On Feb 28., the Center of Career Development at the University of Connecticut hosted a virtual event with recent graduates to discuss the realities of life after college. The event was moderated by Beth Settje, a Career Center associate director.
The five panelists offered meaningful advice to eighth-semester students who are two months away from graduation. They urged seniors to enjoy their remaining time at UConn and gave a preview of the next chapter.
“It is bizarre how much freedom you actually have. The moral of the story is that you have to do what makes you happy, you have to know what you want to do,” said Maxwell Miller, a 2021 graduate in finance and data analytics. “It is up to you to chase what you want to do and what you want to accomplish.”
The main topic during the event was the post-grad summer and how that varied for each panelist. For 2020 graduate Amanda Agui, during the pandemic, she chose to live at home. She was grateful for the extension in the grace period on student loan payments following graduation. Agui was transparent about the benefit of living at home, despite the stigma of living on your own as a college graduate.
“If you have the opportunity to live at home, I strongly recommend you do that. I did, and I did not move out until a year and a half into my program. That was my pro-tip in how I quickly and readily paid off my student debt,” commented Agui, who now lives in Chicago.
Abbas Harris, who graduated with a mechanical engineering degree and a minor in manufacturing, shared a similar experience. Following graduation, Harris chose to take time off before starting a job.
“Give yourself a break,” said Harris. “You worked hard, developed so much and enjoyed your summers. Each day, put aside one to two hours to apply or plan. But definitely take a well-needed break after grad and do things that are out of your comfort zone. I feel like people don’t utilize that.”
Harris discussed the lifestyle differences after college, including more freedom and spending time alone. Harris encouraged students to avoid putting pressure on themselves to get a job right away and to prioritize their mental health.
Settje’s advice to students in her Senior Year Experience course is to be patient during the job search. She encourages them to do extensive research on each company and to thoroughly consider offers and other options before committing.
Victoria Kuryan, a 2021 graduate in English and communications, commented on patience during the summer following graduation. She was unable to travel due to the pandemic so she continued to work part-time remotely during her job search. Kuryan expressed her fear of having a gap in her resume and why she continued to work.
“If you can avoid a gap, it’s typically a good idea,” said Settje.
Settje also discussed the taboo topic of job-hunting: salary negotiations. Panelists spoke about their own experiences with salary negotiation and offered advice to the audience.
Harris, who now works at MTU Aero Engines in Rocky Hill, Connecticut shared his bad luck in negotiating his salary. He had provided his boss a list of traits to show he was worthy of a higher salary. He was denied the raise, but was not discouraged because of the preexisting benefits and that his company would pay for his graduate school. The panelists encouraged students to research options such as employers paying for further education.
Erin McConnell, a 2021 graduate in applied mathematics and statistics, shared a different experience. McConnell currently attends an accelerated master’s program at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Upon her offer to work as a data analyst for Dish Network, she called her future boss about a pay raise.
McConnell initially asked for a $5,000 to $10,000 increase in her salary. She was excited when she received more than she asked. Successfully negotiating a salary in today’s workforce climate is challenging, but she encouraged students to try it.
For similar content, the Career Center is hosting a virtual webinar “Husky To Hire: The Job Search” on Mar. 2 at 7 p.m. Additional details on upcoming events can be found on their website at career.uconn.edu.