Andy Pagan ’19, M.S. ’20, knew that finding a job would be tough, even before COVID-19 made the prospect absolutely daunting. It was a nerve-wracking process, but he finally received offers. “Moral of the story — keep applying,” he says. “All it takes is one good interview and a bit of luck for all the pieces to fall into place.”
Clark’s graduate students have had solid success in the recent job market thanks to their diligence, dedication, and experience. The positive results are all indicative of early engagement with Clark’s career planning resources, including conversations with advisers and alumni, and polishing résumé and interview skills. Resilience and patience have been the keys to success since the onset of COVID-19.
“So far, indicators are promising for the Class of 2020,” says Sharon Hanna, director of career development and external relations in Clark’s International Development, Community, and Environment (IDCE) department. “At least 25 percent of IDCE graduates are now employed full time or enrolled in Ph.D. programs. We also have a number of new grads who are active in advanced rounds of interviews. Some of our graduates reported receiving multiple offers and have negotiated higher salaries.”
Hanna notes that her career center has seen requests for mock interviews skyrocket as students and graduates practice thoughtful, focused responses to the complex questions they anticipate from potential employers. A successful interview is key to moving forward.
“It’s not enough to simply list experience and qualifications on résumés and letters,” says Hanna. “The students have learned to focus on the employer’s interests and expectations, and to connect those with examples and stories that illustrate they are qualified and enthusiastic candidates.”
According to Hanna, Clark’s graduate departments are fortunate to have extensive, engaged alumni who understand how the programs prepare students to solve complex problems that are central to attracting employers.
“Our alumni often tell me they enjoy sharing opportunities because they remember how helpful alumni support was for them as they launched their job search,” says Hanna. “Many alumni continue to access IDCE career resources and their shared connections. It’s gratifying to witness the mentorship and collaborations cultivated through the IDCE network.”
Pagan’s job search was complicated by an August graduation, but he ultimately received offers from two of the three companies with whom he interviewed. He is currently a GIS technician with BSC Group in Worcester, providing GIS/cartography support and fieldwork for land use permitting.
The interesting and meaningful work Pagan did at Clark prepared him to get a good job. “The most important thing for landing a job out of college is to have real-world project experiences to put on your résumé and talk about in interviews. For me, those included participating in the HERO fellowship, working at Clark Labs for two years, and completing multiple short-term consulting projects for organizations such as Mass Audubon, the Army Corps of Engineers, and Wildlife Conservation Society.”
“I know firsthand how committed our newest alums have been to their career advancement — simultaneously balancing coursework, research, and internships during a tumultuous time,” says Hanna.
In addition to the help from Clark’s career centers and alumni networks — “I definitely felt I had someone in my court who was willing to help me through the process,” says Pagan — graduate students emphasized the importance of developing relationships to help find the position they wanted.
“‘Networking’ was pounded into my head from the start. I used to roll my eyes, but now I realize just how imperative it is. It’s what got me my position today,” says Kortni Wroten, MBA/M.S. ’20, a sustainability specialist for Boston-based Kim Lundgren Associates.
Read more graduate student succcess stories from Clark’s class of 2020: