In an effort to better serve SBC students, we at the Career Services Center felt it would be beneficial to devote a section of the website to alumnae experiences. This section contains "blurbs" covering the benefits, disadvantages, graduate/professional school advice, and other pertinent information in different alumnae's chosen career fields.
If you are an alumnae who wishes to contribute to this section, please send your "blurb" to us:
Fax: (434) 381-6396
Mail: Career Services Center, PO Box AT, Sweet Briar College, Sweet Briar, VA 24595
Please provide information you feel is vital to anyone thinking of pursuing a career in your field, which may include benefits, disadvantages, advice, daily activities, or humorous anecdotes.
My advice to students in the sciences would be to be aware of the job market today. Anyone considering going on to graduate school for a Ph.D. should seriously consider that decision. Right now I work with many brilliant post-docs who are having trouble finding permanent jobs. Some have been a post-doc for 5 years, which means they have a low income, no benefits and little job security. Students should be aware that to get your Ph.D. takes up to 5 years, then they will have to do 1-2 post-docs and then begin the search for a permanent job. By this time they could be in their mid-30s with no financial security. I went to graduate school right after Sweet Briar and got my Master's and right now there are more jobs for me to apply to than the post-docs in my lab that are looking for jobs, plus I am making more money than them currently. I am not suggesting that getting a Ph.D. is a bad decision because it can make for a very rewarding career, but I just want students to be aware of the job market for Ph.Ds right now. It is very competitive. This was something that I was not aware of coming out of Sweet Briar.
Any student is welcome to get in touch with me if they want more information.
Leigh Wilson, Class of '97
I'd be glad to share what I learned at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Through writing "ask" letters and getting information for continued grants, one learns early on that this is a profession of song and dance. What is required by one company is not necessary or is not found adequate by another - it helps to learn to adapt early on.
During our preparation for the Garden's largest annual fundraiser, I found that we did not always do the most functional or practical thing when it came to logistics (i.e. seating arrangements) which trustees of the Garden or generous donors had "helped" plan, and who were happy to be involved with for over ten years. At first this was frustrating, but it helped to know that such were the type of people that Garden did their best to keep happy and to make feel important - their support helped maintain most every aspect of the Garden's upkeep and success.
My advice to anyone considering a career in nonprofit would be to make sure they enter into a field for which they have personal concerns and/or great interest - this gives you a cause and greater purpose for your life at work.
Having been on a search for my perfect career for about three years now, I was amused and surprised at Career Services' invitation to join these anecdotes of alumnae experiences. I'm still searching for my particular place in the world (what DO I want to be when I grow-up??!), but I can tell you a little bit about what I HAVE learned along the way- a life in the fine arts will not leave you rich-anyone who tries to become an artist, actor, etc. to become rich and famous has been watching far too much TV and needs to come back to reality. It can be grueling- I myself worked in technical theatre, in various roles but ultimately as a scenic and props artisan for a theatre in DC. Because you're doing this for the love of your art, you need to find a place that supports you and makes you enjoy coming into work.
Because institutions like theatres are mixtures of grand, but often impractical ideas of art and creativity and also hard-nosed practices of business, moneymaking and bureaucracy, it's important to know that the dynamic of one institution can be wildly different from another. Look for a company that you fit into, that you respect and that respects you in turn. Be prepared for manual labor, bad hours, and stress. Make sure you find a company to work for that will treat you right- too often, it's easy to become abused because of your commitment to your art and because "the show must go on."
On a lighter note, one thing you do get from a career in the arts is lots and lots of stories to entertain people. One time, while I was working for a theater in NYC, I (a little white girl) was dressed in my theatre blacks. I'd been working in wigs and wardrobe, and the other woman in my department had offered me a lift to Grand Central to catch my nightly train out to Westchester. This woman, Ifetayo, was a Uruba priestess, a religion that, as far as I have been able to understand, is a polytheistic sort of voodoo. Ife was great, and because of her, I left NYC with a great load of stories. She'd given herself a spiritual reading, which had informed her of the necessity to wear white for the next few weeks, so if, a black woman in white, and I, a white girl in black, left the theatre like a human yin-yang and were down on Second Avenue near Alphabet City when she ran out of gas.......just me, her, and the ashes of her ex-boyfriend's mother sitting in a little box in the backseat!
Kelli Rogowski, Class of '99
I am currently working as a Personnel Consultant at an agency in downtown Boston. This is a great field to get into if you are looking to work with people, but want the business edge. I recruit candidates for large financial companies, as well as consult with those companies about the hiring process and how it should be conducted. I get quite a bit of interaction with the candidates, from the interview to helping them construct their resumes, direct them in their job searches, and often bring them a dose of reality when their expectations are too high! It requires tact, and an outgoing personality with good 'people sense.' In addition to this, I consider a large portion of my job to be sales. Finding companies to use our agency is key to being truly successful. A lot of people can interview, few can sell, and nothing can be as rewarding as landing a big account! All it requires is persistence, networking, and the desire for the almighty dollar! You can do very well financially if you play your cards right. I have met many wonderful people and made contacts I would never have met otherwise.
There is room to grow in this field, and you can receive different levels of certifications to further your skills. I started in sales, and fell into this industry a few years ago, and I wouldn't change a thing. I love coming to work, no day is the same!
Jessica Cronin, Class of '98
I am a zoo keeper at Atlanta Zoo, recently transplanted from Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. Anyone interested in pursuing a career in the zoo field should be highly dedicated to animals and less dedicated to a large income. Though you won't get rich in this field you will be rewarded with unique experiences. How many people get to scratch a rhino's back everyday or care for tiger cubs? A stressful day might include a fight between two zebra or a monkey that is being uncooperative. A lot of the work is nonglamourous cleaning up after the animals but you also get to do a lot of training and enrichment. Working in this field can lead to opportunities to travel abroad to aid in conservation efforts as well as traveling this country for conferences. I can't imagine doing anything else because helping animals has been a dream of mine since childhood and I recommend this career to others with the same dreams.