Student Success Stories

Most recent career articles indicate that the majority of employers are looking for new hires with both the technical and communication skills to get the job done. Don’t just dress for the job you want, put in the time to become the professional you want to be. Student Success Stories are a great way for you to understand how other ND graduate students have achieved their initial career goals.  We've asked a select few to share their experience, thoughts, and insights with like-minded peers (see below).

Graduate Career Services can help you to cultivate your personal brand and develop your professional presence. We’re proud to say that most of our appointments come from personal referrals. Students are our partners, and helping you to reach your professional potential is always our goal. 

If you have a success story you'd like to share please fill out the following FORM.

Natalie May

Natalie May

ESTEEM, Master

Hayneedle (Walmart E-commerce Company)

Category Specialist

What excites you about your new position?

The position will allow me to implement many of the entrepreneurial skills that I gained at Notre Dame in a corporate environment. I am excited to be responsible for my own category of products and provide customers with items that can turn a house into a home.

What steps did you take and what resources did you access to land this particular opportunity?

1:1 Career Consulting with Career Services and Notre Dame Career Fair

Looking back on your job search experience, what advice would you give to current students?

Put yourself out there. Never be too afraid to reach out to ND alumni, grab coffee with a professor on campus, or hop on the phone with strangers you reached out to on LinkedIn. I did all of these and they helped me sift through various job opportunities and ultimately make the decision to move to Omaha to pursue a career with a well known e-commerce company.

Elisabeth Kincaid

Elisabeth Kincaid

Theology, Ph.D.

Aquinas Institute of Theology

Assistant Professor of Moral Theology

What excites you about your new position?

Using my Theology degree to teach seminarians and lay people seeking to serve the Church and advance the common good.

What steps did you take and what resources did you access to land this particular opportunity?

I took advantage of several of the services offered by Career Services, such as reviews of my cover letters and CVs. In addition, I completed mock interviews within the Theology department. I also attended and presented papers at numerous conferences in my area, which helped me get to develop relationships within my field.

Looking back on your job search experience, what advice would you give to current students?

Start thinking about the job search very early in your time at Notre Dame, and take advantage of all the resources on campus to help get you ready!

Elizabeth Peuchen

Elizabeth Peuchen

Chemistry, Ph.D.

Pfizer Inc.

Scientist

What excites you about your new position?

Being back in Kansas. And being able to use a large range of analytical skills, not focusing on only one technique.

What steps did you take and what resources did you access to land this particular opportunity?

Internship with Pfizer for 6 months during graduate school and my advisor (Norm Dovichi) encouraging me to create a diverse skill and many networking opportunities. Norm is an amazing advisor!

Looking back on your job search experience, what advice would you give to current students?

Internships are key to finding your interests, Network at conferences and with the service reps that come to the labs.

Benjamin Mayala

Benjamin Mayala

Biological Sciences, Ph.D.

The DHS Program ICF

Technical Specialist

What excites you about your new position?

I am excited about my work, specifically, the use of geospatial techniques to model infectious diseases.

What steps did you take and what resources did you access to land this particular opportunity?

I applied through their website. A colleague informed me about the position.

Looking back on your job search experience, what advice would you give to current students?

Get info from the ND career office, follow instructions and get help on crafting your resume.

Nancy Nguyen

Nancy Nguyen

ESTEEM, Master

Booz Allen Hamilton

Management Consultant

What excites you about your new position?

I have always been on the other end of healthcare, whether that was manufacturing drugs, submitting new INDs (investigational new drug applications), or creating a new product for health and sanitation in the food industry. Now I get to be able to be on the other side of it, working with health government officials to understand the regulatory aspect of the industry!

What steps did you take and/ what resources did you access to land this particular opportunity?

I attended many Graduate Career Services and Professional Development workshops (e.g. LinkedIn and Resume Writing), attended the Fall and Winter Career Fairs, attended various Consulting workshops, networking events, and the STEM Breakfast With Champions.

Looking back on your job search experience, what advice would you give to current students?

It is such a cliche quote but you miss 100% of the shots you do not take.  Get in the game!

Joshua Mason

Joshua Mason

Biological Sciences, Ph.D.

Palm Beach Atlantic University (West Palm Beach, FL)

Assistant Professor of Biology

What excites you about your new position?

