Last Tuesday evening, PLNU students were invited to join in conversation with three women graduates in Colt Hall. The event, Women’s Stories, Life and Career After College, was hosted by the Women’s Studies Center and talked about the graduates’ journeys of investing in their communities, exploring their vocations and building their careers after college.
“We realize and want to represent the ways in which you are still trying to figure out your plan after college and what your calling is,” said Dr. Kelli McCoy, Associate Professor of History and Pre-Law Advisor.
McCoy facilitated the interview of the three alumni. Tables with fresh flowers were lined with pizza, tangerines, chocolate and refreshments.
“We want to encourage you that it is important for women to be ambitious,” McCoy said. “These three have gone before you and will share their insight.”
Chelsi Sparti graduated in 2013 as a biology major and thought she would follow her family track to become a physician. Instead, Sparti currently works at the Samuel Lawrence Foundation as an Associate Director. According to their website, the foundation strives to foster growth in science and medicine as well as arts and education through programs and advocacy.
“Once I graduated, I realized I’ve got the skills. I’m smart. I will have no problem getting a job,” said Sparti. “But it took months. I couldn’t get out of my own way and I had to get a job first to prove it to myself.”
Rachel Christensen, who graduated in 2012, was an international studies major with a minor in Spanish. She is currently working at the University of San Diego as the Assistant Director of the Center for Peace and Commerce. Though working in San Diego, Christensen’s job keeps her traveling as she manages the internal operations of the Center for Peace and Commerce.
“In the last two months, I’ve probably been to nearly a dozen universities in two countries,” said Christensen.
Bree Burris graduated in 2015 as a political science major with a minor in women’s studies. She now works at San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation where she is a Marketing & Communications Coordinator.
“I did a bit of everything at Point Loma,” said Burris. “I was an RA for several years; I studied abroad in Spain as was required by the Political Science Department… I came into Point Loma and declared Political Science as a segway into law school. Instead, I got really passionate about advocacy and so I looked into nonprofit work.”
All three women came into college with one mindset of what they wanted to do for their career and left with a totally different mindset after graduation. Having relationships makes a difference and a chain-link of people with different opportunities available is key when searching for a job. Connections are an unreasonable advantage.
“Each of my experiences, building up to where I am today, still shaped how I perceive the world and the ways I can talk to people,” said Sparti. “Now, I can walk into a business and chat with a business person. Though I don’t think like them on all things, I can relate to them.”
When applying for jobs after college, disappointments will come. This is all part of the process, and as the panelists said, getting integrated and settled takes time and effort. A few no’s can lead to a great opportunity.
“I thought I was doing everything right,” said Christensen. “I was applying and ahead of the game. But it didn’t work out and that was hard for me to reconcile because I had this sense of justice that if I do the right thing it works out. That humility was one of the best lessons.”
Sometimes a first job out of college is totally random. The skills learned in the process should be leveraged and marketed as knowledge is gained along the way.
“You don’t need to take every opportunity that comes your way,” said Burris. “To do work you are passionate about is so important.”
A Q&A session from the audience followed and advice to seniors, help on resumes and cover letters as well as interviews and follow-ups were discussed. Along with emphasizing the importance of leveraging professor relationships on campus, the panelists also noted the necessity of doing research on a company before an interview and being able to speak to it very specifically.
“I’ve taken on the role of a sponge,” said Burris. “The first year in my job, I was head down and absorbing all that I could about being the best employee that I could be, and then year two I started to reel that out and show them what I got and what I thought. Now, I am able to make decisions, voice my opinion and be taken seriously.”