Make the adjustment to online classes with no prior notice, complete a remote internship, graduate from grad school, get a full-time job…. All during a pandemic. It is possible!
The thought of graduating from graduate school and securing a full-time job was already overwhelming for me… then the pandemic hit, and it almost seemed impossible for a while. But what really got me through finishing my graduate school program (online), graduating (online), completing an internship (online), and getting my first full-time job were my personal relationships and human connections.
Here’s my story:
The first week of March 2020 was my last week of classes before spring break. Everything was normal, I left class telling my friends to have a great break and I would see them the next week. Little did I know, that would be the last time I sat in a classroom for my MBA program at Belmont University, that might be the last time I saw some of my classmates who are moving away, that I wouldn’t get to go on my study abroad trip to Singapore, and that I wouldn’t get to participate in a graduation ceremony or celebrate with my friends and family in person.
After a weeklong spring break extension, I returned just as final exams were about to start. All of my classes were transitioned to an online format, all of my exams were online, and my “study abroad” to Singapore became online group projects and guest speakers. Since my MBA program continued throughout the summer, I still had hope that I would get to return to in-person classes for one final semester. But that wasn’t the case. As sad as I was to learn all of those things I would miss out on, I was also very concerned about how I would ever be able to land a full-time job when most companies weren’t hiring, some even laying off their employees. I never thought that I would not only get a job shortly after graduation, but that I would get a job in my desired field doing something I love right away.
Right before spring break, one of my friends and classmates met Traci Snowden, the founder and CEO of Apto. She immediately thought of me because I love to travel and learn about other cultures and languages, so she sent an introduction to Traci. I had never heard of Apto, and the company wasn’t directly seeking interns at the time, but Traci and I scheduled a time to chat just to connect on similar interests and discover each others’ story. During this call, I learned more about Apto and it’s mission and values, we chatted about travel experiences and study abroad, as well as our personal goals and interests. A couple of weeks later, I was interning for a company that is completely aligned with my beliefs and interests. After my internship concluded, I began a 90-day part time consultancy with Apto, which then turned into my current full time position of marketing manager.
My path to a full time job wasn’t necessarily traditional. I didn’t apply for positions I found online, relying on my resume and cover letter to tell my story. Instead, I had a personal relationship, a friend, that saw a connection based on my interests and values who cared enough to make that first introduction on my behalf. I then had a genuine conversation with Traci with the intent to simply learn more about Apto and her story as a world traveler and polyglot. It was because of our common goals and interests that we not only established a personal relationship, but also a business relationship. While I didn’t go straight into a full time position immediately following graduation, I moved from intern to part time consultant to full time marketing manager over the course of 9 months. But by doing this, I was able to gauge what I was really looking for in a full time position and my current role was adjusted to best fit my skills and strengths as well as what I am most passionate about.
While my experience may not be very replicable in most cases, the overall message of my story is to nurture and focus on your personal relationships and human connections. I never thought I would be one to say “things will work out as they should (even if it’s not how you had planned).” But after experiencing a year of pretty much everything NOT going as I had planned, I can truly say that I believe things really do work out as they’re supposed to. So, if you’re taking classes, preparing to graduate, or looking for an internship or a job during the pandemic, just know that all of those things are possible, even if it’s a little different than what you expected!