Don’t Know Where to Start?

by: Pamela Ahearn, Manager Employer Partnerships, Center for Career Development

Last year the Center for Career Development (CCD) surveyed Holy Cross about their own career development journey and engagement with the office. In response to the question, “What causes you the most anxiety when you think about making a decision about your future career?,” the resounding response from students across all class years was “I am not sure where to start.” The second most common response was, “I am afraid I will make the wrong decision.”

How about starting by creating or updating your resume? *It’s easy and the CCD staff enjoys helping students craft their resume. Just stop by Hogan 203 for Drop-in hours M-F from 1-4 p.m. One of our Peer Career Assistants or a professional staff member will help you get started or tailor your existing resume to a specific job or internship you are pursuing.

Want to know more about possible career options after Holy Cross? Spend some time reviewing our online resources like the CCD on Demand video series “Industry Insights.” In these short videos, Holy Cross alumni share their experience and expertise in a particular field. Don’t see the industry you are interested in exploring? Let us know what industry you would like to learn more about by completing this Google Form. We will do our best to identify alumni in that industry, conduct an interview and upload a video.

Join a Career Community! The Center for Career Development has created Career Communities so you may explore and engage with careers that align with your interests, strengths, values and goals. Joining a Career Community will connect you with your peers, alumni, employers, and faculty who will support your pursuit of success and help you connect your Holy Cross experience and your liberal arts education to your professional pursuits after you graduate.

Additionally, you can explore the HC Network where you can connect with thousands of Holy Cross alumni who have volunteered to answer questions about their industry, their career progression, as well as how they have articulated their liberal arts education to prospective employers. You’ve heard the term networking but what does that really mean? Networking is the process of building and maintaining relationships with people in a job, organization or career field that interests you. Through conversations with networking contacts you can learn about their day-to-day responsibilities, the skills and knowledge required to succeed in the role and current trends in the industry. Networking conversations with alumni can help you gain clarity as well as build your professional network.

Does networking scare you? Do you feel uncomfortable contacting someone you don’t know to ask them questions about their career? You are not alone. Many students are paralyzed by the thought of reaching out to a stranger and asking for help. This is completely normal. Just remember, Holy Cross alumni are known for their desire to help Holy Cross students. Chances are, they received help from alumni back when they were in your shoes.

In terms of making the wrong decision, here’s the thing, your first job will likely not be your “forever job.” Your first job will allow you to gain experience & skills and better understand the world of work. To help make an informed decision about what you might want to do after graduation, 1) join a Career Community, 2) research industries, 3) consider an academic internship or a summer internship to explore a specific career path, 4) network with alumni (and others), and 5) attend CCD events to learn more about careers.

The Center for Career Development staff are prepared to answer your questions, help you make a plan, direct you to additional resources, and allay your fears. The sooner you start acting on your career pursuits and interests, the sooner you will develop an action plan. Remember, your career journey is unique to you and is not typically a linear path, but rather a winding road of possibilities and adventures.

Meet Alumna Dr. Sarah Boehm ’11, Associate Director for Education and Outreach

Name: Sarah Boehm

Class Year: 2011

Title: Associate Director for Education and Outreach

Organization Name: Center for Nanoscale Science, Pennsylvania State University


1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?

I manage the educational and professional development portfolio for a large materials research grant that consists of roughly 20 faculty and 35 graduate students and postdocs.


2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?  

With both the encouragement of Holy Cross faculty and the knowledge of career opportunities that a higher degree would afford me, I decided to pursue a doctorate degree in Chemistry. In graduate school, I attended the American Chemical Association’s Leadership Development Institute where I met a future colleague at BASF who introduced me to the company and their Leadership Development Program for new PhD scientists. This connection helped me to gain acceptance to the rigorous program that consisted of three 8-month rotations across the US in various roles. One of my rotations involved technology scouting and university collaboration development in Boston, where I learned about roles in academia for scientists outside of the lab. This experience ultimately reinforced the fact that I enjoy working in the academic setting and led me to seek out opportunities to utilize my skills beyond industry. Networking and relationship building led me from one position to the next, directing me to my current role where I find fulfillment mentoring students and inspiring the next generation of scientists.


