Kansas State University


K-State Career Center: Student Edition

Advice from K-State Grads and Working Professionals

Graduating from college and transitioning into your career or graduate school is a big step in life. Whether you’re staying in Manhattan or moving to a different state, the Career Center is here to help with your transition.

Recent K-State graduates shared their experiences on their transition from undergraduate student life to their careers or graduate school. 

The Transition

On Careers

Annie Cutler graduated from K-State in 2013 with her bachelors in public relations and political science; 2015 with her masters in counseling and student development. She currently works as the employer relations coordinator for career services at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. She weighed in on how moving out of state can be for a recent grad.

“It’s tough to be this far away from friends and family, especially during the holidays or even when missing out on smaller stuff like baby showers or graduations. I would say the biggest challenge of moving so far away is just getting settled into a new city — figuring out housing, navigating the DMV for a new driver’s license, and learning where you want to hang out, grocery shop, or get your car worked on. You also really have to prioritize getting out of the house and stepping out of your comfort zone to make new friends otherwise it can be very lonely and overwhelming,” said Cutler.

On Grad School

Nicholas Wiggins graduated from K-State in 2013 with a bachelors in communication studies with an emphasis in organizational communication. He is currently working on his masters in educational leadership and a certificate in college student development. Also, he is the program coordinator for the Call Me Mister program housed in the K-State College of Education.

“My transition is very different from your typical transition after college. I was out of school for two years before I started graduate school. It honestly wasn’t even on my radar at all. I started the R.I.S.E. foundation after graduation. It was eighty percent after-school programs and twenty percent in-service, so during school hours. We would do motivational speaking and various workshops. It was a hard two years but once I got offered the position in the college of education, I had to take it,” said Wiggins.

The Reasoning

On Careers

Deciding where to live after graduation is a hard decision to make. Some things to consider when thinking of a future destination are: culture, environment, climate, work opportunities, distance, friends/family, and the cost of living.

“After graduation, I spent six months working out of the Burns & McDonnell headquarters in Kansas City — which was a perfect transition for easing into post-college life. After that timeframe, I started traveling consistently for a construction project in northeast Ohio, and moved up there full-time shortly after. I had no idea what was going on in Ohio, but it was exciting to explore a new part of the country, make new friends, and use a work assignment to grow my career and as a person. I can’t recommend moving enough for a person who wants to get out of their comfort zone and learn something about themselves.” said Matthew Brown, a 2013 graduate in construction science and management. He currently works as an assistant project manager at Burns & McDonnell in Akron, Ohio.

“As a construction science graduate, you have to be willing to move to where the projects are located. With the construction project underway in Ohio, I was eager to move up there and get to work full-time,” said Brown.

On Grad School

Graduate school may not be for everyone, but if you are passionate about what you want to do and what you’re learning, then it will make the transition much easier. The Career Center can help with finding graduate assistantships and positions as well.

“I got a call one day and they explained what the Call Me Mister program was and asked if I would be interested in the position, and I thought to myself ‘Duh. I’m interested’ and accepted the position. Since I had experience with mentoring and programming for youth development, it was a great fit for me. The tuition coverage benefits were a big factor in my decision because I hadn’t really thought of going to graduate school beforehand,” said Wiggins.

The Search

On Careers

The Career Center is always open to help current students and recent graduates figure out what their next step is. Whether that’s choosing a major or minor, preparing for a career fair or help preparing for part-time, full-time, or internship opportunities, the Career Center offers advising, professional development workshops, and an online job database.

“Through working with the student-athletes, the athletics support staff, and especially wonderful people… I figured out that I really liked working with college students. I decided to stay at K-State to pursue a masters degree… and during that time found an aptitude for career coaching. I used HigherEdJobs.com, a popular job search site for college and university positions, and found the Trinity University opportunity, applied, and received the offer three days before I graduated,” said Cutler.

“Believe it or not — it was through a Career and Employment Services interview. Burns & McDonnell hosted internship interviews three years before my graduation year. I was one of the younger applicants, but was fortunate enough to get a summer internship out of their Denver office in the summer of 2011. They asked me back for a field assignment internship in Hattiesburg, MS in 2012, and was able to get a full-time offer by the time my senior year at KSU started back up. I would recommend starting as early as possible to find an internship that may lead to a full-time position — most companies design their internship programs that way,” said Brown.

On Grad School

K-State provides many resources for students thinking about grad school. Students can find information and planning help on the Academic and Career Information website.

Expectations versus Reality

On Careers 

“I expected to start going to bed early, living a boring office life, and missing out on some of the fun college experiences I was used to having at K-State. But it was quite the opposite. I now had some cash to go places and attend events I couldn’t in college, and I made friends with new types of people (the origins and age ranges of my friends increased dramatically). Not having weekend homework assignments was a nice change too,” said Brown.

“Being a young professional is exhausting…It’s a work in progress, but it’s a fun season of life to be in,” said Cutler.

On Grad School

“My first papers were learning lessons. I had to get help. The assignments focus more on the content and context. There is also a lot more freedom in the assignments and they are more specific to you and what your passion is. In graduate school, you’re there because you’re trying to build upon your knowledge of what you want to do in life,” said Wiggins.

Words of Advice

Some students may become overwhelmed when thinking about graduating and taking the next step in life. Here are a few words of advice from recent K-State graduates for students that are making that step.

“Make use of on-campus interviews and sign up for as many as you can. Even if it’s not the perfect job you want, you will improve your interview skills and open up the door for opportunities with other industry companies,” said Brown. “Don’t be afraid to take a job in a new city. In your 20’s, most people are not tied down to a family or a home in the Midwest- use that to your advantage and go move to the East Coast, Texas, or wherever. Kansas and the Midwest will be waiting for you later. You likely will not have this career flexibility at any other time in your life- go have some experiences!”

“Don’t be afraid to believe that your life can become whatever you imagine it to be, but understand within that you must give yourself endless permission to be imperfect, to fall or get hurt, or lose something important to you, and that it is almost impossible to have one without the other. We can either take the “safe” path and try to minimize our moments of disparity, or we can embrace disparity, “High dive” into those emotions because accepting them will allow you to journey into yourself and better help you understand who you are and what you have to give to the world,” said Wiggins.

“My advice for anyone transitioning from college to career is to ignore the old adage that ‘good things come to those who wait,’ and instill in yourself the motto that ‘good things come to those who work hard and don’t give up.’ The job search is not easy, nor is graduate school or adjusting to working full-time. Give yourself a little grace and a lot of sleep, but keep in mind that you are in charge of your success and that it is your opportunity right now to shape your future accomplishments,” said Cutler.

Read more stories like these in Voices from the Field, a page dedicated to post-graduate stories.

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