By Jewell Tomazin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Many Flagler students want to live in St. Augustine after they graduate, but do not believe there are enough good career opportunities locally.
The First Destination Report for the class of May 2015, prepared by the Office of Career Services, proves that to be a common misconception—74 percent of graduates with jobs three months after graduation work in northeast Florida.
Tara Stevenson, director of career services at Flagler College, said there are many job opportunities in St. Johns County, but most students are unaware of them because they do not look beyond their immediate surroundings of downtown St. Augustine and the Flagler community.
This isn’t to say, though, that students who only search within the heart of St. Augustine will not find jobs. According to the First Destination Report, May 2015 graduates currently work for the Casa Monica Hotel, right across the street from the Flagler campus, and the St. Augustine Amphitheatre, only a 10-minute drive away from campus.
“There’s a lot of jobs here, it’s just jobs that you wouldn’t really think of,” Stevenson said. “There are opportunities (in St. Augustine) for every major. You just have to be creative.”
Stevenson said the Office of Career Services often encourages students to look for jobs in Jacksonville because of the area’s “great opportunities.” She said many alumni currently work in Jacksonville for big names, such as Bank of America, Jacksonville Armada and the Jacksonville Jaguars, to name a few. Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, along with other major companies, regularly attend scheduled employer visits at career expos hosted by Career Services, making it easier for Flagler students to make connections and find jobs in St. Augustine and Jacksonville.
Angela Daidone, a Flagler alum and public relations major of the class of 2012, knew she wanted to stay as close to St. Augustine as possible after graduation. She worked in Ormond Beach for two years before moving to Jacksonville, where she works in public relations for Firehouse Subs.
“Ormond was relatively close, but my goal was to stay in northeast Florida,” she said.
Daidone said that while she always wanted to live in St. Augustine, her first priority was finding a job, no matter where she had to move to.
“When I was about to graduate and started looking for jobs, I was mostly just worried about finding one,” she said. “I didn’t think about where, I just wanted to find a job. It wasn’t like there were just offers at my door; I really had to get out there and look.”
It turns out that Daidone was not the only public relations major to look to Jacksonville for a job. Daidone said five of her coworkers are Flagler alumni. She also thinks about 75 percent of friends she went to Flagler with found jobs either in St. Augustine or Jacksonville
Flagler Alum and local business owner Andres Guardiola, however, does not feel as surrounded by his college friends.
“Really only a handful of people I knew (in college) stayed here. Nobody stayed in St. Augustine,” Guardiola said. “It might be changing, and that’s great, but everybody went back home, to a bigger city or to Jacksonville. At least that’s how it was for my class.”
Guardiola, who graduated in 2009 with a degree in psychology and now owns Crave Food Truck in St. Augustine, said there’s “not as many jobs in a small town,” and that many of his former colleagues moved on to bigger cities. Though he never sought a career in psychology in St. Augustine, Guardiola said he did not think there were many opportunities locally upon his graduation, in his field and others.
“There isn’t much for psychology in St. Augustine,” he said. “It’s better here for some majors than for others.”
Guardiola decided to create his own business and work on his own terms, doing something he loved and knew well. Many other Flagler alumni have done the same: The Floridian and Magnolia Supply are a few of the many local businesses founded and owned by Flagler alumni. Starting a business is another option for those who are determined to live in St. Augustine without commuting to work in Jacksonville. However, stakes can be high when starting a business.
“Entrepreneurial startups are a big trend right now,” Stevenson said. “But there’s a lot of risk that comes with that. Personally, I think it’s best to work somewhere for someone else for a little while, to kind of get a foot in the door. Most people need a good foundation and experience to build a business on.”