Advice for graduating seniors
Ever wonder what it’ll be like after college? A hundred times: yes.
I’m a senior gearing up to graduate this coming May, and, wow, I’m scared to enter the “real world.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or a senior, there’s always something in the adult world to worry about--taxes, for one; I have no idea how to do taxes.
To calm my nerves, I reached out to alumnus Steven Foster.
Steven Foster graduated from Union College in December 2015 with communications and a minor in graphic design. He’s a freelance videographer and founder of Foster Creative. He lives in Denver, Colorado, where he works with ad agencies and films weddings.
Melissa Ratter: What was your experience like getting a job after you graduated? Did you find a job right away?
Steven Foster: I was already interning as a marketing and creative professional with a company called Nobl in the Haymarket. I was fortunate because I had a job waiting for me upon my graduation, but I'm also aware I earned that opportunity by working hard for them.
It all comes down to who you know, who you are, and then what you know. Union provided professors and mentors who taught me the skills I needed to succeed after graduation.
My communication professors, Mr. Blake, Pat Maxwell, and Dr. Cochran, taught me essential skills like how to find opportunities to challenge myself and grow my creative/marketing skillsets. They encouraged me to be proactive about finding internships through networking with professionals in Lincoln's community. By physically attending networking events and meeting the company founders, I scored the opportunities to work as an intern with a few different companies downtown.
Ryan Teller, the head of Marketing Communications, gave me my first job on campus as a video producer. Working for him gave me the space I needed to experiment and grow creatively, and taught me I was passionate about storytelling.
MR: When you were interviewing for your first job out of college, what experiences at this school did you talk about?
SF: As a marketing/creative professional, who you know gets you the interview. All the best jobs aren't found by searching job boards online, but are presented to you through the network of professionals. I heard through the grapevine a great company was hiring someone with my skillset, I asked a person to throw my name into the hat, and I submitted my resume and portfolio— that usually amounted to an interview.
Once in the interview, I showed the company my personality and interpersonal communication skills. After they liked me, the only thing that mattered was my portfolio.
If I didn't get the job, I would email the people I met with and ask to grab coffee in the future. That way, there would be no hard feelings between us. My network then grew and maybe they would present me with different career opportunities
MR: If you had it to do all over again, what would you do differently?
SF: I'm thankful for the experiences I had--both good and bad. I learned a lot from everything I did during the years I attended Union, and took advantage of almost every opportunity. I'm thankful I did a lot of tough things and worked myself hard—managing The Clocktower, working at multiple internships and being a full-time student.
MR: What would you look for if you were in the position to hire new graduates from Union?
SF: It sounds cliche, but it comes down to motivation and drive. Are you passionate about the career you're working towards? If not, are you at least interested in working hard and developing the passion? Passion isn't natural, it's the result of goal-orientated hard work and learning to love it along the way. Skill can be taught, but passion naturally exudes from students who are driven. I want the people I work with to love what they do, and to have a desire to keep improving.
MR: What’s your advice for graduating seniors?
SF: Leave campus and start looking for networking events ASAP. It's never too early to start growing your network of professionals. The earlier you begin, the higher the likelihood you'll find a great job after you don your cap and gown.
It's all about who you know. If you work hard and are passionate, you need to seek people who will notice you and your work ethic, and can give you opportunities to challenge and grow your skillset!
Melissa Ratter is a senior studying language arts education.