Post-grad life in the age of COVID

By Olivia Jacobs Jan 29, 2021
18 people participated in the virtual zoom panel. 
Photo: Olivia Jacobs

The Hart Career Center brought recent Illinois Wesleyan graduates on January 26 as part of their “Adulting 101/Post-Grad Life” virtual panel series where alumni guide current students through their post-graduate experiences.

The panel featured Angela Roman ‘20 who is now a Biology Teacher at Lake Park High School, Chris Sawicki ‘20, an Associate of Collateral Services at OCC, Eva Nautiyal ‘20, a Junior Front End Developer at Tsurumi America Inc., Esther Niedert ‘20, a Marketing Data Analyst, and Taylor Marvin ‘19 who is currently a graduate student at Drexel University. 

The panel kicked-off with each alumni sharing their post-graduate experiences whether that be finding a job or applying to graduate school. 

“I got lucky.I was introduced to the company I work for now through the career fair. I interviewed with them two days before the world shut down and at first I wasn’t getting any call backs, but then I started working in May],” Niedert said. 

Nautiyal, on the other hand, had a completely different experience. “I sent in hundreds of applications and I was unemployed from May until December. As a computer science major I need sponsorships which are very hard to get,” she said.

Then the conversation transitioned to the panelists discussing the struggles they’ve faced in trying to connect with other people within their companies. 

“I fortunately started working three weeks after graduation, but since I’ve been working at home I still haven’t met my bosses in person,” Sawicki said.

Most of the panelists have started working since graduating from IWU, but Marvin has had a much different experience including taking a gap year and starting her masters program.

Marvin said as a graduate student “you really have to put in more effort, take more initiative and be more intentional in order to make connections with people. It’s definitely a lot different from undergraduate.”

Students attending the virtual panel were able to ask questions directly to the panelists and many were interested in what skills these alumni acquired from Illinois Wesleyan that helped them in landing a job. 

“Being at a smaller campus you get bigger advantages to be involved. I was an RA and the guy who hired me also happened to be an RA so we were able to find common ground in that way,” Roman said. 

“I’m at a smaller company with about 32 employees so being able to handle a lot of things at once has definitely helped me,” Niedert said. 

Students were also curious about how the panelists were able to financially prepare themselves for a post-graduate life.

“I worked part time as a physical therapy technician which eventually turned into full time so I worked during my year off. I was also very frugal about how I spent my money and I tried to save every penny I could. Loans helped too,” Marvin said.

“I set goals and broke things down per hour. I thought to myself ‘why would I spend $15 on lunch if I’m only making this much per hour?’” Sawicki said. 

Marvin also talked about the benefits of taking a gap year in-between undergraduate and graduate studies. She explained that she was able to save money, she didn’t have to stress about taking the GRE and was able to give it her all during her senior year. She also said she was able to gain experience in the real world while also taking a mental break.

“I felt refreshed when I came back to school. Many people think you’re stopping your life for a whole year when you’re actually still doing a lot. I highly recommend giving yourself  a break, “ Marvin said. 

The panelists also spoke about their internship experiences while at Illinois Wesleyan that prepared them to enter the workforce post-graduation.

Nautiyal told students that as a computer science major she didn’t have a linear path. According to her, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“Employers appreciate scrappiness. They don’t expect you to know all of the answers, but instead having the abilities to figure them out,” Nautiyal said.  

As the panel began to come to a close the panelists were asked to share their biggest challenge and biggest joy throughout their post-graduate lives so far. 

“I learned that imposter syndrome is very real. I kept comparing and questioning myself on whether or not I really deserve to be where I’m at until I read something that said ‘no one is good at their job until they’ve done it for a year’ and I figured I haven’t been here for a year so it’s okay,” Roman said. 

“It was super hard to move from a small town in Central Illinois all the way to downtown Philadelphia, but it has ended up being a very rewarding experience to live somewhere else,” Marvin said.

At the end of the panel,  the panelists encouraged students to take whatever they’re doing right now and apply it as well as use their resources as an IWU student to connect with alumni.

Students interested in talking more about their future post-graduation should reach out to Patrick Zajac at the Hart Career Center. Email pzajac@iwu.edu or ccenter@iwu.edu for more information. 

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