The Ups and Downs of the Job Market

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series called "Where Are They Now?" Follow along as alumnus Teron Meyers tracks down Penn State Brandywine alumni and chronicles their quests for stable careers in a challenging job market. Meyers graduated in 2010 with a degree in communications and is working at a pharmacy as he seeks a stable career of his own.

Imagine a roller coaster going through loops, turns, and pulls. One moment it's sky high, and then seconds later, plummeting back down to where it took off. For Brandywine alumna Dana Gibson '09 Eng, such an analogy is fitting to describe her search for a career, an effort full of hurdles but worth the ride.

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Having a positive attitude, despite adversity, is always a plus. Gibson believes that you shouldn't be afraid to try anything once, especially something you love. That perfectly describes her current passion for teaching. During her last semester at Brandywine, Gibson held a job at the Delaware County Intermediate Unit 13, where she captioned for hearing impaired students. This experience proved very rewarding. Unfortunately, however, just days before graduation, she was laid off, though not discouraged. 

Following Gibson's initial experience with instructing, she took part in the Substitute Teaching Service at the Lancaster County Intermedia Unit 13. A pattern was forming: Gibson as an educator. However, she did not envision this course at first. In fact, she shuddered at the thought, but became encouraged by the help she had provided to students 

"I can't even describe how it feels when you are working with a student one-on-one and when you are finally able to help them meet a challenge," Gibson said. 
Recently, she was accepted by Teach for America as a special education English teacher. Teach for America is an organization that strives to provide excellent education to impoverished children.

Teaching was not Gibson's only brush with the real world. Within a period of almost three years since graduation, she tried a number of career paths, including as a customer service representative at an animal shelter in Lancaster County, where she was previously employed. She said she was happy to receive not just full-time hours, but health benefits as well. Although this position did not last long, she acquired a new appreciation for marketing.

Never tiring from her search, Gibson pressed on. She frequented the Career Center at the Brandywine campus, an excellent resource for job leads. She also spent some time at Pennsylvania CareerLink, an unpaid, full-time job that aided her in targeting career choices based on skills. Gibson recalled that on some days, she contacted up to 100 potential employers, with no real success. Even so, she realized that everyone at CareerLink was in a similar boat.

"Those who had strong networks, years of experience, and higher degrees were struggling just as much as I was," she said.

Gibson, expected some challenges in her job search, but did not foresee the market to be so harsh. While attending Brandywine, she built a strong academic repertoire, hoping to stand out amongst countless graduates. In addition to her bachelor of arts degree in English, she minored in international studies and American studies. She was also a Schreyer Honors Scholar who wrote an award-winning thesis, "'Am I your slave?': William Parker and The Freedman's Story."

Throughout this process, Gibson has been realistic, taking note that the world around her is changing. Enjoyable jobs (benefits included) are scarce. But with this realism, also came a sense of optimism. 

Before Gibson's latest job offer with Teach for America, she was very hopeful: "I'm still working on marketing myself as a star employee," she said. Now, with a teaching gig on the horizon, Gibson serves as a living example as to the payoff of perseverance.

by Teron Meyers '10 Com

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