3. What were you involved in when you were on campus?

Cheerleading, Chemistry research, Chemistry lab teaching assistant, Physics Workshop tutor, Physics grader


4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

I was a chemistry major with a physics minor. As an undergraduate I was fairly certain that I wanted to work as a scientist and learned that obtaining a PhD would provide me with the career growth opportunities that I was interested in. I truly started to explore my options in graduate school where I learned about the varied roles PhD chemists play in industry, academia, policy, government, and beyond. Having a degree in chemistry expanded my options and allowed me to shift careers from industry to academia because I have the critical thinking, communication, and analytical skills necessary to be successful.


5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

Holy Cross was a safe space for me to learn to ask for help. It’s not always comfortable and it takes confidence. In all my roles since graduating I have needed to gather resources and identify collaborators to build effective teams. I recognize that I need help in areas outside of my expertise and bring in people with varied and complementary skill sets to round out the team. Building confidence in my own abilities is also key to feeling comfortable acknowledging my limits and knowing when to ask for help.  


6. What advice do you have for students on campus today?

There are three main components in any job, internship, or graduate research lab – your boss, your work/project, and your coworkers. Before committing to any new endeavor, assess how you feel about each component. Will you be supported by your boss? Will you get along well with your coworkers? Will you enjoy the work? I suggest that you should feel positively about at least two of the three to be happy and successful in that role.

Meet Alumna Sara Guay ’22, Research Technician at Massachusetts General Hospital

Name: Sara Guay 

Class Year: 2022 

Title: Research Technician 

Organization Name: Massachusetts General Hospital 


1. In one sentence, what does your job entail? 

 I work together with post-doctoral fellows to conduct experiments related to breast cancer therapeutics and diagnostics. 


2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you? 

My mentor, Professor Findlay, helped me connect to the science industry by guiding me through an independent research project. During my last year on the Hill, a primary investigator from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reached out to the biology faculty in search of prospective graduates interested in becoming research technicians. I learned this job was a good fit for me by talking to an alumnus of this MGH lab, who also happened to be an alumnus of the Findlay lab. His emphasis on the health of the workplace community convinced me to accept the offer. 


3. What were you involved in when you were on campus? 

I was involved in undergraduate research with the Findlay Lab where I acted as a research mentor for first years. I aided students as a peer tutor in both Biobuddies and the Writer’s Workshop. As an upperclassman, I served as the Co-President of Students of Color in STEM (SOCS). I also enjoyed participating in the Spring Break Immersion Program as a volunteer during my first and second years. 


4. What was your major, and how did it affect your career decisions? 

I was a biology major with a concentration in biochemistry. I became interested in careers involving research and medicine by studying these disciplines. 


5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

Reading and understanding primary scientific literature is a skill I developed at Holy Cross that I use in my work. 


6. What advice do you have for students on campus today? 

Do not be afraid of taking a gap year before you matriculate into a professional program. These past 9 months, I have had the space to examine myself and shadow scientists, medical doctors, and physician-scientists. The decisions I make for my future have become informed and clear thanks to this concrete foundation. Additionally, it is important to consider to what extent your identity will be connected to your job. How important is it to you that your profession reflects who you are? People fall somewhere on a spectrum between living for their work and working to live. I believe happiness can be found anywhere on this scale as long as you know what your values are.

Meet Alum Jonathan White ’96, Managing Attorney at Jordan & White, LLC

Name: Jonathan White 

Class Year: 1996 

Title: Managing Attorney 

Organization: Jordan & White, LLC 


1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?

My job entails transforming the lives of our clients who come to us seeking something better through the legal services we offer and fostering the best firm culture for my team to grow and enhance themselves. 


2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?     

I accidently found myself going to law school after Holy Cross. I really wish I could say it was by design or that I always knew that I wanted to be an attorney, but that just would not be true. But I learned it was a good fit for me about halfway through my first year as I watched many of the students around me struggle. I found that my experience as a student-athlete at Holy Cross set me up for success by providing the exact skill set I needed to make my way through law school. With that confidence, I was able to focus on what I was studying and absolutely fell in love with it. 


3. What were you involved in when you were on campus?

On campus, my focus was on the hockey team, which then led me to community service opportunities with my teammates. 


4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

I double majored in Classics and History. Studying law just seemed like the next logical step from there. 


5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

Without hesitation, I know that the smaller class sizes I had in the Classics and History departments developed my ability to speak in public with confidence. Similarly, the Socratic method that my professors had so often used developed my ability to communicate my thoughts and ideas clearly. These are the main skills I employ daily with my team, my clients, and my colleagues, as well as the chief skills in my marketing efforts. 


