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Thursday, May 23, 2024
The Observer

ND seniors serve, enter the workforce and attend graduate school

Erin Rice
Erin Rice

This August, computer science major Tera Joyce will head to Seattle. She’ll be a software developer for Microsoft, writing code for the Office 365 platform.

“I think the position will be really exciting but testing,” she said. “I am definitely excited for the new adventure but nervous about the challenges I am sure I will have to face.”

Joyce is one of many Notre Dame seniors entering the workforce after graduation. Nationally, the job market is friendlier — employers are 9.6 percent more likely to hire new college graduates than they were last year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, and this is no different for Notre Dame graduates, director of Notre Dame’s Career Center Hilary Flanagan said.

Each year, the Career Center and the Office of Strategic Planning and Institutional Research conduct a “First Destination” survey on what members of each class do after they graduate. Data for the class of 2015 will not be available for several more months, but Flanagan said she does not anticipate any major deviations from previous years.

58 percent of 2014 graduates, for example, secured full-time employment after graduation, according to the survey, though percentages vary widely from college to college. Nearly 28 percent chose graduate or professional school, eight percent participated in a service program, two percent went into the military and two percent were still seeking employment. Flanagan said Notre Dame graduates differ from college graduates nationally both in terms of what they decide to do and where they decide to do it.

“We tend to have a greater percentage of students who commit to service experiences as their first destination than the national average,” Flanagan said. “I would not anticipate a change on that data point. Our graduates also tend to spread out geographically and throughout industries in more diverse patterns than the national average. This would also likely stay the same this year.”

Many seniors seek the help of the Career Center’s services, Flanagan said.

“Typical results in the senior survey conducted by Institutional Research show that over 80 percent of seniors use the Career Center for their job searches,” Flanagan said. “Of course, the majority of seniors connect with our services in some way, whether they are conducting a job or graduate school search.”

Joyce said the hiring process with Microsoft began at Notre Dame with the Career Center’s Engineering Industry Day in September.

“I applied for the position there and got my first interview on campus a few weeks later,” she said. “After the local interviews, I flew out to Seattle to do an on-site interview with the team I will be working for.”

Other graduating seniors plan to pursue a postgraduate degree in order to improve their job prospects. Jiatai Zhang, who majored in accounting and mathematics, will attend a three-semester Master of Science in computational finance program at Carnegie Mellon University.

Zhang, who is from Shenzhen, China, said he chose the program partly because of its strong placement rate in the financial services industry, but also because he will apply for an H-1B visa after he graduates. The temporary visa allows people to work in the U.S. in “specialty occupations” like science or technology if an employer sponsors them, and those with graduate degrees have a better chance of getting a visa.

“Due to the H-1B lottery process, only 25 percent to 30 percent of international students who found jobs will be able to work in the U.S.,” Zhang said. “The odds are better for students who have Masters or PhDs, due to [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] policies. The fact that the program falls into the STEM category — science, technology, engineering, mathematics — also helps with the visa process.”

Zhang said the program will help him both find and keep a job.

“The program has an established brand name among financial services professionals, so that part really helps,” he said. “Also, the skills taught through the program are very practical and used in the real world. In other words, you won’t find a course useless when you start working in the real world.”

While Zhang is going to graduate school in order to get a job, others are getting jobs in order to prepare for further education. Brenna Gautam, who majored in history and peace studies, said she will work for the geopolitical consulting firm Wikistrat for the next year while she applies to law school. Gautam said she found out about the organization, which bills itself as a “crowdsourced consulting” company, while she was working in Washington, D.C. last summer.

“It was very much word of mouth,” she said. “After that, I read up on the company, reached out to them online and started finding out more through one of their recruiters.”

Gautam said she will edit policy recommendations and analyses, as well as participate in “crowdsourced simulations,” which help government agencies predict and plan for various political, economic and military scenarios.

“Participation in the simulations requires researching the issue and contributing written analyses, which are then aggregated into a final analysis,” Gautam said. “So it will change on a day-to-day basis, depending on what the geopolitical issue being examined is. For example, they just conducted a simulation on Europe's immigration challenges — but it will mostly be researching, writing, and editing.”

Gautam said Wikistrat appealed to her because it presented a variety of perspectives on international issues.

“I like that they tackle a range of geopolitical issues because it will give me more experience in areas that I'm not that familiar with,” she said. “But I also get some preference as to which projects I work on. ... I want to focus on the Balkans, Middle East and the U.S.”

Gautam said she will apply to law schools this fall, and she is considering working with the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement to apply for a Fulbright scholarship to go to Kosovo. Her goal is to go into international law.

“I'm very interested in space law and cyber law and have been speaking to advisers and mentors about post-law school opportunities in these fields,” she said. “Ideally, a dream job would be legal advising in those fields through the U.S. government.”