Choosing a major was easily the most stressful part of my years at Stony Brook. Thinking pragmatically, I knew that studying engineering would set me up for a lucrative career. But I found myself much more engaged in my history and political science courses. Ultimately, I decided to make the switch from STEM to humanities in my sophomore year.
Once I changed to liberal arts, I found that I loved going to my new classes every day – but I secretly dreaded the thought of one day graduating and having to find work. What I had lost sight of was the fact that classes are just one part of the university experience. Today, I work as a supply-chain engineer for a major food distributor. In a blog article for the American Historical Association, I detailed how my major helped me develop useful skills for my job; but this time, I want to speak more to how my hobbies and extra-curricular activities during college helped me stand out among applicants during my job hunt.
Back when I was going on interviews, I was often asked by hiring managers about what I was doing outside of class. I told them how during my junior year, some friends and I started doing an annual online charity telethon to raise money to help buy games and toys for children’s hospitals. Running a 24/7 live event involves a substantial amount of data analytics. For the event, I was tasked with determining peak times for viewership to maximize the potential donor draw when scheduling on-camera special events. As it turns out, my current position also requires a lot of manipulating data and drawing conclusions useful to developing business strategies. The hiring managers at my company were impressed that I’d not only used real-world data to implement decisions, but had done so on a project of my own initiative.
Even if your major is going to feed directly into a dream career, you can use your extra-curricular experiences to stand out among a crowded field of applicants. The interview process is not just about screening for job skills, but also determining if an applicant is a good fit for the office culture. My extracurricular experiences helped in this area, too. I did two study abroad programs: one to Shanghai through Stony Brook University, and another to Southern France as a non-traditional student. I found out during my interview with my current boss that he was a non-traditional student for a semester in Sweden. Making that small personal connection changed the whole tone of the interview. The conversation was more relaxed, and I felt more confident when discussing my job-specific skills because the person interviewing me was no longer a stranger.
Applying for jobs as a freshly minted graduate can be difficult, especially when many companies are looking for applicants who are experienced with applying skills to real-world situations. When building your resume, remember that you have been developing skills not only through class, but through your extra-curricular activities as well!
— Jonathan Lewis ’11
Making educated career decisions can be difficult at any stage of career development. The ASK (Alumni Sharing Knowledge) Blog is intended for Stony Brook University students and alumni to learn career knowledge and get advice from experienced alumni, working in various career fields, about lessons learned from their career experiences.