Being an Unemployed Ivy League Grad


Photo cred: Han Yang Lee

When you put in the time to get yourself into an Ivy League institution, it’s easy to think that you’re all set, and the doors will open up for you.  They do, somewhat — but you still have to put yourself through them.

I think people are misguided in thinking it’s a cake walk for Ivy League grads.  It’s not.  Think about it from a numbers perspective: at Brown alone, each graduating class consists of roughly 1,500 members.  For all of Brown’s merits, the friendliness of its student population at the top of that list, that’s still 1,499 very smart and talented people that you’re competing against for jobs.  Granted, not every single person is going to be getting a job, or even seeking a job in your respective industry, but when you factor in the 7 other Ivy League institutions and the additional thousands of grads that are being churned out each year…that’s a lot of smart and talented people.  This is nothing new; getting a job isn’t an easy thing.

I don’t think I ever  expected to be unemployed at this point.  Not because I was lulled into a false sense of security or complacency, but because I’m confident in my abilities and my work ethic.  That’s not a cocky statement; it’s a true one that’s been cultivated by the way I’ve been raised and the past 4 years at this institution, surrounded by such intelligent peers.  I realize that a year ago, I made a plan to not be one of those kids that graduates without a job and has no idea what he wants to do.  I made a concerted effort to avoid that fate, cold-calling my way into an internship at W+K, learning about the ad industry, and creating an opportunity for myself to gain relevant experience and learn, hands-on, what it was like to run an ad agency through the Brown Ad Club.  I made every effort to reach out to people in industry, “networking” and “connecting” —  two seriously overabused words, by the way — and meeting people from whom I could learn and hopefully get help from when the time came down to it.

I know that I’m incredibly lucky to have the support of my parents and the incredible luxury to pursue a job that I’m passionate about, rather than something for the sake of making money (not that making money would be bad…).  The way I’ve treated my career is that it’s going to be something that I’m doing for 40 years, so I better hope it’s something that I enjoy.  And I genuinely enjoy all that I’ve been exposed to that relates to advertising.  Rather than treating a job as a means to an end — the end being doing something that I actually do find enjoyable, I’d like to treat the job as some kind of end in itself, something that I enjoy for what it is.  I’d rather not always be working towards doing something that makes me happy; instead I’d like to just do what makes me happy.

Frankly, being an unemployed Ivy League grad — to me at least — is somewhat embarrassing.  There’s a lot of questions that you have to answer: wait, you went to Brown right?  You’re supposed to have a job, right?  Yes, I know, it’s not like I chose to be unemployed.  I also know that I haven’t chosen the easiest career path, picking a department (planning) that’s typically the smallest at any given any agency, doesn’t hire very much at the entry-level, barely ever posts any positions on public job boards…the entire process has to be conducted through people that you know, that you’ve been introduced to, that you have to reach out to.  It’s not easy, but it’s what I want to do.

One of my favorite quotes is from Larry Page, to have a “healthy disregard for the impossible”.  It’s certainly not impossible to be a junior planner in advertising, but it can be hard.  I’m convinced, however, that I’m a good candidate for the jobs that are out there, and that I can get it done.  I don’t “disregard the impossible”, but I certainly don’t get caught up in all the things that can go wrong.  At least not yet…talk to me in three months and see where I’m at, haha.


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