Welcome to the Real World: U.Va.’s Class of 2014 Shares Advice for New Grads

This time last year, the University of Virginia’s Class of 2014 was standing on the precipice of the “real world,” getting ready to leave Grounds for jobs, graduate school and the great unknown.

One year later, they have some advice for fellow Wahoos preparing to make the same leap. We caught up with a few members of the Class of 2014 to see where they are now and what they’ve learned along the way.

Staff Assistant, Office of U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry

After graduating from the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, Duggan attended the American Enterprise Institute Summer Honors Program for recent grads and worked with a non-profit organization, Project Vote Smart. A semester-long Wal-Mart Star Fellowship pairing young women interested in public office with a Congresswoman led to her current position on Capitol Hill.

Best professional advice: Don’t have one cut-and-dried plan or career path in mind. It’s a great idea to have some idea of what you want to do with your life, but it’s also extremely beneficial to keep your eyes peeled and mind open to unique opportunities that may present themselves along the way. Also, keep up with your contacts! Every once in a while, send a quick note or grab coffee with past co-workers, bosses, fellow interns, etc.

Biggest surprise: How fast time has flown! It feels just like yesterday we were walking down the Lawn, themed balloons in hand, picking up our diplomas and saying goodbye to our beloved University for the last time as undergraduate students.

Project Manager, Epic

After earning a degree in chemistry from U.Va., Torre moved to Wisconsin – “the land of cheese and snow” – to work at Epic, a health care software company.

Biggest challenge: Before this job, I had no background in health care or software. It has been a steep learning curve to say the least! Additionally, the most arduous, frustrating aspect of my new life is the Central Time Zone. To my soon-to-be fellow alumni, I implore you: please specify time zones when scheduling phone calls or other events with us poor Midwesterners.

Best advice for new grads: Step out of your comfort zone. Moving to the Midwest is one of the strangest things I’ve ever done and I’m so happy about it. It’s allowed me to try out starting all over again.

Assistant Search Manager, Good Apple Digital

Farmer graduated from the McIntire School of Commerce and moved to New York City to begin an advertising career.

Best part of the past year: Exploring the city. I have wanted to live in New York City for a long time and I got lucky because it is also a great place to be for advertising. I feel like so many of the memories with my roommates, friends and coworkers from the last year have been little explorations and adventures. That’s just a really exciting way to approach life right now.

Best advice for new grads: Take calculated risks. This is the time in your life when you get to take that first step toward following your dreams. We are supposed to be inexperienced, the least wealthy we will ever (hopefully) be and a little bit confused. Take a risk and you probably won’t be sorry. Even if it doesn’t work out, I bet it will lead you down a different, successful path and you will learn a lot about yourself in the process.

Master’s candidate, Clemson University

Pajewski studied kinesiology and sociology at U.Va. and is now pursuing a Master of Education in Counselor Education and Student Affairs while working part-time with Clemson’s Annual Giving Office.

Best professional advice: Broaden your experiences and never turn down an opportunity. In the world of higher education, positions are constantly changing and emphasis and funding are being diverted to new places. By having a diverse set of transferrable skills, I can be more marketable in the field.

Biggest surprise: It has surprised me how connected alumni are to U.Va. I’ve run into alumni even living in rural upstate South Carolina and we always find commonalities in conversations we strike up.

Investment Banking Analyst, Lazard

Wey used his degree from the Commerce School to launch an investment banking career in New York City.

Biggest challenge: Something challenging that I’ve faced is uncertainty. Unlike school, when we had plenty of milestones and constant feedback in the form of semesters, holidays, tests, events and traditions, things are much more free-form now. Nobody has all the “answers” about the future and their path forward. Advice that has helped toward this is to stay focused on the present and all that it holds, instead of attempting to constantly project forward.

