Don’t expect to “make it” and “be set.”

A liberal arts education will endow you with new ways of thinking, paradigms of thought that allow the critical analysis of everything from the most complex theoretical concepts to the banal realities of everyday life. Unfortunately, it does not guarantee you will find a job. In fact, technically speaking, as of the moment you degree is conferred “on” you in the Year of Our Lord [Insert Expected Graduation Date Here], you will likely be technically “unemployed,” a graduation party away from the proverbial real world.

This is not to belittle the merits of a Jesuit education or that of Fordham specifically. Go to your faculty advising sessions with specific questions on how you should spend your time at Fordham (with a view as to what you hope to be doing after Fordham) or else these encounters may well just be used for checking that you’re not failing everything first semester Freshman year, ensuring you will graduate on time, and not much else.

Of course, arriving Freshman year, you will have just been freed from parental constraints, and released into a microcosm, where you are inundated with perpetual obligations (read: binge drinking at Tribar). Yet, by your second semester and certainly no later than the beginning of sophomore year, it is crucial you set a goal and begin to map out how you will pursue it. The thing about experience is you need it to get it. That’s an unfortunate Catch-22 that allows for a lot of free labor and no guarantees. Yet, one way that will absolutely ensure you do not get your dream job is doing nothing.

The best way to gain experience is to begin writing for a campus publication. Your submissions, if accepted, will function as your first clips, and if you work hard, an eventual position as an editor, will prove valuable when you are looking to score that first internship. You should be looking to fill your time with activities that will function as lines on your resume. No, babysitting and lifeguarding don’t count. By the time you graduate, you should ideally have three positions that exemplify the skill set necessary for your desired career path or perhaps present a spectrum of such skills.

Unless you are incredibly lucky, your first internship is going to completely and totally suck, that means schlepping garment bags crosstown at worst, and getting coffee at best. Chances are you will be presented with countless menial tasks, with almost no way to stand out or prove yourself. This will be endlessly frustrating, but you must avoid slacking off, despite the lack of any apparent credit (and the fact that a few of the editors still think your name is “Sally”). At the end of the summer or semester, your first internship will be valuable in obtaining a second, more competitive one, where you will have responsibility, and maybe even get to write!

Ah, don’t you just want to write?! You’re a great writer and yet no one will give you the opportunity to push nouns and verbs together! Unfortunately, there are hundreds and thousands of great writers and even a few more mediocre writers, who are going to push and shove to snag clips in even the most insignificant publications. The “being good at writing” thing? That’s not an asset. No, that’s the verbatim, entry-level requirement for working towards any sort of lexical career (and actually, a lot of not-so-lexical careers). So, take the confidence you have in your ability to write, and set that under that same category where you’ve listed your ability to talk. Apologies if I just robbed you of your only source of self-esteem. The point is not that this whole writing thing is impossible, it’s just that it requires much, much more than simply being able to write. The inconvenient truth is that you have to hustle and struggle just to get into positions, where you can work for no pay (or school credit that you don’t need), and then, maybe, someone will let you pen an article...and that, too, will probably be for free.

Alas. Don’t believe anyone who says it will be easy (unless his or her father is Jann Wenner). Part of deciding what you want to do is knowing how to do it, and if all this sounds like too much, then now’s a great time to quit. A lot of people want this and only a few will succeed. Very few of your “writer” friends will end up writing. By the time you graduate, many will have settled for book publishing jobs, five years down the road, most of those who stuck with it will be copy-writing, and ten years later they might have different careers entirely. That brings me to another point. Nothing is a sure thing. Don’t expect to “make it” and “be set.” Much of the journey consists of cobbling things together. Adding (hopefully paid) internships, fellowships, and freelancing gigs to your book, sticking with it, gaining experience and connections.

The hardest thing you will do, though, is get your first job. As I can confirm via many informational interviews, many successful writers and editors will tell you they got their first job because they knew someone, a friend of a friend told them about the position, they were an intern when a position opened up. Don’t be mistaken, though: nothing can be simply attributed to luck. Much of this industry rests on knowing the right people, and being in the right place at the right time. Some of that, of course, is left up to chance, but most of it requires positioning yourself, working hard, and doing all you can to ensure you are where you need to be, when the job you want is available. Being in the right place at the right time, doesn’t mean accidentally flirting with an editor of The New Yorker on the subway. Instead, it entails working hard to get the internships you want, giving 110% when you get there, and making connections through your drive and talent. Although, if you do happen to meet David Remnick on the D train, some ingratiating small talk definitely won’t hurt.

- Lauren Duca