Alumnae Profiles - Psych Research; Public Relations
colleen seliger, a&s '98, and amy lynch, a&s '96
|Psych research - Colleen Seliger, Psychology '98|
|Public relations - Amy Lynch, English '96|
"It's scary," says Colleen Seliger, A&S '98. "You're pretty much in school from kindergarten through college. Then everybody asks you, 'What do you want to do with the rest of your life?'" Such an overwhelming question can bring on brain-lock for even the most confident of job hunters. Colleen avoided this career paralysis by simply keeping an open mind and taking the process one step at a time.
A psychology major at BC, Colleen was originally headed down the straight-and-narrow towards graduate school. Midway through her senior year, however, she took stock of her situation. "I realized there were lots of things that interested me, but I wasn't sure of the direction I wanted to head with a Masters or Ph.D."
Putting grad school on a back burner, Colleen started exploring ways that she could translate her psychology degree into a job. Figuring that the research field was her best bet, she began checking the most likely sources of job openings, including JobTrak (the Web site where the Career Center posts current openings) and the bulletin boards in the Psychology Department.
Colleen understood, however, that most professional jobs are never advertised at all. With the help of three different counselors in the Career Center, she developed a more diversified and pro-active approach. She asked her psychology professors for connections and followed up on every lead they gave her. She regularly checked the Web sites of Boston area hospitals and applied to jobs she found there. And, mining names from a directory at the O'Neill Library, she wrote directly to a number of researchers, asking if they needed an assistant.
"I was surprised at the positive response I received. Some said they had funding that was pending, or that they weren't doing anything currently. But then they'd say, 'Well, here's this other opening.'"
Eventually, Colleen was offered a job as a research assistant with the Psycho-Pharmacology Special Programs Section at Boston Medical Center. She has already been promoted to Study Coordinator for the Crest Study, which tests experimental drugs designed to curb addicts' cocaine cravings. Working directly with addicts has stimulated her curiosity about the chemistry of addiction and has led her in some unexpected directions. She is currently turning her sights on a degree in nursing.
Colleen was not the first to endure those annoying questions people seem to reserve for liberal arts students. "So, what are you going to do with a degree in English, teach?" Amy Lynch, A&S '96, heard that one so often that, against her better judgment, she minored in secondary education.
Fortunately, classroom teaching experience is a requirement for certification. So, during her junior year, Amy did some student teaching at Braintree High School, with students barely three years her junior. "I was miserable during pre-practicum at Braintree. Maybe I was just too young at the time." She quickly crossed teaching off the list of possible careers.
Headed into her senior year and thirsting for other career options, Amy thought back to her summer job at the VA Hospital in Jamaica Plain. She had worked in the Community Relations office for a supervisor she describes as "a wonderful woman, a real mentor." Together, the two had produced several events for the hospital, including a carnival and a Fourth of July program, complete with a Marine Corps band. With coaching from her boss, Amy had also written a few press releases.
Keeping her positive summer experience in mind, Amy enrolled in Professor Woloschuk's public relations class. She enjoyed the class so much that, for her final semester at BC, she lined up a 3-credit internship at the Boston office of an international PR firm. Amy scheduled her three remaining classes for Tuesdays and Thursdays and spent three full days a week at The Rendon Group, allowing her supervisor to entrust Amy with meatier projects than those an intern would normally receive.
Just before Senior Week, on the last day of her internship at Rendon, Amy presented the president, John Rendon, with a four-page proposal: "why the company needed an assistant account executive (they didn't have one then), and why I should be that person. I even bound it in the company colors." At the time, Rendon laughed at her tongue-in-cheek writing style -- and at her audacity. But, as Amy says, "he liked the initiative I took" and called her two weeks later to offer her a job.
Now in her third year at Rendon, Amy has been promoted to account executive, a job with a diverse range of responsibilities. One day she might be running a production meeting for the Team Harmony rally to fight racism and bigotry, an event that drew over 12,000 young people this past year. The next day she might be creating ads and press releases for a Harvard Pilgrim Foundation public awareness campaign aimed at teenagers. Another day she might be designing and editing a labor union newsletter.
"It's definitely been a great job. I feel very fortunate. I know a lot of people who hate their jobs, who hate getting up in the morning."
What advice do Colleen and Amy have for seniors grappling with the job search? "The prospect of looking for jobs was scarier than actually doing something," offers Colleen. "Don't be scared into inaction." Amy seconds that notion, adding that students should be "more aggressive than you might want to be," just as she was in submitting her proposal to the company president.
Both women took full advantage of the resources at the Career Center, meeting with counselors and researching career and job possibilities. Amy and Colleen both recommend doing informational interviews with alumni who've listed themselves in the Career Network. "Everyone in the alumni network was very helpful," Amy says, adding, "BC takes care of its own."