Learn From Me: Post Grad Pivot
Updated: Oct 19
Deciding what you want to do is tough. You turn 19 and they ask you “So what do you want to do for the rest of your life?” Nobody is bound to one career for an eternity, but when you’re a young college student it certainly feels that way. It can be seriously overwhelming. Guest Alumni blogger, Jake Nemeth, shares plenty of things you can do to ease that pressure and gain more clarity when making a career plan. Less than one year after graduation he made a career pivot away from his first job, current state, and the career he thought he wanted. Learn about the steps he took to discover a new career path that better captured his true passions and interests.
My time at Lehigh was certainly a learning experience. As a proud alumni, Class of 2018, it wasn’t too long ago that I was working my way toward a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. But I left Lehigh with more than just my degree and I am here to share my perspectives and help outline these useful resources:
Career Counseling Sessions
Networking via Lehigh Connects and LinkedIn
Post-grad Career Counseling
If any of these are new to you, I highly recommend you read on and take advantage of the resources provided by the Career Center ASAP.
Let’s take it all the way back 8 years ago to September 2013. I’m a senior in high school applying to colleges and I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. I’ve always envied my older sister and brother because of their passions for theater and engineering, respectfully. They went to college, had a vision in their heads of what they wanted to do and they went out and did it. But me? I knew that I was good at math, science, public speaking, and baseball. I was very passionate about baseball- but nowhere good enough to make that a career. And my dad, uncle, and brother were all engineers, so I figured I would go with that. A few essays and applications later, I decided to go to Lehigh for engineering.
In my first few years at Lehigh, I excelled in my classes and decided on a major in Mechanical Engineering. At that point, I didn’t really understand the differences between the disciplines very much and just sort of picked one. However, I was good at it, so that reinforced my decision. Plus, after you decide on a major, it feels like a hassle to switch to something new (it isn’t actually a hassle, but I thought it was better to just stick it out rather than second-guess my decision). I wasn’t miserable in my major, but it’s not like I was overjoyed either.
As a sophomore, I had some of my first experiences with the Career Center. I went there for a resume workshop to improve my chances of getting an internship. I also attended my first career expo and started learning the importance of networking- something I wish I had understood better earlier. The career coaches helped me and I managed to get an internship at a big manufacturing company near my hometown. I did something similar in my junior year and got another internship, this time with a construction company in NYC. It seemed like I was doing all the right things.
As a senior, life seemed to speed up. Big decisions were on the horizon and a whole new chapter of life was around the corner. In the beginning of my senior year, I had my first career counseling session with Christine Russell. These career counseling sessions would be some of the most impactful conversations in my entire academic tenure and even in post-grad. In my first session, Christine and I would discuss my resume, my career goals and what makes me happy. I told her that I was good at engineering, but I like working with people and being a leader. There was a leadership program for graduating seniors at the manufacturing company in which I had interned two years prior, and that seemed like it would be a good fit for me. I applied, got the job and started working there just a few weeks after graduating in May 2018.
Fast forward to January 2019. They had me stationed in New Albany, IN at a small plant where I was the youngest engineer by about 15 years. I was hundreds of miles from home and from my friends, but what made it worse was that I was unhappy at work and had no idea with whom to talk to about it. That is when I learned that Lehigh offers career counseling sessions up to two years after graduation. I set up some time with my go-to counselor, Christine, and I just vented. I aired all of my concerns and grievances to her. I told her I wanted out. I needed to do something new and it wasn’t even one year into my first job. I told her I wanted to work more with people and less on my computer and eventually, that led to a conversation about consulting. I made it my goal to find a new job in consulting, somewhere on the east coast. My job search was VERY different this time around, only a year later.
In the age of one-click applications, networking has never been more important. Christine advised me to get on Lehigh Connects and Lehigh’s LinkedIn Alumni page and start sending out messages to set up phone calls. Using these resources, you can filter down to specific majors, geographic locations, companies and more. In my case, I focused on individuals with an engineering background that lived in Northeastern cities and who did not currently work at an engineering company.
Next came the intro messages. I worded these messages very carefully. No one appreciates someone that comes off as entitled or who implies they deserve a job simply because they went to Lehigh. Instead, I outlined things I had in common with the alumni, and I asked if I could have a conversation regarding their career journey following graduation. I created a templated version of this email so that I could send out a lot of them in a short amount of time, but I would still personalize each message. I sent out over 250+ messages to alumni in only a few days. From there, I scheduled calls with anyone that was willing to speak to me. Since I was still working, a lot of these calls had to occur over my lunch break and I had to find other ways to be flexible to accommodate everyone else's busy schedules. I sacrificed many lunch breaks, some PTO days and quite a few Saturday afternoons for this to work. However, these efforts resulted in nearly 100 phone conversations between March 2019 and July 2019.
In these conversations, I outlined my situation, why I was calling and then asked questions about their experience. I occasionally would ask someone to review my resume, but never imposed on them or asked them to send it to a hiring manager (although, MANY people offered to do so, which I happily took them up on). Lehigh alumni are extremely helpful and responsive, especially if you have the right approach. This strategy led to a ton of new, meaningful connections and eventually, to 10+ interviews at reputable companies.
I accepted a consultant position at the management consulting firm, Protiviti in November 2019 and I am so much happier now than I was right after school. Now, as a Senior Technology Consultant, I’m hoping current students will read about my experience and better utilize the resources that are available. Get on Lehigh Connects, have career counseling sessions early and often, and start networking with Lehigh alumni now. The Lehigh alumni network is your most valuable resource, so reach out to me and the thousands of others and let’s have a talk! Looking forward to hearing from you.
About the Guest blogger
Jake is currently located in New York City working as a Senior Consultant for Protiviti. His career goals include helping clients better utilize technology to manage risk and create customized business solutions. He maintains contact with Eta of Theta Xi members at Lehigh and is an active member with the Lehigh Alumni Association. He enjoys running, cooking, traveling and playing recreational soccer and softball. Connect with Jake on LinkedIn.
Want to learn more about networking?
Learn from me: Informational Interviews (written by a Lehigh student)