Here at Afterword, we like telling stories. Throughout the year we will bring you a continuing series called My First Year Out about recent graduates (including yourselves), to hopefully inspire and remind you that many UVM graduates take a variety of different paths to success in their first year out.
This week we are featuring one of our favorite check ins from last year’s class, Kristen Roche ’17, who took a chance on Portland, Oregon.
As her story demonstrates, if you network strategically and keep an open mind about what you want to do, you’ll put yourself in the position to do what you have always wanted (and learn more about yourself along the way).
Enjoy Kristen’s story!
Describe your first year out:
My first year of post-grad has been weird.
I can’t believe it’s almost been a full year since graduation. I’ve spent the past year focusing on myself and having fun trying to ‘figure it out.’ Don’t let anyone fool you, though, even if someone looks like they have it figured out…they don’t.
After graduation, I packed everything I own into my tiny car, and did the whole ‘cross-country road trip’ thing. I drove from Vermont to Oregon, to start my new life in Portland.
In my first five months here, I moved five separate times before finally signing a lease, on my own, in downtown Portland. I got a temp job working at Business Oregon, the State’s Economic Development Agency, helping with the Governor’s trade mission to Japan.
After that, I worked as a pizza delivery person for a hot sec…delivering pizzas until 5am at a very punk Portland establishment. Then I was offered a job as a Marketing Assistant for an Engineering firm.
What was your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
I’m really proud of myself for getting a job that challenges me and sparks my interest.
Moving across the country with no connections and zero professional work experience proved to be quite the challenge. You always hear “it’s all about who you know” when trying to find a job, and I knew no one.
I joke around that it’s really impressive I moved to Oregon with nothing and could have easily been flipping burgers at McDonalds (nothing wrong with that) but instead found myself shaking hands with the Governor.
I overcame the struggle by reaching out to anyone and everyone that was pointed in my direction. You cannot let rejection and awkwardness inhibit you from putting yourself out there.
There’s a lot of little details you need to remember; writing thank you notes, making great first impressions, and consistently following through even if your first email gets ignored. It’s important to remember it’s not personal and that people are just busy.
It was an emotional roller coaster, and especially difficult when all of my friends and family were back on the east coast. In order to overcome any challenges, I am learning to embrace the experience and accept that life is supposed to be a little weird right now.
What did you learn from this experience?
I’ve learned that I love drinking tea, I hate Doc Martens. And no matter how hard I try I can’t paint to save my life.
In the bigger picture, I’ve learned that it is SO IMPORTANT to trust your gut and just go for it – whatever that may be. You really grow as a person and figure yourself out when you put yourself in tough situations.
What are you doing now?
Honestly, I’m thriving as I continue to use different gyms for their free-week promos. I’m learning to not spend $50 every weekend on brunch and which skincare routine works best for me.
I’m going out, making new friends and enjoying the fact that random strangers find me interesting and laugh at my dumb jokes.
Professionally, I’m a Marketing Assistant for a civil engineering firm. It’s really cool because marketing is done the same across the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry, so I’ve joined a niche community, SMPS, that I believe will immensely help me to develop professionally. I’m being exposed to a variety of different projects, and I enjoy knowing little details of what’s going on around me. I’m really interested in urban development, so it’s a really good fit.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Put yourself in situations that force you to develop people skills and grow your network. Use your youth and ignorance as an advantage and ask for help, because no one needs it more than a recent college grad with absolutely no experience – plus people inherently want to help.
Take risks now because even if you fail, you’re still young enough to bounce back. Plus, it’s more interesting if you have adventures to tell stories about later.
Think you might be developing your own exciting first-year out story? Know a friend who will be doing something awesome? Click the button below and refer a friend (or yourself).