Tchernavia Sessum, Young & Recessioned: "I Had No Idea It Would Be This Hard"

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Today's installment of Young & Recessioned features Tchernavia Sessum, a 26-year-old Clark Atlanta University grad, who struggled for several years in the job market before finding a job that put her schooling to use.

Everybody in my family either went to Texas Southern [University] or Prairie View [A&M], and I didn't want to go to either school. I lived like five minutes from TSU, and Prairie View was still too close to home.

I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, so I started out as a business major. I actually went to the communications program at Jack Yates High School, so during the second semester of my sophomore year, I switched to mass communications. My concentration was public relations.

I had five different internships by the time I graduated [college]. I also worked part-time, but everybody kept saying, 'Intern, intern. It will help you get a job.'  Which, it did not.

I had some interviews in Atlanta, but they were telling me that I had too much experience to be an intern, but not enough experience to start out. I looked from April of 2006 to August 2006. I went to wherever I had friends. I looked in Chicago, Nashville, I looked everywhere. But then my parents told me they couldn't help me anymore, I had to come back to find a job and pay my student loans. I had to get situated and start paying bills.

I had no idea it would be this hard. I was blind to it. My roommate during my senior year of college didn't work her entire time in school, and she was a biology major but didn't want to go to pharmacy school, but she ended up getting a job like four months before graduation.

I didn't want to just take any job, and that's why my parents told me to come back. I was working at restaurants and retail in college, and I didn't want to do that. Not to sound cocky or arrogant, but I feel like I worked so hard to get away from that. But I decided to come home and do that until I found something at a PR agency.

All of 2007, I was working part-time jobs. I worked at Rampage for a day. When they hired me, they didn't tell me they were closing. I had to find out from a customer. I went to the manager to ask her about it, and she told me they had other stores people could go to. I told her I really wasn't trying to have a career in retail.

I worked a lot of temp jobs. A lot of the time, I was working two jobs at a time. I started taking anything so I could have money to function. I worked at a country club, and I was also working at the Coach store at the same time. At the country club, they looked down on you, like I wasn't educated. I got to my three-month mark, when I was supposed to get insurance and benefits, but they figured out some way to let me go.

It was real frustrating, because in high school, we had a co-op program where I worked half a day and went to school half a day. During my senior year in high school, I was making $9 an hour. Then I graduated college and I was making $10 an hour.

I found a job at Fox Sports Network. I ended up leaving, because I took a position with another company that I ended up resigning from because we had to take pay cuts. And I was working way too many hours for not enough money. so I came back to Fox.

I think my faith kept me stable. I prayed a lot. There were a lot of situations that I couldn't believe. A lot of my friends didn't understand, because they got jobs right out of school, but they weren't happy either. I would suggest that if you believe in anything, just pray. That's what really got me through.

Update: Since leaving her job at Fox Sports, Sessum started her own business and works part-time for CBS Radio.

Got a tale to tell about being Young & Recessioned? E-mail Paul Knight at paul.knight@houstonpress.com.

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