When a friend first asked me to write this blog post I thought it would be a piece of cake – I was wrong (sorry John!). Delving into the actual writing has proved a tad more difficult as it’s forced me to reflect on just how much has happened in the four years that have passed since graduation – and it has been A LOT.
Much like my Gettysburg experience, time in the “real world” has passed quickly. One day you’re a wide-eyed freshman wondering who you’re going to sit with at Servo and the next thing you know you’re figuring out your 401K. Leaving college, moving to a new city, and entering the work force have been rewarding experiences with steep learning curves. My time at the ‘Burg continues to serve me well post-graduation – I met the person who would become my first boss, found roommates in a new city, and networked my little heart out all through connections I made in school.
That being said, I’m lucky to have landed a job that I’m passionate about (and yes, part of finding a job that is a great fit is luck)- my work has taken me to 18 different countries and I have met some amazing people. I’ve worked hard the last few years to build the beginnings of a career that challenges and fulfills me.
So what have been the biggest personal and professional challenges since leaving Gettysburg?
- Impostor syndrome – Fighting the feeling that somehow everyone around you will figure out that you’re not qualified to be where you are. That feeling that can creep into professional settings despite your best efforts to squash it. Until very recently I was the youngest person in my office – I’m fortunate to work with colleagues that encourage my growth but it still took awhile to see that “young” wasn’t a bad thing. While the world may complain about millennials, we have a lot to offer (such a millennial thing to say, no?). The flip side of that is in your 20’s you still have a lot to learn – just like in college, asking questions is a good thing.
- Work/life balance –As the new kid in town its easy to make yourself available 24/7 in an effort to impress. A few years ago I made 5 overseas trips in 11 months – I wasn’t taking care of myself well enough and got totally burnt out. I had to learn to delegate and assess my capacity at work better so that I could help my team be the most successful we could be.
- Making and keeping friends – In college you have people around you almost every waking moment. Your friends are just a short walk across campus and the longest amount of time you’re away from each other is over reading days. Post-grad life is a totally different story. You and your friends move to different cities, different time zones, meet new people, throw yourselves headlong into your careers, get engaged – there’s a lot going on and it’s easy drift apart. Taking the time to maintain those friendships, a visit every now and then, a couple phone calls, can be a crucial part of staying grounded in an otherwise crazy world.
The non-profit foundation that I work for is in a period of tremendous growth – it’s an exciting time. I’ve made my way up in the organization from when I first started as a Program Assistant and have seen our programming grow exponentially; I’m really proud of what we’re doing and have a great group of colleagues to share it with. I’ve also helped hire a number of new employees and it’s interesting to be on the other side of the hiring process – looking at the assortment of applications that come in sometimes makes me think about my own career trajectory. For me, grad school is definitely on the horizon – I know one day I’d like to teach at the college level – for now though I love where I am.
If I had to give advice to my senior year self, knowing what I know now, I would say the following: If you want to work internationally, take a language. Double-check cover letters before you send them (please). Read up on the organization you’re applying for a job at – tell them why you’re the best person to help them accomplish what they need to. Lastly (and I can’t take credit for this one but it’s something a Gburg professor told me awhile back), find someone who is doing what you’d like to do and ask them how they got there.
As a religious studies and political science double major, I was able to translate a lot of what I learned and was passionate about as a student into a career – the languages I took, the professors turned mentors that I learned from, and where I studied abroad all gave me an edge in finding a job I love post-college. Outside of the classroom, working as a GRAB facilitator enabled me to hone skills that are highly valued in today’s job market – leadership development, interpersonal communication, and risk management to name a few. My Gettysburg education has served me far beyond those 4 years on campus.
Not many colleges offer post-grad resources like Gettysburg does. There are lectures you can tune into online over lunch, an awesome mentoring program, networking opportunities, job resources with the Center for Career Development, alumni clubs to help you meet people in new cities, international hiking expeditions for alumni- so many things. I have taken advantage of all of these resources and they have been an awesome way to stay connected to Gettysburg.
One last bit of advice to my senior year self: relax, you’re doing fine – the real world isn’t that bad and you’ve got a whole network of pretty awesome people who want to see you succeed.
by Annie Valentine ’12