worried about what would happen with me and my girlfriend after I graduated. I was screaming into pillows over the fact that all the “Entry Level” jobs I applied for required at least 3 years of prior experience, and I just knew that the post-grad Gods were all pointing and laughing at me, Kendra, that pathetic mortal soul with really fantastic hair. My mother kept trying to find me “industry jobs” in my hometown of Anchorage, meanwhile I felt I was slowly rotting away as a post-grad statistic, living with my parents…
Fast forward to Spring 2013, almost a year after receiving my Bachelors degree in Communication: I came to Los Angeles with everything I owned on a complete leap of faith, and I can honestly say I’ve never felt so happy and secure in my entire life. I’m working in the entertainment industry as an assistant to a writer/director in Popular LGBT Film, and I also work on a TV show called ‘Dish Nation’ (Weeknights on FOX, heyooo!). I am living with two awesome roommates, one of my fellow AcaBellas and my brilliantly sweet girlfriend. I have two dogs who happily greet me when I come home from work. I now live completely and 100% on my own finances. I can’t really give a ‘secret’ on how I managed to take charge of my life and construct my own reality, but I can offer a few points of advice that were the foundation of my own small victories and personal growth. I know you guys prefer lists, so, don’t worry”¦ I will hook you up. These are the three most important bits of advice I could ever offer to any undergrad headed for the real world:
1. Don’t be afraid to define the life you want for yourself. It’s okay to freak out. It would be weird if you weren’t freaking out. A lot of times we feel pressure from every which direction to be a certain kind of successful, or to pursue a certain path; mom wants you to be a lawyer, dad wants you to find a husband with a good job and his own set of golf clubs, your girlfriend wants you to “wait for her” and your professors expect you to go to grad school because you’ve got some crazy thirst for knowledge. To speak from my own experience – the biggest, most crucial part that you seem to always forget is that YOU are the one gripping the steering wheel. You’re the one in charge of the turn signals, you’re the one who decides if and when to clean your janky-ass car. Your parents are the screaming toddlers in the backseat throwing Cheerios everywhere, making you fantasize about driving off a cliff. Your professors are the traffic signs along the way, guiding you with the wisdom of their suggestions, but you still possess that wonderful thing called FREE WILL. Your dreams and aspirations don’t have to be a thing of fantasy and “if only.” You are in control, you are your own turning point, and you – only you – will determine what happens next. Your dreams are made real by your commitment to them.
2. Have faith, but make room. For failure, for self-improvement, for a larger pant size, for unknown opportunities, for growth, for a solid plan B. Nobody ever got anywhere by playing it safe, but the reality of the situation is this: You’re about to graduate from college, and if you’re going to grad school, you’ve still got time to stall and think about it, and if you didn’t plan on going to grad school”¦ grad school does seem like a fabulous way to buy more time. Let me just say this – if you have a concrete plan, wonderful! Stay on that path. But if you’re one of the overwhelming majority who has no idea what happens after you get that $200,000 diploma – it’s okay. You still have plenty of time to figure out that next step, but you’ve got to be persistent and hungry for that progression. Maybe you’ll have to work a part time summer job while you live with your parents, maybe you’ll have to take a gap year, maybe you want to travel. They’re all valid stepping stones, but remember that they have to actually lead somewhere. For me, I graduated in the Spring of 2012, and my “GTFO of mom and dad’s house” timeline expired as soon as Fall 2012 came around. I had the entire summer to focus on the next step – so I joined a gym, I got in shape, I applied to entertainment industry jobs in the Los Angeles area until I hit over 500 job applications. It got to the point where I’d look at my own resume and think “DOUCHEBAG” but that was really just because if anybody looked at and refined their resume upwards of 500 times, they’d kinda bask in self-loathing, too. So job competition IS as fierce as they tell you. Don’t kid yourself. But don’t throw in the towel, either. Keep applying for jobs, keep sending out your resume, keep expanding your comfort zone. I want to work in scripted TV, but I applied for jobs in film, reality TV, theatre, PR, post-production, and in the Music Industry. I think what saved me was that I’d started emailing directors and writers who I really admired, asking them if they needed any creative or administrative assistance – and that just so happened to be my ticket out of Alaska. That email turned into my first industry job. Turns out that your potential employers respond really well to personalized attention and admiration. No one’s above it — try it. Try anything, really. Except for porn. Don’t try porn.
3. Practice gratitude. Even though your parents might have different or unrealistic dreams and expectations for you, it’s likely that they’ve poured their heart and soul into your future. Be grateful for their dedication to you — you were probably a hormonal sh*tshow as a teenager and as a baby, you smelled. What I learned with my folks is that if you can prove your autonomy in a healthy way and come out happier and more successful for it, they will support you no matter what. Be grateful for your education; a lot of people don’t have the one that you have, and you will learn very quickly that some people just don’t “get it.” I’ve met people in the past few months who have attended college, but don’t know who John F. Kennedy is or basic cultural references. However, they can name every cast member on Jersey Shore. It’s the little things. You’ll notice them. Be grateful for any small opportunity that comes your way and cherish it for however long you’ve got it. Remember that every little thing counts towards the bigger picture – so if you get some gig to shadow a dentist for a week or you get to be a PA on set of a reality show for a weekend, use it to your advantage. At this juncture of your young life, networking is the #1 “make-or-break” factor in your success. Welcome these connections, nurture them, use them. Oh”¦ and don’t forget to have fun and drink a margarita every once in a while.