Sue Davis, associate professor and chair of the political science department, is acutely familiar with the worries that haunt her students. Sure, there’s all the reading, research, writing, and testing that she and her fellow professors assign (and none of it is easy). But students are also, and quite naturally, concerned with what happens after all that work—when the diploma is in hand and a new chapter of life begins. How do they find a job? And where do they look? What’s the best way to build a network? Should they consider a master’s degree? When? The list goes on…
So to help political science majors consider the possibilities, last week the department welcomed back four alumni who have graduated within the previous seven years but otherwise have followed very different paths. They included Marc Anderson ’07, an analyst at OpenChime.com and M.B.A. candidate at the University of Chicago; Julie Black ’05, former DCGA president, former intern and staffer to Senator Richard Lugar ’54, and current senior public policy specialist at Patton Boggs LLC; Adam Crowther ’07, public policy research analyst at Northwestern University who holds a master’s from Duke University; and Meghan Hofert-Gebhardt ’07, who received her M.Ed. in higher education administration from Loyola and is currently a manager at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Each had their own story to tell, and all had individual and collective wisdom to share with current students. Here’s just a touch of their advice:
- Most master’s programs will want you to have a couple of years of some kind of experience. Put that time to use to think about what you’re interested in and why, and explore those options.
- Learning what’s meaningful and important takes time. Don’t panic if you don’t discover or know that right away.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things. Sometimes you can’t move ahead in a field without getting away from it and getting additional experience.
- Go to Denison’s Writing Center. Of all the skills you’ll need, one of the most important is being able to communicate clearly and effectively in writing.
- But also work on leadership and verbal communication, and especially all those things you may not be comfortable with. Take time to learn your strengths and weaknesses and know how to use them.
- Be very mindful of your social networking presence. A lot of potential employers will judge you based on what they learn about you from your digital history.
- Don’t rule out starting your own business someday. Denison has a strong tradition of entrepreneurs, who have what it takes to succeed because, in part, of what they learned here.
- Alumni are generally very responsive to students and young alumni who are trying to network. Just do so with a purpose, do your research and know why you want to reach out to someone.
- Don’t be over-zealous in networking, but don’t let your contacts become idle. Try to check in with people at least once or twice a year, just to keep them in the loop and let them know you’re thinking of them.
- Wherever you go, whatever you do, try to be prepared to make the “elevator speech” for who you are and how you can bring value to someone else.