Best advice for new grads: Live your own life. When you are working post-grad, you may feel like you don’t have much of your own life. But you’re not going to be self-actualizing or loving your life at every moment; it’s the first year out and just not realistic to be loving it all the time. You’re going into it to learn, to be around like-minded people, to feel what it’s like on the front lines. But ultimately, you need to live your own life. Not your boss’s, not your mom’s, not your friend’s definition of your life. Find and invest in your own unique voice.

American Studies Department Supervisor, George Washington University

Azadi graduated with a degree in cognitive science, a minor in biology and plans for a medical career. She began a medical assistant position, but quickly realized that she was more interested in using her psychology training to help current students. She began seeking education positions and now works for the American Studies department at George Washington University.  

Favorite part of your new job: I was a career peer educator at U.Va. and was involved with Students for Education Reform. I am sort of an education junkie, and I love being in that environment and working with students now.

Best part of the past year: I have definitely enjoyed meeting new people and enjoyed being challenged. This has been a challenging year, as far as being put in new situations and sometimes not knowing where they will lead. I am a clinical worrier, but I would tell new graduates not to worry – don’t sweat it. Every experience you have will help you figure out who you are and what you want to get out of life. Also, always be proud that you are a part of U.Va. There is a reason that I still wear my U.Va. sweatshirt around G.W.’s campus, despite getting occasional side-eye.

Ph.D. Candidate, University of Wisconsin

Promisel graduated from U.Va. with a major in government and a minor in global sustainability and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Science.

Toughest transition: The most challenging aspect of this year has been moving away from the friendly and familiar community of Charlottesville to an entirely new place. The best advice I received about this transition was to form good habits of health, social life and personal growth while navigating a new city.

Favorite part of graduate school: I have most enjoyed the pursuit of my true interests and dreams. It sounds corny, but after years of continuous school that prepare us for the real world, now is the time when the door is open for us to forge our own path. I may have continued on with school, but I am animated every day knowing that this is what makes me happy and where I believe I can most put into action what I learned at U.Va.

Registered Nurse, University of Virginia Health System

Biggest challenge: The biggest challenge for me has been trying to branch out and make new friends outside of work. Since I stayed in my college town, I still have friends who are undergraduate or graduate students, but my schedule generally clashes with theirs, since I don’t work a 9 a.m.-to-5 p.m., Monday-through-Friday job. From talking to friends who do work those jobs, I would say that this is definitely a ubiquitous problem for new college grads. In college, you are in an extremely social environment where you are constantly presented with opportunities to meet new people your age who are in similar stages of life. In the “real world,” you work with people of all ages and life experiences, which can make it harder to find a solid group of friends.

Best advice for new grads: Stop focusing on what you think you should be doing after graduation and focus on what you actually want to be doing. While getting a job after graduation is very important for a variety of reasons, accepting a job that you don’t enjoy isn’t the answer either. Try to focus less on the title of the job or company, and instead think about what you would want out of a job. I wanted a career where every day of work I felt that I was making a positive difference in someone’s life. There are lots of ways to do that. I was drawn to nursing specifically because it required a lot of medical training while still allowing me to spend time at the bedside and be there emotionally for the patient. Figure out what you’re passionate about and then you can start to decide what the next step in your life should be.

Analyst, Signal Hill

Arshad graduated from the Commerce School, where he concentrated in finance and accounting. Now he works for a boutique investment bank in the D.C. area.

Favorite part of your new job: My favorite part about my job has been a combination of the types of deals I’ve worked on and the amount of responsibility I’ve been given. The tech industry is evolving so quickly and companies are coming up with new ideas, which makes my job very interesting. In addition, I love the fact that my bosses trust me enough in a short amount of time that I know I’m learning a lot and adding value on my deals. Whether you know it or not, U.Va. has prepped you well for the real world, no matter what you are doing next.

Toughest transition: The toughest transition was the first few months after graduating, when you first move, attempt to figure out your new life and adjust to a new job. After a few months, things begin to slow down and you get into a groove.

Media Contact

Caroline Newman

University News Associate Office of University Communications