Written by Howlader Nashara, Student Assistant to the CAS Career Advising Team.
On February 18th, the Women in Science Club and the Career Center co-hosted a career panel with four alumnae who work in various fields, from audio technology to environmental science:
• Anna Cetina: CAS/MS ’05, Director of the Audio Technology Program at AU
• Brynne McCord: CAS/BA ’07, Program Manager for Engility Corporation
• Jamey McEachran: CAS/MS ’11, Marine Resource Specialist for ERT inc., In-House Contractor for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service
• Kate Pinkerton: CAS/BS ’10, CAS/MS ’12, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Fellow, working on the Hypoxia Team at the Environmental Protection Agency
The most striking aspect of this panel was that the participants had newly established careers. All have graduated from CAS graduate or undergraduate programs, providing reassurance to current students that a degree, networking, and a little bit of hard work can indeed result in a job. The panelists were asked to provide examples of skills that they look for when hiring. Whether working in policy or research, the panelists placed an emphasis on having a background in science. McCord spoke about how it helps her to understand the depth and difficulty of projects, which in turn allows her to run a much more efficient office because she is able to empathize with her co-workers and their workloads. Pinkerton echoed the need to have a basic science background, and added that writing proficiency and the ability to communicate ideas about scientific concepts, both verbally and in writing, are extremely important. Cetina, the panelist with the longest career, stated that when she is hiring, she looks for someone that is humble about what they do not know and open to learning about those things. The need for flexibility was a sentiment echoed by everyone. This leads to the one concern that every graduating student or recent graduate has: where to find a job and how to plot a career trajectory. McEachran recommends looking at contracting and consulting when starting out, especially if a student is interested in natural resource management. Jobs often intersect with both federal/state governments and also within the non-profit sector, so there is diversity in what someone can learn from their work. Pinkerton recommends looking at federal/state government, the non-profit sector, contracting and consulting, and also research. Pinkerton is currently a fellow at ORISE and advised students to learn more and apply to the program as it is specifically designed for recent graduates.
It is always interesting to ask people what they think about having a nine-to-five job. Some will say that they love it, and others will say a routine is the most boring thing a person could pursue. Cetina and McCord agreed that very few people truly lead that kind of scheduled life. Working in the audio-technology field, Cetina warned students that hours are often late. Working as the director of AU’s program, her main focus is to be there for students and advise them. However, even when she is on the field for a project, there are days that start early and end late, and then some that start late and end early. Pinkerton advised students to figure out whether they want a nine-to-five job or not; if they do, then maybe working in government is good for them. However, working in the non-profit sector means longer hours but the payoff is that the passion is what drives people to work. The most important piece of advice she provided about this was that students should pursue a work-life balance that is most conducive to their success and happiness in both their professional and personal lives.
Thus when asked for some final pieces of advice, McCord advised students to really pursue what they love- and figure out what that is as soon as possible. She confessed that had she never taken physics, she would never have known that she wanted a career in science. If there is a class that a student is even vaguely interested in, she said that they should take it! This led to McEachron’s point: participate in campus networking events and practice communicating. Cetina encouraged students to take up internships and explore interests; there is no better way to explore potential jobs and work on skill sets at the same time than through internships. She explained that “when you go down a career path, it gets harder and harder to turn back,” so it is necessary to take advantage of all the opportunities available now.