Young alumni speak at job panel

With less than a month left until graduation, many graduates are anxious about life after college.

“The sense of uncertainty can be suffocating,” alumna Blair Kniffin said as she recalled her last semester before graduation during the April 4th alumni panel.

The panel was cosponsored by Career Services and the Alumni and Parenting Programs Office. St. Edward’s alumni returned to share insight on how they secured jobs after college.

Career Services’ Andrew Harper was the moderator. The alumni panelists were Sarah Biggerstaff ’09, Alex Simons ’12, Ryan Schmidt ’11 and Blair Kniffin ’11.

Rather than emphasizing the particular clubs and internships they were involved in prior to graduation, the alumni emphasized more universal skills and tools that graduates should leverage.

As many seniors are discovering, a key component in securing a job post-graduation is who you know. For example, Simons, who is now the Ad Trafficking Coordinator at Spiceworks, found out about the opening from a contact at her previous internship.

Students with little professional experience and references may find this discouraging, but they should leverage their position as a student and capitalize on existing St. Edward’s connections, Schmidt said.

“Get out there and talk to people,” shared Schmidt, a technical manager at Electrofish,“Talk to your coach, advisors and professors. If you’re struggling while looking for a job, ask them about who they know.”

Then, once the job search has begun – as cliché as it may sound – do not take “no” for an answer.

“I can’t stress enough to be persistent,” Simons said, “It’s important to differentiate yourself.”

“Go for it. Be persistent,” added Biggerstaff, “For every five ‘No’s’ that you get, you might get a ‘Yes.’” Ask for jobs at your internship, and show why you are an asset to the company.

“Keep telling them what you’re worth. If they say, ‘we can’t hire you’ wait two weeks and call them again,” Schmidt said.

The goal is not to be a nuisance, but the alumni stressed the importance of employers being aware of your interest in their company. A simple phone call, a brief email, a friendly coffee-date – all of these things can be simple, but firm ways of remaining at the forefront of an employer’s mind.

Still, remember to not take rejection personally. Even for the best prospective hires, timing is everything.

“Of course, I think you have to make decisions in a smart way. You should seriously plan and think about them, but sometimes things just happen,” Biggerstaff said.

Biggerstaff is an entrepreneur who recently transitioned to being a realtor. She recounted her own experience for the audience. After serving as a committed intern at LatinWorks, she was surprised when she was told at the end of her internship that there was not a position available for her. Rather than being complacent, she went to South America to volunteer. Upon returning to Austin, she landed a job as an entrepreneur. She attributes this to the timing being right.

But the key question of the night came from an audience member towards the end of the panel.

“Your friends who are not where they want to be,” one attendee said. “Where did they go wrong?”

The panelists’ response was unanimous: never get comfortable with where you are, especially if you are not where you want to be.

“Find a job that pays the bills and keep looking,” Schmidt said.

Kniffin offered the advice to continue to persist, and be willing to make sacrifices.

“Don’t relish your college childhood to the point where you can’t move forward,” Kniffin said.

Kniffin is the assistant director for nonprofit relations at I Live Here I Give Here.

“I’m afraid I’m going to fail, but I believe that in reality, I’m really prepared,”  graduating senior Amanda Sherman said. “I’m as prepared as I can be for the future, but I’m still nervous about failing at life and not getting a job, or getting a job and not being able to pay all of my bills.”

Simons said she knows what she would tell herself if she could travel back to her final semester at St. Edward’s.

“If there’s anything I could tell myself, it would be: it’s going to be okay. It’s all going to play out,” Simons said.