Advice for Seniors from Recent Grads

With Commencement getting closer and closer, I found myself wondering what I could contribute to the UCSB Career Services Blog to help graduating seniors prepare for their next phase in life. I pondered about what students should know about life after college in the world of work. In the end, I decided that the best thing to do would be to gather perspectives from Gauchos who have recently been in this position themselves. I polled a number of UCSB alumni who received a variety of degrees in recent years. I asked them a single question, and here are their responses:

“What is the one thing you wish you’d known when you gradated from UCSB?”


“My professors and advisors know lots of companies, both here and elsewhere, and are likely to help me find connections in my new industry.” -B.A. in Philosophy
“The job application process is so much easier if you start tracking your experience ASAP. I went through so many applications, and it really helps to have a spreadsheet that has specific information (e.g. Job started on what MM/DD/YYYY, how many hours per week, supervisor’s contact info, etc.) Experiences and results of studies are useful for resumes, the cover letters, and anecdotes during interviews. These things are really difficult to remember after time has passed, so jot this info down now while its still fresh!” -B.S. in Aquatic Biology


“I wish I’d known how much people and networking mattered, even in the sciences. There are no classes on those things, nor on self-confidence, time management, work task prioritization.  You’re just supposed to figure those things out on the fly while you do the ‘real work’. Those are the things I’ve had to work on in building a career. Technical problems are easy compared to people problems in many cases.” -B.S. in Physics


“It’s important to take your goals seriously and pursue them not only from the point you graduate, but also while you’re still in school — and I don’t just mean taking classes.  Even if all you’re doing is thinking about it a little bit every day/week, doing a little research at a regular time on your ‘dream job’, or working on your ‘dream project’ if it’s something creative.  Maintaining those goal-related habits also gives you some continuity after you graduate!” -B.A. in English


“Career paths don’t have to make straight lines. You can go from one field to an adjacent one many times over the course of a career. Don’t feel locked down by your previous choices. And don’t feel like you have to know everything on day one. Even colleagues who are thirty-five or forty have 10 to 20 years of experience on you, and that’s as it should be.” -B.S. in Physics


“I wish I had known how to manage my time better after graduate school.  There is a definite graduate school ‘culture’ where free time and work time are intertwined with one another, and only major milestones and exams are considered “deadlines.” After being in graduate school for 6 years, I forgot what it was like to manage my time under a regular 8am-5pm job. This not only relates to career-related obligations, but also to my personal self-care activities. I encourage folks to prepare themselves for this transition by planning ahead, getting a good electronic day planner, and scheduling in self-care activities (e.g., Exercise, time with loved ones, relaxation) ahead of time. Your brain will thank you.” -Ph.D in Psychology


“Grad school was that hard for nearly everyone, we all just put confident faces on and kept going. I think it would have been easier if we could have acknowledged just how hard it was to each other. And I think that remains true in the workplace. Many people are having a harder time than it looks. You are not alone when times get tough, even if everyone around you is acting like things are fine for them.” -Ph.D in Materials


“It’s helpful to keep up your network of people that wish you well. I received plenty of support, leads, and letters of recommendation from friends, supervisors, and mentors during my job search process. If I had kept in even better touch, that would have increased the rewards even more plus the added benefit of more wonderful people in your life.” -Ph.D in Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology


Whether you will be entering the workplace as a young professional, pursuing graduate school, or enjoying some well deserved time off, I hope this advice serves you well during your transition into this next phase in life. Congratulations, class of 2013!


Cat Saunders is a UCSB alum who works as a Vocational Counselor in the Santa Barbara area. She can be found at