Student Success Story: Emily White
Career and Advising Services Director Bill Sherman had a chance to catch up with 2013 grad Emily White. She talks about her job search, her new position, and her views on being a Duck—and shares some advice for other college students wanting to launch their careers right after graduation.
Congratulations on your new job, Emily! Tell us about it.
I’m a Higher Education Research Associate (RA) for The Advisory Board Company (ABC) in Washington DC. The Advisory Board Company is a healthcare consulting firm, but I’ll be working for their higher education consulting branch, the Education Advisory Board. I’ll be conducting primary and secondary research for universities and community colleges who approach ABC with questions. I can’t wait to dig in to my projects, and hopefully help some universities and community colleges solve difficult problems!
What kinds of challenges did you face in looking for work?
Despite all evidence, I had convinced myself that I’d leave school with a job. I actually turned down a job offer that definitely wasn’t right for me before I graduated, but then I didn’t receive another for a couple of months. It’s very easy to grow discouraged when you’re applying for jobs each day and getting no responses whatsoever. I realized that I also had a strong interest in consulting. I specifically sought out a consulting firm with a strong focus on volunteering and community involvement, which I feel will be a particularly good fit for me.
What job search strategies did you try and which worked best?
I received three different job offers in the last six months, as well as several other interviews, and without a doubt the most effective way to earn an interview was through UO connections. Bill Sherman’s weekly emails earned me a job offer in Portland, and I got another through a meeting with representatives of the firm at the spring Career Fair.
I actually found my current job through LinkedIn: I did a lot of keyword searches in the job postings section for skills and interests of mine (economics, research, international development, Spanish, etc.) which helped me find all sorts of firms I’d never heard of before. It was definitely not the most traditional path to this role, but it’s surprising how often people get jobs in a way they didn’t anticipate.
Looking back upon your time as a UO Economics student, what classes, resources, and extra-curricular activities helped you to make a successful transition from college to career?
I double-majored in Economics and Spanish, and I did the honors program in each major, which meant writing two senior theses. For anyone looking for a career in research, or hoping to go on to graduate school, conducting a long-term research project is crucial! I also attended the EC 407 course, Careers in Economics, which introduced me to a variety of job search options, and helped me to tailor my resume and cover letter for different positions, and taught me more networking strategies to find job opportunities.
Additionally, I completed an internship with Institutional Stove Solutions (InStove), which was very useful in allowing me to gain experience in areas that were relevant to my job search. As a non-traditional student, I entered UO with some work experience under my belt, but in fact, my volunteer experience has turned out to be very interesting to employers, who saw my volunteer activities as proof that I was willing to work hard, and that I have a range of interests.
Any advice for current students looking to prepare for the workforce?
This might sound a little harsh, but if the only thing on your resume is your academic record, you’re not going to be at the top of anyone’s list for most positions (at least with a bachelor’s degree). Today’s job market is improving, but it’s still hard to distinguish yourself from other applicants. I think that completing an internship, or getting paid work experience is absolutely crucial. Nearly everyone applying for the jobs you apply for will also have met the basic qualifications (college degree, mastery of certain subjects/skillsets), and it’s up to you to give yourself the preparation you need to make yourself stand out as an applicant. Don’t be afraid to talk about your achievements in your resume and during interviews.
Additionally, you should definitely talk to your career counselors, even if you aren’t certain what you want to do with your degree. They can still help you find internships and job postings that are relevant to your interests and skills.
Finally, if you can manage it, be open to relocating. There are great firms all over, and limiting yourself to a small geographical area will greatly diminish your options.
When I tell people the amount of work that went into my job search, they’re often surprised, considering I have prior job experience and I did well in school. It’s easy to assume that success will find you if you have done well in school, but the honest truth is, it’s not easy to find a job that is right for you. Working with your career advisors (especially those who are knowledgeable about the specific field you’re looking for work in) is the absolute best way to make sure that you’re tailoring your cover letters and resumes effectively, and I can’t recommend it enough.