Me, most of my friends, and thousands of other students are about to go through a huge life change. We are about to graduate from college and enter workforce. Naturally I’m scared out of my mind because all I’ve known for the past 15 or so years is that each May school will go on hiatus and then in August I’ll show up and start all over. But this is my last year to laugh at corny professor jokes (thank God) because on May 17, 2014 at 9 a.m. I’m graduating. Hayyyyyyy! Some people are luckier than me and get to graduate in December though–shout out to Abbey for graduating a semester early! Anyways I’m totally nervous to start the whole job search and application process, which got me wondering if other people in my situation or soon to be in my situation were nervous. This got me interested in asking around, so I’m starting a series of interviews where I’ll ask various people what their take is on the transition period of leaving school and joining the workforce.
Allie Stapleton is a smart cookie. She’s a math/science girl trying to make room for herself in a major and field dominated by men. She will be taking a second year to finish her undergraduate degree, but who can blame her? Math and science are hard.
What is your major? Why did you choose it?
My major is chemical engineering and I chose it when I was very young. I like math and science and thought it would be a good way to do something to help change the world.
How do you think your classes and professors are preparing you for the real world?
Well, I think it’s giving me a lot of background information that I’ll be able to relate concepts. From what I understand once you get into the world of engineering you don’t sit there and do math all day; you don’t just work chemistry problems all day. This is just so you understand basic concepts, but in the real world there are computers that can do that stuff. It’s definitely giving me insight into what I’m going to be doing. It’s prepared me how to handle stress and big projects all at once.
Do you think the homework you’re being assigned right now is beneficial?
I’m sure in some way it is. I’m just a kid that doesn’t want to do their homework. Sometimes it’s hard to see the big picture and the future. But there’s a reason I have to do it. And if it doesn’t teach me anything else it teaches me discipline. So there’s at least that.
How do you feel about internships?
I think they’re very helpful. I think companies are almost expecting them now and they’re likely to overlook you if you don’t have one. I also think it’s a great way to dabble in an area and then if you don’t enjoy it you have a chance to figure out what you want.
Have you had an internship?
I haven’t had one yet but I do have other experience. I did some undergraduate research last year and it’s not quite the same thing but it’s similar. I don’t know if that’s what I want to do yet, but it was great experience. I would love to get an internship though. Honestly it terrifies me because I’m very afraid to mess up, but I just need to get out there and give it a shot.
Is the application process for engineering internships competitive?
Definitely. We have an engineering job fair and that’s where most people find their internships. It’s especially competitive for women because we’re a minority in the major and the work force. It’s intimidating to go up to a recruiter and convince them that you’re what they need when you’re surrounded by all these tall guys that look like they can do a better job than you. I read an article that said it’s been found that taller people are more successful in the business world. I don’t know if that’s exactly true, but when you’re tall and strong you look like you can get a job done. It’s definitely hard for women.
Do you think you would feel more confident in yourself and the process of applying for jobs if you had an internship?
Oh definitely. That’s something I’m really working on right now. I’m trying to raise my GPA, get some volunteer hours. Stuff that will make me stand out. But it’s hard to stand out because we’re all part of the same organizations. Everyone around you is brilliant, they’re good people any company would be lucky to have. So it’s hard.
What is your dream job? Do you think you’ll achieve it one day?
I would really love to be a pediatrician. I think I’d be so good at that. Right now I’m just trying to get through school though. Maybe I’ll go back to school for it later but I just don’t think I could jump right back into school after my bachelors. I’m going to take a few years off and work. Then if it’s something I’m still thinking about and something I still really want to do I might go back to school.
What kinds of things are you concerned about for your new professional life?
Honestly I’ve never been one to worry about things like savings accounts or paying bills. What I’m worried about is staying true to myself. I care about the environment, I care about people. A lot of these jobs sometimes overlook the fact that we’re dealing with real lives. I’m talking specifically about oil companies—I don’t want to work for an oil company. I understand that we need oil, I just don’t want to do something to destroy the environment. I want to be helping make treatments. I definitely lean more toward the philanthropic side. I could be making $30,000 a year and be fine. I’ll make it work. It’s hard not to see the dollar signs and jump ship though.
What stresses you out when you think about applying for a job? Do you feel like you’ve been informed about the process at all?
Uh, looking like an idiot. Looking like a joke. I don’t feel prepared for that at all. I don’t know if that’s my doing and I’m not taking advantage of the resources around me or if people just get it and I don’t.
Do you feel like you’ve been informed about all the resources at your disposal?
Oh absolutely! Advisors are all about trying to get us jobs. They want to be able to say, Oh 100% of this class had jobs right after graduation. It makes the school look good and parents want to send their children to a school that can do that. We have career advising, job fairs, resume critiques. All of this is good on paper but until you’re out there doing it you’re not going to have a freaking clue.
Will you try to utilize the alumni network when searching for jobs?
Oh yeah. Slap Texas Tech on anything that you’re a part of and some alum will be like, “Oh hey I was in that too! We should take a look at this person.” Like I said before, it’s a lot of who you know.
Overall, how do you feel about joining the professional workforce?
I’m excited! I’m excited to start my life and start contributing to society. There’s this quote, and I don’t know who said it, but it says, “What you do with your life might be insignificant, but it’s important that you do it.” I like that quote because not everyone is going to cure cancer or do something remarkable that people will talk about forever. But what would happen if everyone who worked at a gas station just quit? It’s important to do your part in society. It’s important to do what you’re meant to do.
Since you’re taking a victory lap, what are you doing this year to prepare yourself for next year?
I’m getting my shit together! I was really tired last semester from the one before that; I was in difficult classes and didn’t really try as hard as I should have. I was being lazy. So I’m buckling down and working to make myself look better on paper. And trying to become more confident. Confident in everything I am and being able to present it to an employer and say, “Look, this is who I am and this is what I can offer you. If you don’t like it that’s your own fault.” Confidence is everything, especially in the workforce. If you don’t believe in yourself they won’t believe in you.