The most exciting part to me is the colleagues and students I will get to interact with on a daily basis; their enthusiasm for learning, developing, and the institution is contagious.

What steps did you take and/ what resources did you access to land this particular opportunity?

Utilizing all of the resources at Notre Dame were essential to this outcome. Specific opportunities:  

  • Working in a lab that allowed me to perform cutting-edge research, serving as a teaching assistant (2.5 years)
  • Participating in professional development opportunities
  • Finding leadership opportunities--through my activity with Graduate Career Services, the Graduate School, the Graduate Student Union, STEM Ethical Leadership program, my involvement in student clubs (and even founding one)!

Looking back on your job search experience, what advice would you give to current students?

Prepare yourself for the job search on what things mean the most to you on which you will not compromise. One method I used was the LAMP analysis, as it helped me to narrow down options and focus my search toward only those to which I was excited to apply. I believe this excitement carried over into my application, as well.

Xiaobin Zhang

Xiaobin Zhang

Electrical Engineering

United Technologies Research

Senior Scientist

What excites you about your new position?

The most exciting part of my new job is the genius of the individuals with whom I will be working. I really like the collaborative environment at United Technologies Research where I will be able to utilize my expertise to contribute to solving real-world engineering problems and learn from each of my colleagues.

What steps did you take and/ what resources did you access to land this particular opportunity?

There are two things that I think played an important role in my job search process. First, I started early. I made up my mind to find an industry job while I was a first-year Ph.D. student at Notre Dame. I had discussions with my advisor early on and planned each step of my journey.   For example, I found an internship last summer which provided me with lots of hands-on experience. I started the job application process early, and my career documents were both professional and polished--not because I had all the answers up front, but because I worked with my Graduate Career Consultant and sought professional advice from others. Secondly, networking is very important. I attended career fairs and conferences to talk with various people from different fields about my research, which both gave me a good idea about what kind of candidates companies are looking for and helped me to be more confident while communicating with experts during the interview.

Looking back on your job search experience, what advice would you give to current students?

First, step out of your comfort zone and explore all the possibilities that might help to land a job. Second, be prepared, not only the technical details of your research, but also the application materials and interview skills.  Graduate Career Services offers great resources, insight, and events which were super helpful in the preparation process!

Patrick Miller

Patrick Miller

Quantitative Psychology, Ph.D.

Civis Analytics

Data Scientist (R&D)

What excites you about your new position?

I am very excited to continue to do research along the lines of what I began at Notre Dame, perhaps even with more freedom to explore and with the reward of building tangible things. I also really enjoy working toward purposes and goals that I care about, not just the bottom line.

What steps did you take and/ what resources did you access to land this particular opportunity?

I think the most important contributor to this career outcome was that I took some time to help understand and clarify my values. Several people from Graduate Career Services really helped in that process at various points as a graduate student. As a result, I felt that doing research in industry was a great fit, and I was fortunate to find a company with similar values and open positions.

Looking back on your job search experience, what advice would you give to current students?

I found it really valuable to explore different career paths through meeting people, going to conferences, and interviewing. For me, learning was less about job-specific details and more about discerning my own values and fit with a particular career path or industry.

Katie Coldwell

Katie Coldwell

International Peace Studies-Kroc Institute Master Degree

Catholic Relief Services

International Development Fellow

What excites you about your new position?

I am excited to work for an international development and humanitarian aid organization that is committed to serving the poor, marginalized and oppressed persons. CRS works diligently to uphold the Catholic Social teaching principles in every element of their work. CRS is a leader in the peacebuilding field and I am excited about the professional development opportunities the organization can offer.

What steps did you take and/ what resources did you access to land this particular opportunity?

I applied to the Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame because I knew this institution had a strong working partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS). During graduate school, I looked for ways to learn from and interact with members of the CRS staff. I used the semester-long field experience to intern with CRS to gain a deeper understanding of their work. I also utilized the services of my Graduate Career Services Consultant to proofread my cover letters, help edit resumes and conduct mock interviews.

Looking back on your job search experience, what advice would you give to current students?

Informational interviews are excellent opportunities to learn about the different types of employment in a particular field. Even when I am not actively looking for a position, I continue to arrange informational interviews to ask questions and build my professional network. These contacts have often served as connections and support for me years later. I recommend all graduate students explore the funding opportunities the University of Notre Dame/The Graduate School has to help cover expenses associated with their professional development opportunities.

