The K-State Parents and Family Association (PFA) recently caught up with K-State alumna Jessica Rodriguez. She graduated from K-State in 2011 with a degree in Food Science and Industry, and is now a 2nd year Doctor of Physical Therapy student at Northwestern University. Jessica is originally from Overland Park, KS, but has lived in Chicago and Los Angeles since graduation. At K-State, she was involved in Student Alumni Board, Mortar Board Senior Honorary, Developing Scholars Program, and Alpha Delta Pi sorority. Additionally, Jessica worked part-time on campus and was involved in undergraduate research.
Describe your transition from college to career. What were some of the major adjustments?
After graduation, I worked in food manufacturing for 6 years and am currently making a career change to Physical Therapy so I’m a student again! My initial transition to working life was exciting and went by fast. I worked with my company to delay my start date so that I could spend the summer traveling internationally. I wanted to take advantage of my unique time off, knowing I probably would never have time off like this again, totally free from responsibility. The biggest challenge starting my first job in 2011 was feeling really tired. It was amazing not having to worry about studying after hours, but staying engaged for 8-10 hours a day with little break is challenging. Having worked a full-time job made the transition to graduate school much easier. Although I had to get myself accustomed to studying again, grad school feels like a full-time job plus extra. The biggest adjustment to graduate school was adjusting my evening/weekend schedule. I give myself enough time with friends to be sane and happy, but I know I must keep a careful balance of academics and personal time.
What resources at K-State, if any, did you utilize to help with your future career?
Although I had graduated 6 years prior, during grad school applications I was able to reach out to one of my food science professors to write me a letter of recommendation. It felt great knowing that he still remembered me and was immediately willing to support me – even when I was moving away from the field he worked in. When I was pursuing a career in food science, K-State made it so accessible. I was also lucky to be in a field that was in high demand. I went to the career fair, had an interview within the week, and an offer shortly thereafter. That internship ended with a job offer! It was an amazing feeling going through my senior year knowing that I had a stable future ahead.
What role, if any, did your parent(s) play in your collegiate years as well as your transition to career?
I feel grateful that my parents have supported my career decisions throughout my education and work life. I changed my career path during undergrad once and now am going through a second change. During any transitional time, it has been useful to always have a landing pad. In fact, I was able to live with my dad this past summer during a clinical rotation I did in Kansas City. During my first job I also stayed on my parent’s insurance until I was 26. That was helpful from a financial perspective while I learned how to be financially independent, pay bills, do taxes, etc.
What advice do you have to current students as they finish their degrees and hope to start their careers in their given field? Any advice for parents?
For students, I’d recommend that you get hands on shadowing experience in the field you are hoping to work in. This can be in the form of internships or volunteering. It is incredibly useful to be able to visualize yourself in a workspace to ensure you will be happy there. Additionally, I’d recommend that you reflect on what your personal values are and ask yourself if your career aligns with those. What is important to you? Do you value career advancement? What is good work/life balance for you? Asking yourself these questions can help find a better career fit. I’d also highly recommend gauging the culture and job satisfaction of current employees at a possible place of employment. During the interview process, take the time to meet with current employees and ask them questions so you can find the right workspace for you.
For parents, I’d recommend you work out a timeline with your child to ‘handoff’ all of their personal documents. I felt like a true independent adult when my mom passed on my birth certificate and social security card to me. Her advice for how to stay organized, things to be aware of with regard to renting/buying property, the best way to do taxes, how to select a health care plan were all incredibly helpful for me transitioning to independence.
What experience at K-State best prepared you for life after graduation?
Being involved in strong leadership, development, and outreach based organizations like Student Alumni Board and Mortar Board helped me to develop my leadership and communication skills. Not only were they really fun, but I got to interact with high achieving people, learn from, and be inspired by them. I specifically remember joining a book club as a freshman that was hosted by a senior honor society where we read How to Win Friends and Influence People. I learned skills that I still remember and use to this day. Get involved in student activity groups, try leadership positions, and push yourself to do something that requires an application and personal essay. The skills you will learn to market yourself are endlessly useful.
Thank you, Jessica! We appreciate you sharing your experiences with parents and families.