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How I Got My Job

Illustration of six alumni, three women and three men.

Edited by Diana Mazzella
Illustrated by Michelle McGettigan

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As the U.S. faced a rise in unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we at West Virginia University Magazine were curious about how recent graduates were finding jobs. Who is hiring, and what is the secret sauce that helps alumni catch the attention of hiring managers?

These six alumni found jobs across the U.S., from Alaska to Virginia within the last year in business, science, fashion and beyond. They credit their courses, mentors and career advisers with helping them make the best impression on their new workplaces. They’re not all working in the office now as an unprecedented portion of the workforce is remote, but they’re starting out on bright careers.

Profiles:

Click a profile below to jump to that section.

Illustration of Jonathan A. Monroe, man in suit jacket and necktie.

Talent Finder

Jonathan A. Monroe

BS ’20, Business Administration

Talent Sourcer, Microsoft, 
Global Talent Acquisition Engineering Operations Team

Seattle, Wash.


What does your job entail? 

As an HR professional at Microsoft, I help drive people towards their dream job! Every day I leverage my technical and business knowledge to develop meaningful recruiting strategies that promote aggressive methods to source, evaluate and pipeline engineering and operations candidates.

 

How did experiences at WVU help you find a job?

I entered WVU as a sport management major and while my love of all things sports sticks with me to this day, I quickly realized after a semester of taking classes in CPASS that I did not want to work in the sports arena professionally after school. I quickly regrouped and declared as a business major that next semester not knowing what direction I wanted to head in. I am grateful for the well-rounded curriculum in the Chambers College, for without it I may not have found my passion for HR. Taking classes taught by incredible faculty in the areas of economics, accounting, management, etc., I was thrilled to be learning about things that aligned with my future career interests. I fell in love with the management coursework, especially the classes about human resources. Three HR internships later – The Carlyle Group, U.S. News & World Report and Mountain Line Transit Authority – and the rest is history. I am so excited to be working at Microsoft in a field that I have grown to love!

 

Do you have a story to share about a mentor or adviser at WVU and how they went above and beyond to help you succeed?

Any HR Management course taught by Dr. Suzanne Kitchen was worth every penny and then some! The passion and energy she brought every day ultimately inspired me to pursue a career in human resources. She stressed just how important the role of HR was in all organizations. A great HR professional can have a profoundly positive impact on employees of the organization just by clocking in each day. The daily duties of the job make employee welfare and happiness a matter of professional responsibility.

 

What were some challenges in your recent job search?

Interview prep was a challenge that I embraced during my recruiting cycle. It was really important for me to practice my responses to common interview questions. You have to put in perspective that the person interviewing you most likely is interviewing several people before and after your interview. I knew my responses had to be engaging and memorable. That is why practicing your responses with friends, faculty, or even in your mirror is critical. You don’t want your responses to sound rehearsed and robotic. Instead, you want them to come off as genuine and articulate.

 

How did the pandemic affect your job search?

I was fortunate to secure my role with Microsoft back in November 2019 before the pandemic came about, so I did not have to deal with that during my job search.

 

What advice do you have for new graduates looking for jobs right now in an economic downturn?

Don’t build the plane while you are attempting to fly it. Before you begin your job search, it is critical to have all of your ducks in a row. Make sure your résumé is tight, your cover letter is well put together, and your personal skills are identified. Taking care of the little things behind the scenes will make things easier in the long run in regards to your job search. I came into WVU thinking I would work in sports post-graduation, but now I work in tech. Keep an open mind and let your authentic passions take you places you never expected to be!

Illustration of Lauretta Werner in yellow, woman smiling.

Violin Prof

Dr. Lauretta Werner

DMA ’19, Violin Performance

Assistant professor of strings, Longwood University

Farmville, Va.


What does your job entail?

As assistant professor of strings, my job entails teaching applied violin and viola lessons, conducting the string ensemble, teaching string method courses and music history courses, recruiting for the string area and performing frequently.

 

How did your experiences at WVU help you get hired?

