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Tom Wheeler

Environmental Science, 2016

Despite four months of blissful, post-graduation hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, I soon found himself in a similar position to many of his fellow millennials—stuck at home looking for a job. Like many of my peers, I underestimated the amount of time finding a new opportunity would take, but I learned a great deal from this experience in the process. I wish to impart my reflections to make the process more enjoyable and shorter for soon to be ESS graduates. Below are a few of my thoughts:

First, as with most things, be proactive. Although mid-June is around the corner, take advantage of your free time to research and apply for jobs.  Devoting time early on, while near the support of your friends, can make this process exciting and uplifting. Feeling excitement becomes more difficult after several months of trying to squeeze into your old desk at home.

Second, expect the process to take at least 2-3 months, especially for positions with larger companies.  They often receive thousands of applications.  If you’re prone to anxiety about feeling stuck at home (I fell into this category), set a deadline for a next step so there’s some type of “light at the end of the tunnel.” My initial deadline was “I will probably be out of the house by March 1st” and it ultimately became “I am leaving this house on June 1st to go WWOF (WWOOF is a worldwide movement linking volunteers with organic farmers and growers to promote cultural and educational experiences based on trust and non-monetary exchange, thereby helping to build a sustainable, global community) no matter what.”

Third, use your network! Many of us feel like we don’t have a lot of professional contacts yet, but you’ll be surprised by how many people your friends, family, and professors know. Reach out, grab lunch, and give them an idea of what types of opportunities you’re interested in. At the very least they’ll be on the look-out for opportunities to pass your way. I ended up getting my current job after speaking with my old environmental science professor from high school. Our conversation turned into an informational interview, and then a job. Bottom line, the more people who know you’re on the hunt, and know what you’re looking for, the better.

Finally, if you can’t swing a job by graduation, don’t fret, get out, reconnect with old friends, work, volunteer, take a class, study for a graduate school exam (if you are considering graduate school), go to the local library, get out of the house and remember to enjoy life.  Becoming a job seeking hermit is a sure path to burnout.

I went back to ESS early in 2017 to give a presentation on my experiences hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I will be starting an internship later this month with Coco Asenso, a coconut processing social enterprise based in the Philippines. I hope it will turn into a full-time job.