Erin graduated from college in May 2008 and was surprised at the lack of resources for college students about what the transition into the "real world" is really like. In an effort to share her experience as a recent college graduate and create a resource for college students and recent grads, she created College Grad Lessons.

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Freelance Web Site and Plans for CGL

July 7th, 2009

My freelance web site and my portfolio (in progress) can be found at and I continue to tweet @erin_stewart.

My current plan for this fall is to start grad school (Information Management program at University of Maryland) and continue working at my current job part-time (Web Development and Training Specialist). Unfortunately I cannot telecommute for my current job and will need to be closer to DC several days a week, so I will have some additional time to take on freelance projects. My hope is to gain some new experience through such projects that will help me advance my career.

College Grad Lessons has been on my mind recently and I plan to start posting again by the start of the fall semester. Topics will likely include: grad school, working part-time, freelancing and more. I’m also hoping to convince a friend or two that graduated this year to document their transition to the “real world” by posting on College Grad Lessons with me occasionally.

In the nearer future I plan to set up a blog at and start writing about all things web - what consumes most of my time, both at work and at home. I hope to see some of you commenting over there as well once things get started.

If you have suggestions for web-related posts for or are interested in hiring me for a project or two, please e-mail me.

Hope everyone is having a great summer,


Break from Blogging

May 7th, 2009

As some of you may already know, I decided to take a break from blogging for a bit to focus on my transition to grad school and figure out a good work/school balance for myself.

Please let me know if you have suggestions for full or part-time positions that would suit my interests in web development and social media and are located in the DC area (or allow telecommuting).

I hope to come back to College Grad Lessons shortly to share my preparation for grad school, my thoughts on being a year out of college and more.

My First Vacation

April 3rd, 2009

Okay, it’s not really my first vacation, but it is my first vacation as a working adult. This week was busy at work and I haven’t thought about what I need to do to get ready to leave tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. Furthermore, I haven’t thought about what I’ll miss at work while I’m gone. I’m going to be optimistic and say that the week I come back won’t be twice as hectic, but we’ll see.

For those of you in the working world, what has your experience been with coming back to work from a vacation?

Turning 22

March 25th, 2009

I turn 22 next week. I know that in the grand scheme of things that I’m still young, but I can’t help but look at turning 22 as the end of my youth. Sure, perspective and outlook on life play into what “old” actually is, and I certainly don’t expect to wake up 22 and feeling much different than the day before or even the year before. However, I’m still a little sad about it. Obviously turning 21 is a big deal in the United States, so maybe it’s just that 22 is a lot less exciting.

For those of you that have already experienced turning 22, how did your 22nd year compare to your 21st year? Everyone, how have your friends celebrated 22? Did anything change between 21 and 22?

Suggestions for Grad Student Employment?

March 20th, 2009

I’m looking for part-time work that would complement my grad studies this fall. I’ll be attending University of Maryland for their Master’s in Information Management program. Of course, a graduate assistantship would be great but I realize that state schools are facing budget cuts.

I’ve submitted my graduate assistantship application to the school and have slowly started reaching out to people on campus that might benefit from someone with my skill set (web development and training).

I was wondering if anyone has suggestions for finding part-time work for grad students. I want to continue doing something related to web development so I can continue to build my resume during grad school.

Grad students - How did you find work? What do you do?

Others - Any ideas? What have your friends/family done?

Letter to Myself at Age 11

March 16th, 2009

Katie posted the following prompt on Twenty Something Writers:

If you were able to communicate with your younger self, what would you say? Would you warn yourself of the things that are to come? Would you tell yourself to avoid certain people? Write a letter to yourself at a younger age. Feel free to tell yourself anything that you’d like to. Let us know what age of yourself you are writing to.

In a previous post, I happened to write about where I want to be in 10 years. I figured it would make sense to write my response to myself 10 years ago. Here is my response:

Dear 11-year-old Erin,

Right now you’re in fifth grade and looking forward to middle school. You recently got into the Math/Science/Technology magnet middle school, but not the English/Social Sciences program that many of your friends are attending. While you are tempted to go to your home middle school to reunite with friends from your neighborhood area and not be a “nerd,” I’d like to ask you to strongly consider the magnet middle school.

If you attend your home middle school, 10 years from now you will be a web developer and trainer at the college you graduate from and will be wishing that you had embraced your interest in computers while growing up. You’ll be preparing to go to graduate school to finally study what you’re passionate about. Ten years from now you will find a passion that you avoided. Those ten years could be used to develop incredible skills.