While pursuing my DMA at WVU, I worked as a graduate assistant in the School of Music. I taught a violin pedagogy course and applied violin lessons, performed with the graduate string quartet, organized community engagement performances, led the WVU Symphony Orchestra as concertmaster and performed with the WVU Faculty Chamber Players and Clarinet Quintet. These duties developed my skills as a teacher, performer and leader, and prepared me for job interviews.

  

Do you have a story to share about a mentor or adviser at WVU and how they went above and beyond to help you succeed?

During my studies at WVU, Dr. Mikylah Myers, violin professor and assistant dean of student artistic achievement, served as my mentor. She shaped me into a more mature violinist, offered me teaching and conducting opportunities, and gave me professional advice. I am incredibly thankful for her guidance and support. Additionally, after completing my DMA, I was offered the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Myers as lecturer of violin at WVU, which was incredibly valuable.  

 

What were some challenges in your recent job search?

During the fall of 2019, I applied for full-time university string teaching positions. The most challenging part of the job search was discovering what kind of applicant each university desired. Every job application included unique qualifications, responsibilities and requirements. I tried to cater my resume, teaching experiences and performing experiences for each application’s needs.

 

How did the pandemic affect your job search?

Fortunately, I applied for university teaching positions in the fall of 2019 and had my interview for Longwood University in February 2020. Currently, I feel the impact of the pandemic as I plan recruitment activities for the string area. Instead of in-person interactions, I need to find alternative solutions for recruitment.

 

What advice do you have for new graduates looking for jobs right now in an economic downturn?

In the fall of 2019, I discovered open university teaching positions and thought, “Why not apply? What do I have to lose?” I am immensely thankful that I applied for these positions prior to the pandemic. My advice: when you see a job opening that relates to your field, apply for it, especially now. Even if you are unsure if the position is a good fit for you, if you are worried about moving to another state, or if you feel unqualified, apply anyway. What do you have to lose?

 

Second, due to the pandemic, it appears that many disciplines are offering creative solutions to bring content to the public. For example, the music world is offering online performance and educational content and finding creative ways to perform in public while social distancing. I suggest accessing your discipline’s online content for enrichment purposes and thinking of creative ways to feel relevant in your discipline. Many musicians are creating new career paths in the music world during this time, which I find very inspiring. 

Illustration of William Anti in blue, man in suit and tie, smiling.

Rifle Coach

William Anti   

BS ’19, Finance and Accounting

Head Rifle Coach, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Fairbanks, Alaska


What does your job entail?

As the head rifle coach, I prepare the team to compete at NCAA competitions and ultimately compete for NCAA National Championships. The job entails coaching athletes on a daily basis in the fundamental, technical and mental elements of Olympic-style rifle shooting. The job also requires many different logistics components, including scheduling competitions, arranging transportation, financial forecasting and budgeting, fundraising and recruiting.

 

How did experiences at WVU or career assistance help you find a job?

My experience at WVU provided me with an incredible network of faculty and staff that continue to support me. The support students receive while they are a student and once they have graduated is the greatest gift WVU could have given me. My experience on the rifle team at WVU was foundational in building my leadership skills. The team provided countless opportunities to grow as an athlete, a teammate, a friend and a leader and that experience made me a more well-rounded individual with a great deal of self-efficacy. The Chambers College helped me connect my business education with my passion for the shooting sports and collegiate shooting which ultimately has made me a more effective coach and manager. While I certainly do not work in roles that my degrees are traditionally used for, I am able to leverage the unique skills I learned earning my degrees to be more effective in my current role on the administrative side.

 

Do you have a story to share about a mentor or adviser at WVU and how they went above and beyond to help you succeed? 

When applying for this role, Naomi Boyd, the Finance Department chair, was an enormous help. Dr. Boyd and I met through the Student Management Investment Fund, which she leads, and she has been a constant ally and resource. I reached out to Dr. Boyd when I applied for the job to see if she would look through my resumé and supporting documents to ensure that they were polished and conveyed all the right information. After helping with that, Dr. Boyd offered to run several mock interviews for me over Zoom. She spent an enormous amount of time helping me prepare to put my best foot forward. It was an invaluable resource that showed her commitment to her students’ success long after they have graduated. The professors, coaches and faculty at WVU have an unmatched commitment to their students’ success.

