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Alums give employment advice

Five recent grads share how they got their great jobs

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Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 1:52 pm | Updated: 5:21 pm, Wed Nov 28, 2012.

In this economy, most college graduates are happy to land any sort of gainful employment. Often the “right” job is simply a job that pays enough to eek out a living, forsaking loftier ideals like job satisfaction and pertinence to individual skill sets. However, finding an amazing job after graduation is not an impossible feat. Recent graduates who have found creative outlets in engineering, tropical catering positions and rewarding sustainability work can attest to that.

Use your senior year as a jumping-off point.

According to Scott Ptomley, class of 2010, you should begin finding internships and establishing connections in preparation for a job at the start of your senior year. Ptomley is the director of marketing at Green Cupboards, a local company that was actually started by Gonzaga graduates. The online retailer of “green” products often hires Gonzaga interns, which is how Ptomley found out about the company. One of his friends interned there during the summer and was able to recommend Ptomley for an interview. As a business administration and marketing major, Ptomley got the job working with data at Green Cupboards one week after his interview and has moved up in the company since his start two years ago. He cites the youthful presence and strong relationship with college students as a huge factor in his overall workplace enjoyment.“It’s cool to see the young culture around [Green Cupboards],” Ptomley said.

It’s all about who you know, so get to know as many people as possible.

While some of us simply have familial business resources,

it is still possible to create a relationship with companies despite not knowing anyone who works there. Molly Johnston, a 2012 graduate, had a position created for her at the Fairmont Orchid Hotel in Kona, Hawaii this fall. She had visited the hotel three times on vacation and was familiar with the location. After graduating, she found a few jobs in Spokane. She found a job online for the Fairmont Orchid and applied; however, the hotel told her that the position wasn’t worth such a huge move. A week later, however, they called her with a new proposition: a position they were in the process of developing. A few weeks later, she was on a plane headed for Kona to begin a six month contract at the Orchid as a “Catering and Special Events Supervisor,” a job she loves. Johnston credits her successful hire to her ability to find common ground with her prospective employers and being flexible. “Allow yourself to have your passions change,” Johnston said. She credited informational interviews as a “neat way to approach professionals.”

Your ability to learn often trumps what you’ve learned in college.

Patrick Sinner, 2012 graduate with an engineering degree, has been working in Everett, Washington for about six weeks, designing airplane interiors. Like Ptomley, he utlized his senior year as an opportunity to learn more about post-graduation opportunities. “I applied for about 70 jobs beginning in September of my senior year,” Sinner said. “I probably heard back from 15-20 of them.” He switched into his current position recently and is still in the process of learning his job expectations and workload. He hasn’t found his Gonzaga coursework to be very applicable at his new job. “Everything you learn in college is pretty irrelevant,” Sinner said. He emphasized the importance of persistence and willingness to learn new things as tools in making yourself appealing to employers.

No job is beneath you.

Jill Jacobs, a 2012 graduate, teaches high school math in her hometown of Sandpoint, Idaho, at the school she graduated from just five years ago. She was initially apprehensive about going back to Sandpoint, fearing that it wouldn’t be a big enough step in her personal development. “Everyone is dong fun and exciting things [after graduation], do I want to just go home and teach in my old high school?” Jacobs remembers asking herself. She was concerned that her young age would make it hard to command respect from especially the 17 and 18-year-old students. However, now that her first semester is drawing to a close, Jacobs is extremely happy that she took the position. “Your first job out of college is a learning environment,” Jacobs said. “Feel comfortable asking questions.” She no longer feels as though returning home to teach was necessarily the easy or safe option, but rather, was the best idea as she has the resources and even familiar high school teachers on her side during her exciting transition from student to teacher.

Be open to internships that provide a stepping stone to later career goals.

Koby Warren graduated last year with a triple major in Philosophy, History and Political Science and is now a legal assistant at Google. He plans to attend law school ultimately, but felt like he should get some on-the-job training beforehand. Unlike Sinner, Warren felt like the skills learned during his Gonzaga education provided a good background for the workplace. “I don’t think that the exact subject matter was important,” Warren said. “However, the intellectual skills associated with each academic discipline were very useful. For example, history studies impart certain research and analytical skills that can be marketed to recruiters.” Warren also began applying to jobs before he graduated, and his efforts paid off: he started his job at Google only three weeks after he graduated in May.

These five students were once in our own shoes: confused, unsure of where to start and intimidated by the national facts and figures of unemployment we are constantly bombarded by. They have found, not necessarily the careers they will have for the rest of their working life, but satisfying jobs that allow them to grow in their respective fields. Good luck on your job searches, Zags — if there’s one thing we can take from these employed alums, it’s that it is never too early to start looking!

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