We asked the Class of 2018 to share insights—Logger to Logger—about their career development process. They haven’t been gone from campus for very long, but their perspective from that very next stage can be useful to Logger students who are still in the midst of their college years—exploring options and making plans for their own futures.

Nate Ashford ’18
Research Scientist Assistant
University of Washington

How did experiences during your time at Puget Sound contribute to your career path?

University of Puget Sound is an amazing incubator for scientists. We get more mentorship, meaningful lab experience in the form of enrichment grants, and one-on-one attention from our amazing professors and science core staff than most R1 university undergrads. Plus, we are not just washing dishes and making reagents—at Puget Sound, we are running our own independent projects under the direct guidance of faculty.

Despite this, there is bias—or what I call “professional doubt”—against us because Puget Sound is a liberal arts college. This came up during multiple interviews in the form of leaning questions and disbelief. And it can be difficult to effectively communicate the strength of Puget Sound’s program in the application process. However, for me, this is where CES was most useful.

CES staff guided me during the application process, helped me build and buff my application materials  and directed me to reach out and establish professional relationships with science alumni. By doing this, CES helped make my application more successful while ameliorating my anxiety during both the application process and the salary negotiation.

What insights did you gain from these experiences?

The insights I gained were threefold: how to put my best foot forward in an application and interview, how to strategically manage the job search, and the importance of finding alumni that become connections and mentors in the field.

CES was with me—editing, revising, and advising—during the entire application and interview process. Career advisers worked diligently with me to optimize my resumes, CVs, and cover letters—such that I actually received compliments on them during interviews.

Job hunting is not a sprint, but a marathon of stress, anxiety, and self-doubt. Having a CES adviser in your corner just makes the entire process less burdensome. At one point I was actually enjoying it.

Finally and most importantly, there is nothing more important than mentorship…

If you want a job that is meaningful, enjoyable, and beneficial to your professional development, there is a huge amount of work to be done prior to submitting your application. You have to research the environment of companies and institutions of where you want to work. You do this to avoid having an unpleasant working environment, but also to make sure this is a place you actually want to return to every Monday.

CES helps with this research in a significant way, but nothing is more informative than the perspective of alumni in those institutions and fields. Jake, my CES advisor, encouraged me and showed me how to contact alumni like Eric Kenji Lee (Allen Institute) and Kimberly Lowell (UW Medicine). From these mentors I got field-specific and institution-specific guidance on applications and emerging opportunities.

I often think that without Kimberly’s guidance I would not have been as successful in finding my current position. But without Jake I would have never thought to reach out to her, or I would have been too timid to do so.

My advice to soon-to-be grads? Reach out to alumni. We are good people and we can really help you! In all seriousness, there is so much you need to be aware of before the interview and we can really help.

Photo courtesy of Nate Ashford
© 2019 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound