App State grad Leah Thompson shares with us what life looks like after graduation. From world traveler to academic advisor, check out Leah’s post-grad experience and her advice to current ASU students below. Enjoy!
Tell us a bit about your experience at Appalachian State? What is your major? When did you graduate? How were you involved on campus?
I graduated from Appalachian State University in May 2011 with a BS in Psychology. While at App, I was a Chancellor’s Scholar, Plemmons Leader Fellow, and active member of the honors college. I was also a Diversity Educator and a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority, serving as the Academic Chair and Recruitment Information Manager. As a psychology major, I was very interested in research and served as a research assistant under the supervision of two faculty members. Additionally, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Greece and participate in two Alternative Break Experiences to Egypt and Bolivia. The opportunity to travel the world as an undergraduate student was a transformational experience that redirected my career plans from clinical and educational psychology to international education.
What are you doing today?
I am currently an academic advisor in the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.
Can you tell us about your first job search?
While a senior at ASU I began to research opportunities to work overseas. I decided to pursue teaching English as a second language overseas as a way to gain professional experience, earn a salary, travel the world, and prepare me for graduate studies in international education. I worked in Thailand for 6 months teaching high school English. After the completion of my contract, I returned to the States to begin graduate school at American University in Washington, DC. After completing graduate school in May 2014, I began the typical job search – including attending networking events, jobs fairs, visiting my university career center, contacting mentors/professors/supervisors to serve as references, and scanning online job boards multiple times per day. The job search was quite exhausting, and often frustrating, but also rewarding. I interviewed for a few jobs at different universities in the DC area, and found a great role as an Academic Advisor at George Mason University.
What experiences have best prepared you for your current professional role?
Having been a very involved undergraduate student at ASU, I have a keen understanding of the collegiate experience that aids me in understanding and better supporting the students with whom I work. My teaching experience overseas prepared me for public speaking and presentations to students and families (a responsibility in my current role). Working as a graduate assistant at American University provided me knowledge and skills to feel comfortable and succeed in a career in higher education.
What do you know now that you wish you knew as a student? Any advice?
Get as many quality experiences as you can while you have all of the wonderful resources and support available to you as a college student. Seek out research opportunities and internship opportunities, develop relationships with faculty members who know you personally and can serve as references during the job search and graduate school applications. Visit the Career Center to get feedback on your resume and cover letter – these documents must be flawless! And lastly, be open to diverse experiences and challenge yourself. Just because you were a psychology major doesn’t mean you will be a psychologist. Explore careers, discover who you are and what you are passionate about, and find a way to achieve your goals.