'Five Under 35' panel shares career advice with GVSU students

By Ita Tsai | 2/5/18 2:00am

GVL/Hannah Zajac— 5 Under 35 event, where students were able to listen to Grand Valley graduates about how to be successful in colege and transition into the professional world, on Thursday 1 Feb 2018.
by Hannah Zajac / The Lanthorn

Many students struggle with pursuing work after they graduate, and the thought of leaving the safe haven of campus can be intimidating as graduation draws nearer and nearer. 

To help orient students in their future career paths, the Future Alumni Association hosted a panel of five recent Grand Valley State University graduates to discuss life after college at the "Five Under 35" event Thursday, Feb. 1, in the Alumni House.

About 20 attending students got to ask questions and hear about transitioning into the professional world. For this particular session, the panel featured graduates from science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professions. 

The panelists explained how they came across internship or co-op opportunities and connected with their jobs. 

“I really wanted to get an internship in order to have an experience of the real world, so I started to search for a position and got accepted into a finance internship,” said Chelsea Dreyer, who graduated in 2009 with a degree in chemical engineering and has an MBA. 

Billy Neuson, a 2016 graduate in computer science, said he attended a co-op fair, got an internship and put in his time as an intern before eventually receiving a job offer after showing his peers that he was serious about his work.

Thomas Pikes, a graduate in computer science with a master’s degree in computer information systems, tried another approach: Over the course of two weeks, he persistently sent emails to positions of interest, and eventually the employers told him to come in for an interview.

Autumn Goulet graduated in 2010 with degrees in chemistry and criminal justice. She urged students not to be discouraged if they were turned down by their internships at first. 

“I had 75 applications once I graduated,” she said. “Of all the applications, I didn’t hear back from any of them.” Goulet currently works at Gentex Corporation as a process development chemist.

The panelists also warned students not to lose track of what they wanted to pursue and to continue to seek knowledge, stay flexible and maintain a wide set of skills.

“It’s easy to become complacent with your job when you’re busy trying to get your job done, but if you want to improve your skills, you need to move,” Pikes said. 

“A lot is self-motivating,” Dreyer added. “Your company is not going to challenge you to go out there and obtain skills. You have to stay relevant to your field, stay engaged.” 

The panelists agreed on the importance of maintaining a balance between work and personal life. Goulat mentioned that at her business, many people would stay extra hours to continue their work or would even take their work home with them.

“When I was at college, my life was all college,” she said. “However, when you get a job, you need to learn how to value work and life both.”

The panelists also discussed the relative importance of having work or other relevant experience to put on a resume.

“If you don’t have much work experience, your best option are class projects,” Neuson said. “After I finished a group project, I would write an article explaining what my work was about, what I did wrong or right. … This shows that you’re aware of your surroundings and yourself.”

Dreyer, currently a lead concept and cost development engineer at JR Automation, said when her company interviews applicants without a lot of experience, projects are really important. 

“We will ask you about the role you played in the group project, how you responded to problems," Dreyer said. "If it’s not on the resume, you need to lead us to the information about who you are. That helps us read you as an individual.”

Volunteer work was also mentioned as an option for those who don't have much experience in their field.

For more information about the Future Alumni Association, visit www.gvsu.edu/faa/

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