I never would have thought that what ended up landing me my first job would be a guinea pig on a skateboard, but I guess a lot of the time you can't predict what's going to happen with life after Hamilton. I must admit that my guinea pig escapades aren't the only thing that made my journey from Hamilton to NYC unconventional - almost everything about my path through college and after was unexpected. I came to Hamilton with a jazz music scholarship, majored in neuroscience, found myself applying to jobs as a graphic designer, and am now happily working as a developer, doing interactive visual programming.
I guess I'd better start explaining myself. I have always been super curious about how people work and technology, and throughout college while studying neuro, I was doing freelance graphic and web work, creating websites, logos, identities, and promotional graphics for bunches of random people, linked together by friends and references. I loved the process of self-teaching, and having something real to show for all my hard work and learning, rather than just a piece of paper with a grade on it. Although I really enjoyed studying neuroscience and worked hard on academics, any second I had free was taken by my hunger to improve my skills with graphics and programming, and my work at the Career Center, trying to improve their technology and web presence as much as I could.
When it came time senior year to start applying for jobs, I knew it was my absolute first priority to be doing something that I loved, regardless of the money involved or whether it sounded impressive. If I can give any advice to anyone looking for a job at all, it is to adopt this mindset - you are going to spend literally most of the time you are awake at your job, so if you are not having a blast, you are really missing out. The fact that I spent every spare second I had working with technology made it pretty clear to me that this was what I truly enjoyed, so I applied mostly for jobs in tech, related to web and graphic design.
Much like I did with college, I thought it would be much more worth it to apply to few opportunities, but put a lot of effort into my application (the opposite of what most people do -- just sending their resume out to anyone and everyone they think they have a chance with, expending effort on quantity, not quality). For me, this really paid off. Although I spent many hours on a few applications that didn't go through, I soon narrowed the search down to a few companies. When I found Carrot Creative, the company that I work for now, I knew right away that it was my dream company. But... it was also a company that gets hundreds of resumes a month (I mean, they have a keg and a grill in their office, do work for clients like the NFL, Ford, and MTV, and a room called "college" full of beanbag chairs, video games, and a huge TV... what more could you ask for?)
So instead of sending them a resume in a standard fashion, I got in contact directly with their technical director via Twitter (Carrot is a social media marketing company), and sent him a personalized and interactive website resume, along with my video of a guinea pig on a skateboard (explanation here) - something that I knew would be hard to ignore. I was lucky enough to be called in for an interview a few weeks later, and offered an internship a few more after that. Over the summer, I worked my butt off and was lucky enough to be offered a full time job about halfway through my internship.
If there's any advice I could offer, it would be this:
- Apply for jobs in what you really really love and are passionate about. It shows.
- Be unconventional (in a good way, of course) - you will stand out, and that's the most important thing for highly sought-after companies
- Research hard, and really go after the companies you love - don't be "loose" with your resume ; )
- Use what Hamilton gave you. I have been told over and over by people offering me jobs that they really value the fact that I can communicate and write clearly and have social skills as a programmer (I know, nerdy... but so true). Although you will certainly be lacking the specific technical skills that those who go to technical colleges have, Hamilton develops you as a person, which sets you up for leadership roles once you find your passion and hone your skills. Take advantage of that, and make it clear in your interviews - make sure to say that there's a good reason you went to a liberal arts school, and this is why it's an advantage for their company.
Have fun at your job. If you are not having fun, you don't have the right job.
Visit the Career Center website for more stories from alums on getting a first job.