Illustrations by Ryan Snook

Each year, hundreds of Owls transition from being a Rice undergraduate to graduate students, job seekers, employees, entrepreneurs, volunteers, adventure seekers and more. If college life involves well-worn paths of classes, internships and campus-based opportunities, postcollege life can unfold as an unwieldy, multilayered map that spills across the table with any number of roads, byways and detours. This journey requires stamina, determination, optimism, a heavy dose of critical thinking and all of the skills that a Rice education bestows.

Where Owls Fly After Graduation*

*Data from various Class of 2018 surveys

Choices: Grad School? Internship? Full-Time Job?

Nick Fleder ’17 considered all of these options. A sport management major, Fleder became interested in basketball analytics through an internship with the Houston Rockets. After a few months of watching the Rockets organization capture data, he approached Rice basketball and was soon leading a team of students who collected and analyzed data on Rice practices and games. Fleder then parlayed his data skills into an internship with the Indiana Pacers after his junior year. 

Even with his deep dive into real-life data analysis, there were no full-time openings in the NBA when he approached graduation. He also saw plenty of candidates with graduate degrees or five to 10 years of work experience getting the few coveted data analyst positions. This knowledge, along with an understanding that machine learning was becoming an indispensable part of the data industry, convinced Fleder that he needed graduate school to complete his skill set. While at the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business, Fleder kept the conversation going with his contacts at the Pacers. When a job opened, he interviewed and received an offer.

A Crash Course in Interviewing

Sending your resume out via the internet can be something akin to tossing a stone into a deep, dark pool at midnight, in the middle of a tornado, while standing on your head. So when you land an interview, call your mom, celebrate and do your homework. 

Rice’s Center for Career Development offers a host of consulting services for students looking for internships or jobs. Here’s what they recommend.

Before the Interview

  • Think of the interview as part of your exploration, not as a test
  • Prepare by doing research about the employer (sources include company websites, Vault, Glassdoor and news publications)
  • Consider your first impression; be on time and dress appropriately
  • Prepare responses to the most common interview questions, like “Why should we hire you?” and “What are your weaknesses and strengths?”

During the Interview

  • Answers should be appropriate to the questions and well organized
  • Summarize your career goals
  • Ask questions about the position and the employer
  • Be aware of your nonverbal behavior, such as:
    • Posture, expressions and eye contact
    • Personal space boundaries
    • Filler words and consistent volume
    • Enthusiasm and confidence
  • Close the interview by asking about the hiring timeline, restating interest in the role and clarifying who makes the next move

After the Interview

  • Send a customized thank you note within 24 hours via email to everyone you interviewed with
  • Keep a record of important dates and details for following up

The key to having an effective interview is thorough preparation and identifying what the interviewer is looking for.” — Nicole Van Den Heuvel ’81, Center for Career Development

Just For Owls

Get a job, find a mentor or seek career advice. The Association of Rice Alumni’s Sallyportal is a networking and professional development tool created exclusively for Owls that can help grads. With new jobs posted regularly and almost 9,000 members, Sallyportal offers 24-hour  access to Rice wisdom — parents and alums working in hundreds of industries. There, you’ll find these features:

  • Personalized feed: Customize your Sallyportal feed to fit your interests and specialties.
  • Expanded groups section: This feature allows you to grow your network based on professional interests and affiliations.
  • Dedicated mentoring section: Mentoring is at the core of Sallyportal, and the expanded “willing to help” profile features and a dedicated mentoring section help to connect Owls with similar career paths. Mentors can offer resume advice, consult on building a personal brand or create networking opportunities.

Book Learning

The Strategic Career: Let Business Principles Guide You” by Bill Barnett
Drawing from his popular career strategy course, Barnett, an adjunct professor in management at the Jones Graduate School of Business, applies business strategy principles to optimal career planning.  

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
This book, written by Stanford experts, is all about transitions, including moving from college life into a career and adult life. 

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success” by Adam Grant
A perfect read for when you’ve landed your first job. Grant, a professor in the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, will convince you that being a “giver” is the key to success in all aspects of life. 

“Seek a field of work where you’ll naturally emphasize the service you provide to others, build an expertise that makes you proud and strengthen an institution you value. You may enjoy the immediate rewards from work, such as pay and prestige, but those factors never will matter as much to you as the fundamentals of the work itself. If you find this field and if you’re well qualified there, you may have found your calling.” — Bill Barnett

If At First You Don’t Succeed

When Maggie Edmunds ’16, a psychology major, started her first job out of college as a strategy consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, she was anxious to use her talents in communications, but she was especially interested in learning more about data analysis. 

In just her second project assignment, she got her chance — she was charged with building a model around trade promotion. It didn’t take long for her to feel underwater. “I was working pretty much 24/7 to get this project organized,” Edmunds remembers. “But I didn’t have the tools necessary to be successful.” In the end, she delivered a working model but felt frustrated and uncomfortable about the way her work had unfolded. “I had never failed at something like that. This was real life, and I knew I’d need to repair my reputation.”

After that disastrous assignment, Edmunds was faced with a choice: seek out projects that played to her communications strengths, or develop the skills necessary to be a first-rate data analyst. Ultimately, she challenged herself to master the skills she lacked and began putting together a plan to increase her analytical expertise. She sought out mentors, asked a lot of questions and pursued small analytics projects. Her hard work paid off some months later when she landed a spot as the chief data analyst on an eight-month project. This time, her performance was a resounding success, and the client lauded her as the strongest analytics consultant they had ever worked with.

“Don’t play it safe by sticking with skills you’ve already developed. It’s OK to ask for help and have some hard conversations. Those are the experiences that will shape your career.”  — Maggie Edmunds ’16

Listen Up!

The Tim Ferriss Show
The No. 1 business podcast on Apple, “The Tim Ferriss Show” takes a close look at successful individuals and breaks down the habits, actions and perspectives that helped them along the way.

CareerCloud Radio
One of the all-time most popular career podcasts, “CareerCloud” addresses career topics from resumes to networking to social media.  

Dear HBR
Alison Beard and Dan McGinn, senior editors at Harvard Business Review, answer questions on all manner of workplace challenges and career strategy.

Safe for Work
An advice show led by an ex-chief marketing officer who tackles subjects like “How to Deal With Friction in the Workplace” or “Too Eager? How to Keep Your Cool in an Interview.”

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