 

What were some challenges in your recent job search?

Certainly the application and interview process looked different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The process was considerably slower and happened completely virtually through a series of Zoom interviews. It was of course odd sitting at your dining room table in a suit speaking virtually to a panel you cannot even shake hands with.

 

What advice do you have for new graduates looking for jobs right now in an economic downturn?

When looking for a job in the current market, or really any market, I believe the most important thing you can do is effectively leverage your resources. For a recent WVU graduate these resources are innumerable. The faculty and staff that you have cultivated a relationship with for the past four years want nothing more than to help you succeed. Their knowledge about the marketplace, what employers are looking for — whether it be in a cover letter, resume, or an interview — and how you will set yourself apart to an employer is invaluable. Many of your faculty members are willing to sit down (perhaps virtually) and work through your supporting documents or run you through a series of mock interviews or questions you are likely to encounter from an interviewer. This preparation will show in your answers. It will help you convey the mastery level understanding and experience you have attained at WVU.

Illustration of Sarah Gordon in yellow, woman smiling with long hair.

Fashionista

Sarah Gordon

BS ’20, Fashion Design

Freelance designer for Edgington Studios

Personal stylist for Stitch Fix

Pittsburgh, Pa.


What does your job entail?

For Edgington Studios, I work closely with clients to make their fashion design concepts come to life. This can include sketching or illustrating, creating flat patterns or technical flats, as well as cutting and sewing. For Stitch Fix, I work mostly from home and am assigned clients (men, women and/or children). I create personal relationships with these clients and provide them with personalized curated boxes, or “fixes,” that include clothing items and accessories based on their professions, hobbies and lifestyles, while also taking into account things like body type, height, etc.


How did your experiences at WVU help you find a job?

I had many great experiences at WVU through the Fashion Dress and Merchandising Program that helped me to prepare myself to find a job post-graduation. Multiple career fairs were held on campus throughout my four years as a student. The faculty and staff were also always superhelpful in relaying information about new job postings.

 

Do you have a story to share about a mentor or adviser at WVU and how they went above and beyond to help you succeed?

Two professors really stand out to me when looking back on my experience. Colleen Moretz, a professor I had for multiple courses and grew a very close relationship with, is one of them. In the fall semester of my senior year, she encouraged me to apply for the Fashion Scholarship Fund. The prompt itself was very time-intensive and highly detail-oriented. Between being a full-time student and having a part-time job, most of my personal time was dedicated to working on the scholarship. Colleen was a great recourse to have on my side. She spent many hours outside of class offering her expertise and knowledge on the fashion industry, and specifically design, to assist me in my process of applying for the scholarship. Beth Shorrock was another professor, as well as my adviser, who I grew a close relationship with, and she always went above and beyond in her efforts to help me succeed. She was always willing to stay after class or schedule times on the weekends to meet with her students in the studio and help them work on their projects.

 

I am very thankful to Beth, as she was actually the one to reach out to me and tell me about the freelance/contracting design position with Edgington Studios and encouraged me to apply. She helped me receive my first job offer out of college.

 

What were some challenges in your recent job search?

The fashion industry is very competitive. Something I noticed while applying for jobs with different companies is that mostly all corporate-level positions require some amount of experience. Being a new graduate and not having much professional experience outside of retail, this was a bit frustrating.

 

How did the pandemic affect your job search?

The pandemic definitely made searching for a job more difficult. During the time that everyone was quarantining and most businesses were temporarily shut down, it was challenging to keep the conversation going in terms of networking. A lot of companies didn’t know what the future of their business would hold, so most of them weren’t looking to hire. In terms of interview format, I had a few experiences with phone interviews/video call interviews. While this is a reasonable alternative to face-to-face interviews, virtual interviews bring their own set of challenges.

 

What advice do you have for new graduates looking for jobs right now in an economic downturn?