6. What advice do you have for students on campus today?

My advice for students on campus today is to never let fear decide your fate. Everything you want lives on the other side of fear and 90% of the things we worry about never transpire.

Meet Alumna Wendy Morris ’90, Latin Teacher, World Languages

Name: Wendy R. Morris

Class Year: 1990

Title: Latin Teacher, World Languages

Organization Name: Lincoln School, Providence, RI


1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?

I teach all levels of Latin (I-VI) to both middle and upper school (high school) students in conjunction with a colleague.


2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?    

I knew I was interested in teaching from the time I was in third grade although I always thought it would include French since I am half French and attended a French Catholic school where I learned the language early on. My uncle taught science, my grandmother – Latin, and my aunt – Language Arts/French; you could say that teaching is in my blood. I was fortunate to have amazing Latin and French teachers throughout high school, one of whom allowed me to independently teach Latin I to a fellow student who was unable to fit the course into her schedule; she received full credit for the course, and I began to realize that teaching was my vocation. I took a lot of history courses in high school including a foreign policy course; I also attended the Close-Up program in DC which focused on US Government. For a while, I considered going into foreign policy or working as a translator, but I could not ignore the teaching bug. Various events kept reminding me of that gift and calling. Holy Cross and the amazing professors and experiences I had there helped me to fully discover that calling.

I visited and then applied to Holy Cross at my aunt’s suggestion; I fell in love with it as soon as I stepped on campus. Though I started out as a French/Classics double major freshman year, taking French at the Advanced Comp and Con level, a reading course in Latin and Intro Greek as well, I realized by the end of my sophomore year that taking three languages a semester, though I loved them, was too much of the same thing as I still harbored those other interests of history and political science.

       The Classics Department, then as now, is one of the best in the country, and there were some pretty amazing professors at the time, one of whom was my advisor, Dr. Ziobro. He, along with Dr. Nagy and several other professors, taught some pretty intensive classes that helped me further advance my analytical skills and brought my writing to the next level. Because of this, I chose to focus solely on Classics. I studied abroad junior year through the Stanford program in Rome, another transformative experience. Once I returned, I applied to both PhD and MAT programs since I wasn’t sure if I wanted to teach college or high school. After receiving acceptances to both types of programs with all tuition and expenses covered (thanks again to my amazing professors, their recommendations, and a lot of hard work), I chose the MAT program at UMass, Amherst.

       I first taught in Prince William County, VA, at large middle and public high schools, initially as an itinerant teacher and then as a stationary one at a high school with 2,500 students, 300 of whom took Latin. Once our family moved back to Massachusetts, I stayed home with our children and worked part-time at their small Catholic school as a PR and Development specialist where I focused on starting their first newsletter, auction, and media campaign. After a decade, a serendipitous, though tragic happening, led me to Lincoln School eleven years ago where I have been teaching since. It is a small, private, Quaker all-girls school that runs from kindergarten through grade 12. It also offers co-ed infant care and pre-school. This is the exact opposite of where I began. With the small class sizes, I am able to develop more meaningful relationships with my students and mentor young women one-on-one. Both types of teaching have their rewards, and there are countless opportunities to make an impact whether in public or private teaching institutions.


3. What were you involved in when you were on campus?

Dorm Rep, Co-Pres of Classics Club, Captain in Kimball, Fitness Classes, Campus Ministry, Folk Group


4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?

Classics: I chose Classics because I knew I wanted to teach languages. It didn’t affect my choice of career, but because of my close relationships with these professors, it opened doors to achieve my goals within the field of education.


5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

Critical thinking and writing; I cannot emphasize enough how important these skills are for any career


6. What advice do you have for students on campus today?

Get involved and explore things that interest you. HC offers so many amazing opportunities. Get to know your professors; this is one of the greatest things about Holy Cross. Most of them have chosen Holy Cross because they love teaching and want to make a difference in your life. Go to office hours, just to chat, even if you don’t need academic help. I am seeing this now with my own son who is currently a freshman. He just received a grant to do research next summer with his psychology professor who not only personally reached out to him but then sat down with him for two hours to help him fill out the grant that is funding this opportunity. There aren’t many places where you have these opportunities as a freshman. The people at Holy Cross are what make it such an interesting and special place. Get to know as many of them as possible.