Pursue your interests and passions, even if it’s the less “cool” thing to do. At 21, you’ll wish that you had gone to the tech magnet school, studied computer science in college and not worried about what others thought. Math and science aren’t subjects meant for boys. You can study anything you want.


21-year-old Erin

Job Forecast for College Grads

March 15th, 2009

About two weeks ago, @Falldog sent me an article that he thought would be fitting for College Grad Lessons. The article, “Job Forecast for College Seniors: Grimmer Than Ever,” was featured in Time and highlights what many of us are experience or trying to avoid. For recent college graduates, like myself, having any job is considered lucky. This might mean a rough start to our ideal career path, but it’s a reality. For college students thinking about graduating from college, the grim job forecast means flexibility and preparation are imperative.

The article highlighted the colleges and universities are amping up their career services because grad school might not be the best option for student that already have loans and even those with job offers need to keep handing out their resume:

Meanwhile, schools are pulling out the stops to help students beat out the competition. Counselors everywhere are encouraging students to turn to their alumni networks for help. The University of Maryland has conducted workshops with an emphasis on networking. The career office shared by Haverford and Bryn Mawr recently gave each senior 50 business cards listing their name and major.

For students who have already managed to snag an offer, they might want to keep their business cards handy. According to NACE, as many as 8% of employers will be forced to rescind at least some of the offers they made in the fall. “In this economy, we don’t even use the terminology ’sewn up’ anymore,” says Roseborough. More like coming apart at the seams.

The college that I graduated from and currently work for has certainly increased the number of resume and job-hunting workshops, but honestly I don’t know if they are even throwing a career fair.

What is your college or university doing to help students find jobs in the tough economy?

What is Success?

March 13th, 2009

Liz did a two part post this week about the question, “What is success?” I caught myself frequenting her blog to read all of the comments, but it took me a few days to come up with my own response. Liz is a college student and questioned, “How can you be successful in your chosen career without having a corporate lifestyle?” Comments on her first post about success centered around happiness, but defining happiness and the so called “balanced” life is tough.

After some thought, I finally came up with what to post as a comment on the second post:

It’s been less than a year since I graduated college and this is a question I wish I had the answer to. The one thing I have learned is that it’s okay to change your mind about your career, the lifestyle you want, etc. I majored in Economics, thought I wanted to go to law school, changed my mind, took a post-grad internship at a top PR firm that I thought would be perfect and didn’t like it. I ended up working as a web developer (definitely wasn’t in my plans) at the college I graduated from (also not in the plans) and LOVE it. The point is the definition of success and happiness changed for me many times between junior year of college and now. Luckily you don’t necessarily need a degree in what you want to do. I want the experience of the big “corporate” lifestyle at some point in my life, but not my whole life. For me, I think that’s how I’ll reconcile the conflict between wanting to have career success/challenges and also wanting a laid back, slower life where a career isn’t my focus.

Over the past day I thought about the balance I’m looking for in life a bit more. I figured this was an important thing to reflect on given that I’m 95% sure that I’m going to be quiting my job this summer and going to grad school full-time in the fall. Given the state of the economy, I’m lucky to have a secure, challenging job (even if I feel it’s underpaid). At the end of the day, I’m happy with my job, so I need to be 100% sure that grad school is the right step toward “success” and “happiness.”

Ten years from now, I want to have a senior or mid-level position (depending on the size of the company) in the IT industry doing a mix of consulting and actual development projects relating to knowledge management and/or web development. I want to be making enough money to be able to own a comfortable sized condo or home and have money to spend on fun stuff. Accomplishing these things would make me feel successful.

On the other side, I want to be married, have a kid or two and have time to spend with family and friends. I want to have time for a hobby or two and an occasional vacation. I think having these things in my life ten years from now would make me feel happy.

Beyond the next ten years, I’m less certain what I’ll be looking for in life. Currently, I consider my “dream life” to be one in which I work for myself/have a small company (something web development/business consulting related), have a flexible schedule with free time (I realize the first two don’t always work together), can work from home if I want to and live in the South and close to the beach. Accomplishing these things in the next twenty years would be the next level of success and happiness for me.

I try to make decisions about things like grad school based on whether they will get me closer to these goals. I suppose the challenge is that I’ve changed my mind a lot (as I mentioned in the comment I posted), so what’s to say I won’t change my mind again.

Do you have goals that you use to evaluate big decisions? Have they changed in the past few years? Do you feel them changing now?