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and make sure to keep the conversation going. Reach out to jobs you’re interested in and always remember to follow up. The state of the world is hectic right now, and it’s easy for emails and applications to get lost in the mix – so persistence is key. Always do extensive research on the company you’re applying with, and make sure your cover letter is bulletproof and thoroughly explains why you’re interested in the position you’re applying for – and how your knowledge and experience would be an asset to the team you’re trying to join. Indeed and LinkedIn are great resources. Make sure the information on these profiles is up to date and accurately portray yourself as a business professional. And last, apply, apply, apply! The more positions you apply for, the better your chances are at getting a response. You might not land your dream job right away, and that’s OK. Everyone has to start somewhere, and the experience you’ll be able to add to your resume will help you out in the long run. Don’t give up, and good luck!

Illustration of Emma Yokum in blue, woman wearing hard helmet.

Safety Manager

Emma Yokum

MS ’20, Safety Management

Safety Officer, Green Bank Observatory

Whitmer, W.Va.


What does your job entail?

This position is responsible for Observatory compliance with all applicable federal, state and local environmental, safety, security and health regulations, as well as Observatory environmental, safety and security policy requirements. This includes developing and conducting effective trainings; supporting emergency services volunteer efforts (including emergency preparedness actions, Observatory EMS planning and coordination, as well as fire prevention and response planning); conducting scheduled and unscheduled inspections to assess risks and hazards; investigating, documenting and reporting on all accidents and incidents; and working closely with all levels and interfacing with staff and management to identify and resolve environmental, safety and security concerns.


The COVID pandemic has certainly changed the way we are operating at the Observatory. Every morning, each employee working on site reports to a health check station where they are asked a series of questions and get their temperature checked. At a minimum, all employees must wear a face covering on site and practice social distancing. Depending on the type of work and proximity to other employees, we may use additional PPE. In some cases, we have provided our employees with supplied air respirators to complete tasks that require close contact to other individuals. The pandemic has certainly affected our daily routines, but we are committed to taking any and all necessary steps to provide a safe workplace.

  

How did your experiences at WVU help you find a job?

The Safety Management Graduate Program at WVU is fantastic, and the staff within are 100 percent committed to helping their students find internships and full-time employment in the safety field.

 

Do you have a story to share about a mentor or adviser at WVU and how they went above and beyond to help you succeed? 

The staff members of the Safety Management Program (Gary Winn, Jenny Fuller, Jeremy Gouzd, Ava Winn) have each contributed to my success at WVU and in this position. Without their guidance and assistance, I would not have been able to achieve my accomplishments, and I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to work and learn under them.

 

How did the pandemic affect your job search?

Strangely, the pandemic actually aided in my job search. When on-campus classes were switched to online, I was able to accept a full-time position months sooner than I originally would have been able to.

 

What advice do you have for new graduates looking for jobs right now in an economic downturn?

Don’t give up. The pandemic may have caused an economic downturn, but many industries – especially those deemed essential – are still thriving and looking for recent graduates to join their team.

Illustration of Benjamin Wilson in yellow, man in beard and wearing glasses.

Marketer

Benjamin “Benji” Wilson

BA ’19, Criminology 
MS ’21 (expected), Integrated Marketing Communications, 
Area of Emphasis: Creative Strategy

Marketing manager 
Airports Council International, North America

Alexandria, Va.


What does your job entail?

I am the organization’s head graphic designer. I manage the website and any additional back-end programming, coding or implementation. I create and execute marketing campaigns for conferences/webinars, as well as other projects and initiatives. And I manage social media channels and approve content from our external communications team.


How did your experiences at WVU and career assistance help you find a job?

There are so that I may not be able to recount them all. Starting freshman year, I was eager to be involved in as much as I could. I attended various club meetings and went to different events to see what I may be interested in, but ultimately landed on trying out for the WVU Club Baseball team. I made the team and played for four years, with my last year spent as club president. The following year, I was voted president of the Sports Club Federation, the head student council of all club sports. These two experiences help with my job by giving me leadership experience, along with experience in managing people, conflict resolution and public speaking. And they helped because I was working with a team.

