From euphoria to panic to post-graduation blues

By Nikki Ross |
Five days a week Eric Rojas goes to work, turns on the lights and sits behind a counter and sells fandom merchandise to tourists.

He’s glad he has a job at Fantasyland so he can pay the bills, but this isn’t where he envisioned himself.

“I definitely don’t want to be doing this for the rest of my life,” said Rojas, who graduated from Flagler College in 2013 with a degree in media production.

With graduation just around the corner, college students across the nation are polishing up their resumes and sending out job applications.

Tara Stevenson, director of the Office of Career Services at Flagler College, has watched students go through this dreaded ordeal countless times.

“The Career Services office is here to help students to find a job after college,” she said. “We help with resumes and give the students resources to help students find a job.”

More than half of students who were looking for a job after graduating from college had made more than one visit to their career services office while still in school, according to an annual survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The survey said 22 percent of students went to their career services office more than four times a semester.

Rhian Franchebois, a senior at Flagler College, said she has gone to the Career Services office several times in the past three years.

“During my sophomore year, they helped me get a professional resume put together and I applied to local businesses for part-time work,” she said. “I’ve also looked at their internship opportunities postings and got an internship with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Most recently Tara helped me with my cover letters and my resume.”

Franchebois’s efforts paid off while she worked her way through school. She got five job offers while at the college and accepted four of them.

Stevenson says students can’t expect to accomplish all their goals the first time they see her.

“What I try to do here is make sure that what the student wanted to get from the meeting is met. If it’s not then, there is still more we need to talk about,” she said.

Stevenson says that one of students’ main causes of confusion is they that think Career Services is going to do all the work for them.

“It’s really a two-way street,” she said. “There is only so much that we can do. We give the resources like the website to the students but it’s really up to them what they get out of it.”

Rojas said he received the website information for job searches, but didn’t find it to be helpful.

“They just gave me the website and sent me on my way,” he said.

Even though Rojas wasn’t able to find a job through Career Services, he managed to get a position through one of his friends at the now-defunct WYRE-FM radio station in St. Augustine. He had worked at WFCF 88.5 Flagler College Radio and that gave him experience he needed for the job.

“I had been looking for a job, but this one kind of fell right into my lap,” said Rojas.

While at WYRE, Rojas worked on audio projects and scoured online databases for new songs and commercials. His salary: $12 per hour. He got to pick out what the listeners heard on air, something that not station employees can say they’ve done.

“I would sometimes be required to pick up tickets, drive equipment in the WYRE van, or set up and break down remote broadcasts,” said Rojas.


Eric Rojas

Rojas also produced the live morning show at the station. He would load up the songs that would be played next and would play commercials between songs. The job left no room for error: If he did something wrong, all the listeners would know.

“The morning was always very hectic and I felt like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland,” said Rojas.

After Rojas had been at WYRE for just a year and half, the owner decided to sell the station.

“They sold to 105.5 The Whale. They had us do a lot of work uploading and categorizing literally thousands of songs, but after a few months they sold the company again to The Beach. The Beach owns multiple stations across Florida and no longer needed us as employees. They held a meeting to lay us off,” said Rojas.

Rojas was unemployed for six months. During that time he burned through his savings and collected unemployment. When he couldn’t find another job in the media, Rojas decided to apply for positions in other areas. That’s when he began working at Fantasyland in St. Augustine’s historic district.

“Now, I’m slightly above minimum wage, working about 40 hours a week. I share an apartment with my girlfriend and we each pay about $400 a month. I could live alone, but I’d be scraping by. I feel like the stress of money wouldn’t be worth it at this point,” said Rojas.

In the future, Rojas hopes to get out of retail. When his lease is up next year he hopes that he and his girlfriend will be able to move out of St. Augustine so that he can find another job in the media and pursue his passion in cinematography.

Stevenson says that alumni are always welcome to return to Career Services, where they have access to resume assistance, job searches and whatever else they need.

Though career services is a great place to start a job search, the NACE student survey also states that employer websites are also useful.

Esme Vazquez, who graduated from Flagler College in 2015, found her current job in web development from the employer website after deciding that she didn’t want to pursue a career in psychology, her field of study.

“I found that The Right Profile was looking for interns for the web application. They are known for people analytics in sports and legal teams,” said Vazquez.

Her job at the company, based in Orlando, requires her to manage the web application that clients use for psychological testing. She makes the application more user friendly and fixes any problems.

“I also get to test potential prospects for the NFL Draft, which is pretty cool,” said Vasquez.

In order for Vasquez to get the job in web development after majoring in psychology, she had to learn how to code. She took the time to learn Java free coding online.

Even though Vasquez went into a job that wasn’t directly related to her field, she feels like her college experience was helpful in other ways.

“I think that the college degree I have has made me confident to know that whatever I don’t know I can commit to learning because I know how to problem solve effectively, critically think and time manage myself. All really important skills college teaches you,” said Vasquez.

Vasquez decided to not pursue a career in psychology because she found that it wasn’t for her.

“I think a problem that students are having is that they are pressured to be really successful to make good money and to have status. I think it’s an American ideal. I love learning and I want to help people but I don’t think I could go through eight to 10 years of intensive school,” she said.

She says that she had to decide what would make her happy in life because she knew it was not psychology.

“Even though I thought I might struggle as a psychologist, I wanted the security and respect it would bring to have that title. I finally came to the realization that I shouldn’t live my life based on what others saw me as most successful in,” said Vazquez.

Vasquez is hoping to go back to school for computer sciences and to eventually work for a video game company.

The Career Services office at Flagler College is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.

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