Qw Success Stories

Qinfeng Wu

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Ph.D.

McKinsey & Co.

Summer Associate (Internship)

What excites you about your new position?

The exciting opportunities to work with Fortune 500 companies to solve their hardest problems, and open the big platform McKinsey will provide for career development.

What steps did you take and/ what resources did you access to land this particular opportunity?

Graduate Career Services worked with me to improve my resume and cover letter. Once the documentation was set, my consultant taught me how to network with both companies and individual professionals. To set myself apart from other applicants, I then applied that knowledge and did the requisite networking outreach.  I also worked diligently on case study understanding, practice and protocol. 

Looking back on your internship search experience, what advice would you give to current students?

Start early, and plan early. Actively apply what you have learned. The first few steps are always the hardest. Once you braved the beginning of the journey of career development, the rest will come easier, and you will harvest great career opportunities.

Sarah Baechle

Sarah Baechle

English (Medieval Literature), Ph.D.

University of Mississippi

Assistant Professor

What excites you about your new position?

It is a flagship university, with incredible support for research, a warmly collegial department, engaged students. It's also a chance to return to the kind of University where I earned my undergraduate and master degrees. Above all, though, I'm simply excited to have the chance to remain so engaged in my field. Tenure track jobs are hard to come by, and it feels wonderfully surreal to get to continue to do the work that I love.

What steps did you take and/ what resources did you access to land this particular opportunity?

I took a somewhat unusual path, as I worked in an administrative position immediately following my Ph.D. I spent two years as the Asst. Program Director for Professional Development in the Graduate School here at Notre Dame. I think that was helpful for two reasons--first, because I was in a position to be picky about what jobs I applied for, and second, because I spent a great deal of time immersed in graduate professional training programs--both from a pedagogical standpoint, but also an experiential one: I benefited a great deal from being in attendance at professional development workshops I had helped run, from the people I worked with across the University, and from learning what higher ed administration looks like. I was, while in that position, pretty aggressive about continuing to research, write, and present at conferences, and also had the opportunity to teach upper division courses in my discipline; I think that was crucial to being able to be competitive for faculty positions against other Ph.D.s who may have spent a few years in postdocs, VAPs, or other TT jobs.

Looking back on your job search experience, what advice would you give to current students?

I think it's important to remember how much of the academic job search process is beyond a candidate's control. That's partly because there are lots of variables that can steal focus, time, effort, that you still can't control, and I think it's important to focus on yourself, presenting yourself to the best of your ability, and not worrying about the things you can't change. For me, for example, my travel to my campus visit was significantly affected by weather, and we wound up having to push the visit back by a day. It was completely beyond my control to fix that--I've not yet acquired the ability to control the weather--but it still would have been very easy to focus my attention on worrying about my travel, and not on, e.g., prepping my job talk. I had to make sure I focused on getting the necessary preparation done. At the same time, those delays wound up being beneficial--I drove into Oxford from Atlanta, after all of my flights were cancelled, and had several hours to think about a class I'd like to teach, and article I'm starting work on--and just to get all of my stress out ahead of the visit itself. That (i.i. "just make sure there are tornado watches the day you are flying!") is not advice I can give to others, but I think it's emblematic of the extent to which factors very much out of your control can influence the process. I also think it's important to remember how much you cannot control because I think the narratives that say that "if you just follow X advice, and do Y, you will get a job"--those can be psychologically harmful. I think it's rare that unqualified people get faculty positions, but it's not uncommon for very qualified people to not get interviews or jobs, and it's important to reiterate that that doesn't diminish the quality of their research, teaching, humanity, and so on. Finally: I think it was valuable for me to be introspective about what I like about being an academic, and to see opportunities to continue those activities in other kinds of positions. It helped me find the alt. ac. position I landed in--and in which I also could happily have built a career. It takes being, potentially, a bit creative and flexible about what you apply for, and I found it important to make sure I approached interviews for those positions seriously, both with respect to demonstrating my own qualifications, but also with respect to assessing whether that was a position I would be happy in. I'm writing this up for Graduate Career Services, but I still can't resist putting in a plug for their team--they all do wonderful work, and I know I found it helpful to meet with them long before I worked alongside them, to learn more about how to explore other career paths that I would find fulfilling.