 

During my interview, I spoke about these experiences and they were impressed with what I had done. Along with everything else I spoke about, they were impressed enough during my first interview that I met the CEO that day. The only thing we spoke about was baseball. Baseball, baseball, baseball. He told me (as I recall), “Not everyone can play baseball. You have to be smart, team-oriented and a problem-solver. As a player, you constantly run different scenarios in your head and try to find the best possible outcome for a play. You have to be quick on your feet and analyze the play at hand.” We went on to talk more and more about baseball, and barely even talked about the job I was interviewing for. That shows that it is more than your professional experience that defines you. I didn’t have much professional experience to show, but I did have the experience that shows the type of work ethic I bring to the table.

 

I also received assistance from Career Services at WVU. I met  Çağla Çelik during a session I set up for a resume/cover letter review. This was at a time when I felt very hopeless in my job search and didn’t know if I’d ever land a job in the field I was searching in. During our appointment, I mentioned that I was having trouble with the job search and didn’t know where else to look. Çağla gave me very helpful tips, and we scheduled another appointment the following week.

 

Later that night, I got an email about an interview, and we changed our appointment to a mock interview to prepare. I definitely wasn’t prepared for the questions she gave and struggled with coming up with answers on the fly. Çağla gave me questions to study and advised me on how to structure my answers – something I had never thought of or practiced before. We spent two to three appointments practicing questions and answers before my interview date. I had never wowed any interviewer before and never felt more confident than I did that day. I impressed them so much that I met the CEO on the first interview. I was invited back for a second interview where I met the executive vice president before finally getting the offer later that week.

 

Do you have a story to share about a mentor or adviser at WVU and how they went above and beyond to help you succeed?

Çağla was someone who went above and beyond for me. She did lots of research on questions specific to the position I was interviewing for and gave me the confidence to do well. I had also never presented projects before, nor given out anything more than a copy of my resume at an interview. Çağla helped me with creating a slideshow to present and telling me the materials I should bring that would help show my work in the interview. We met for four or five sessions in the week prior to the interview. I truly would not have gotten this job without her help.

 

What were some challenges in your recent job search?

My degree didn’t match the field I wanted to go into. It was only in the last two years that I really figured out what I wanted to pursue as a career. My undergraduate career was a roller coaster, to say the least. I really truly didn’t know what I wanted to do. I rediscovered my love for graphic design when I began creating promotional flyers at my previous job to help promote our startup. It was then that I picked up more responsibility and discovered that a career in creative marketing is what I wanted to do. Knowing that I didn’t have the credentials to back myself up on applications, I had to learn a lot on my own. I spent countless hours on YouTube watching how-tos, webinars, courses, case studies and more, so that I could be a better candidate. I had to prove myself in any way possible.

 

How did the pandemic affect your job search?

Luckily, I wasn’t affected by the pandemic. I was extremely fortunate to have gotten an offer the week before the country began to shut down. I started my job remotely but still moved to the area before my first day, not knowing that I would still be working remotely to this day.

 

Much like anywhere else, we have daily web meetings through Webex and use online web tools to keep track of tasks and deadlines. We do still have an open position in our department that has been put on hold due to the pandemic. It is unclear when we will advertise that position because we have been wanting to wait until we’re in the office to do so.

 

What advice do you have for new graduates looking for jobs right now in an economic downturn?

While jobs are not aplenty at the moment, there still are jobs being posted daily. I still get alerts through email or LinkedIn. It is easy to get discouraged – much like I did – but you need to keep pushing forward. Before starting, I ten-thousand percent recommend going to Career Services and getting your resume/cover letter checked, and to begin planning your job search. Keep track of where you apply and always follow up. Searching for a job is a full-time job in itself. If you take the time each day to search and fill out applications, it will pay off. I estimated that I applied to around 60 jobs in a four-month period.

 

In the technological age that we are in, creating an online resume/portfolio would go a really long way. I had an online portfolio with all my work I have done and also included school projects. Employers love to see things and see what you’ve done. It only goes so far with a bullet point on a piece of paper, but if you can show something you did during a job or during your time in school, employers will eat that up. It shows that you care about your work and you have a knack for technology.