Like most new college graduates, Chaz Kyser was very excited about finally being able to take her talent, ambition and energy into the real world after she was handed her diploma in May 2000. Unfortunately, like far too many young women and men entering the professional work force for the first time, she was also very na’ve.She graduated from the University of Texas in San Marcos with degrees in print journalism and sociology, and her first post-college job was as the managing editor of a weekly newspaper in Houston-a position many college grads would have coveted. Yet shortly after working there, she began to see that life in the real world was not what she had expected.
After struggling with conflicts with her co-workers and boss, the demands of her job, and the stress of living on her own, she began to feel disillusioned and slightly depressed. Later experiences of job loss and the frustration of job searching increased her unhappiness.
Kyser had never expected that her life immediately following college would be so difficult. But she wasn’t the only one taken by surprise; her friends all had horror stories of their own. Some went months without being able to find a job that paid more than minimum wage, while others found high-paying ones that stressed them out.
Beyond that, they all had important decisions to make, such as whether to move to a different city or go back to school. She found that while four years of college had given her and her peers the “book smarts” they needed, it had failed to give them all of the “professional smarts” and skills they also required, especially as African-American women.
“I felt like I was a Black Alice in Wonderland,” Kyser recalls. “The world that I entered after graduating was nothing like the world I had envisioned while in college-where I would have the perfect job, with the perfect boss and coworkers, and a great salary. I, like the majority of my friends, were shocked at how challenging working for a living really was.”
Of course, Kyser survived her first year after college, and then the second. She says that by her third year she was much more knowledgeable about what it takes to succeed in a professional environment, and more confident that the decisions she was making were the right ones.
She is now a college journalism instructor and freelance editor/writer who can appreciate the struggles she has gone through because they helped shape who she is. However, Kyser still feels she should have been better prepared to enter the professional workforce. In an effort to help future Black female college graduates navigate the often challenging transition from college to the workplace, she has published a career guide, Embracing the Real World: The Black Woman’s Guide to Life After College.
“Embracing the Real World” has a wealth of advice for Black women preparing to graduate, as well as those who have already spent a few years in the work force. Readers will get schooled on everything from applying and interviewing for jobs, succeeding in a new position, handling conflicts with co-workers, managing their boss, networking effectively, choosing the right graduate school, and overcoming the loss of a job. But she says what sets this book apart from others on the market is that it’s specifically written for young Black women and covers topics that most career-related books ignore.