I am very sorry for the delay in getting the episodes up quickly, I was caught in lots of things over the past weekend…The series continues…
Today, I have the pleasure of introducing my FRIEND of about a decade, Nana Ama Benewaa Agyei. I met her in my first year of secondary school (Wesley Girls’ High School) and she is the first friend I made in school. I am honored to be sharing her story today and I hope someone learns from it.
What is your name and what university did you attend?
My name is Ama B. Agyei and I attended the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.
What year did you graduate and what course did you offer?
I graduated in May 2017; I majored in Criminal Justice and Psychology as the basis of my future plans of going to law school.
Briefly describe how your university life; any extracurricular activities you were involved, scholarships, awards/honours etc.
My university life was well quite boring in my estimation. I wasn’t really involved in extracurricular activities due to most of the drama surrounding these activities. Also, as a double major and working in school, I barely had enough time for myself and I felt like extracurricular was not worth the little free time had. I finished school with honors to which I am highly proud of considering some circumstances that cropped up while in school.
Based on your experience in university, do you regret going to university or did you regret at a point? If so why?
This is such a loaded question! I do regret going to the university I went to because I did not like it and I feel like I could have achieved a more holistic university experience had I went elsewhere. My biggest regret was not transferring when I had the chance to. Besides that, I wouldn’t say I regret going to college as a whole because it has educated in ways unimaginable. Also, I made some few friends whom I think will be life-long friends. I would say my regret may come in terms of my choice of major. Having graduated since May 2017, it’s been already almost a year and I am still yet to find a full time “decent” job. My mother advised me to major in nursing and while that is an honorable career choice with a stable solid source of income, I knew that was not what I wanted for the rest of my life. Headstrong, I went ahead with Psychology and Criminal Justice. There have been many nights where I have laid in bed regretting this move simply because I cannot seem to find a job. While I plan on going to law school and ultimately working as a lawyer, it is such a heartbreaking feeling considering the racked up student loans and countless sleepless nights only to complete college and be unemployed. By no means do I want to sound entitled but upon completion of college, there are simply some jobs that are unacceptable for me to do. In sum, my biggest regret is I should have analyzed the job market a bit more before choosing my career path.
Upon graduation, did you have any plans as to what your next move was? Could you please share?
I had expected to be working in a research role or as a Paralegal/Legal assistant. Even before completion of school, I perfected my resume and applied for jobs. I had many family members speak to me about applying for as many jobs as possible so I followed suit.
Based on the answer from the question above, did these plans materialize in the short term or even long term? If it did what was the process like? If not, what happened? Did you have any backup plans?
These plans have surely not materialized. I feel like it’s a combination of several factors. The main factor is that the jobs I have been eyeing are all in the city area. I live in a very small town with little to no job prospects in the direction I want to take. I have to consider commuting to the city but also, I have to consider if the pay of the job is worth the commute. To commute, I’d have to drive to a nearby town, park my car and pay for a day parking pass, then take the commuter train to the city. Over time, not only is this highly expensive but also very time-consuming. I applied to over 300+ jobs, went to interview after interview using the little money I had for gas to and fro. Rejection after rejection, I began to realize I needed a backup plan. Given that I had some internships working with challenged kids and youth, I applied to an agency that provides care for kids diagnosed with Autism Spectrum disorder. I got hired as a part-time employee and that’s how I’ve been making ends meet. I am grateful to my family and my boyfriend for financial support throughout college and up till now.
In the case where you faced rejections especially in applying for jobs etc, what effect did it have on your person? Care to share any experiences if you had one?
To be completely honest, the rejections dealt a hefty blow to my soul! I began to lose hope of finding a decent job. It was emotionally, physically and financially draining to go on interview rounds with multiple managers and be turned down. One of the most significant experiences was a Residential Counselor position I applied to. I was interviewed by 4 people in the room, asked countless questions and finally given a tour of the facility. As courtesy and interview protocol, I couldn’t ask the pay till the final stages. I was asked to come back to the facility to spend about 5 hours to see how things were run. I only stayed for about 3 hours. A couple days later, I received an email from going forward to pick a date for orientation meaning that I got the job. Reading further into the email, I discovered the pay was $12 an hour. I was mortified, highly disrespected and accepted that I had wasted my time. To go through all this only to find out the pay was even less than what I made at my job during college was extremely distressing and a slap to my face. Highly upset, I sent a lengthy email to the recruiter explicitly telling her how disrespected I felt to have to go through that process only to be presented with such paltry pay. It was highly disappointing!
If you were to be that 18/19 year old going back to university, knowing what you know now (irrespective of how many years after university) what advice will you give yourself? Any advice to others?
I would say have a backup plan most importantly. Also, even before making a career choice, study the trends of that job market and the different options you have. Ultimately, you have to make a choice of deciding whether to ignore the trends and be persistent in your career choice or play it safe to choose a career choice like nursing or STEM majors which have a higher chance of a stable decent income job. To be completely honest, I would never advise anyone to major in Crime and Justice. It was a complete waste of time and there are virtually few jobs. Unless you plan on becoming a police officer, even with that, you could use another means of achieving that goal without racking up debt like I did. Also, if you plan on majoring in Psychology, be prepared to go straight to grad school of higher education of some sort because that degree also had disappointing job prospects. If you love working in the social service/ community-based jobs be prepared to find a backup job because that field is as unstable as it comes.
With the current state of the job market, do you think in like 10 years time, universities will still have value? Especially with the rate at which many graduates end up being unemployed or young people prefer to start their businesses or train in apprenticeships?
In the next 10 years, a Bachelor’s degree, especially in the Social Sciences and Liberal Arts, will be rendered useless. A master’s degree will pretty much get you an entry-level job. It’s sad but that is the world we live in now. I hope that parents around the world will encourage creativity among kids to think outside the box in finding sources of income instead of going the traditional route of academia only to complete school to be unemployed. I could say more but for length sake, I’d say think outside the box.
What do you do now in terms of work or any other thing you are involved, care to share your social media handles so people could connect with you?
Currently, I am still active in the job search process. I have a part-time job working as an ABA therapist with kids diagnosed with autism. I say that’s a glorified term for essentially a babysitter. I also recently started a Youtube channel as a hobby and I hope to be more active on that. You can connect with me on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Nana Ama’s story mirrors the harsh realities many graduates have to face after leaving university into the REAL WORLD. As millenials, what can we do to change the narrative? As you ponder over this, stay tuned for the next episode soon.