Answers from Katy

Katy Loeb

1)   During your time at Pomona, where did you see yourself a few years out from college? How did your path differ from this and what most surprised you?

I thought I would be working at a museum in some sort of leadership capacity—curatorial or otherwise. For some reason, I had a clearer picture of attending graduate school than what my career would look like. (This is perhaps due to the fact that I graduated in 2009 when the job market was dire.) I did work at several museums. I did complete a graduate program. Unpredictably, those experiences helped me to realize that I did not have the stomach for the gallery world, nor the patience for bureaucratic museums. In my case, my distaste for certain opportunities has guided me most.
2) Any regrets - things you feel you didn't make the most of but should have during your time in Claremont?

I'm one of those crazy people who doesn't believe in regrets. 
3) Do you think the liberal arts aspect of your education helped you after college? How so?

Undoubtedly. I was able to speak to a range of topics, which helped me network and make new friends. I was able to write and speak confidently in an environment that prized those attributes. The quality of my education certainly helped me earn acceptance to and thrive in graduate school.
4) What would be your advice to a student who is really unsure about what they want to do after college?

  • Visualize. What do you want your day to look like? What time do you wake up? Where do you live? What do you wear to work? How do you get to work? Do you have a desk? What’s on it? What do you do during the day? Take notes, and options will start to jump out out you. 
  • Make a list the jobs you know you’d find loathsome. Don’t do those, even if someone else wants you to.
  • Think about what kind of environment you want to be in, and what kind of schedule you want. Do you want to only be around young people? Do you really want a mentor? Do you like to work alone or prefer a group? Do you want to be in a city or are you OK with an office park somewhere? Do you want a job that clearly starts at 9am and ends at 5pm, or do you want more flexibility?
  • Start with what interests you, but also recognize what kinds of things you’re ok to have as a hobby/interest versus a career.
  • Baby steps. No one has life figured out at 22ish.

5) What was your experience of transitioning from college to the outside world? What would be your advice for students to handle this?

I loved Pomona but I was very excited to move on—to have my own apartment and not eat in a dining hall. Also, I really wanted to know what life was going to be like without homework! It is strange to go from having the flexible schedule of a student to a daytime job. Allow yourself to adjust. Ease into it. Experiment. 

I did miss the level of engaging discussion, creativity and camaraderie I found at Pomona. Luckily, I was able to find that kind of community in various art communities. Don't expect to make friends in a day, and prepare yourself that keeping in touch with Pomona friends will be difficult. For me, though, it was critical in negotiating who I was becoming. It anchored me.

Advice for Uncertainty

Naohito Miura

The summer between my junior and senior year at Pomona, I remember hearing someone say, "the more opportunities you get, the more opportunities you get." I probably still remember the phrase today because it rang true for me back then and still does today. It's an obvious observation, but helpful for me in summarizing the last 10+ years of my life. One set of opportunities led to another set of opportunities, and I wouldn't be where I am today (literally, in Angola at the moment) if it weren't for the people and circumstances that helped me take the steps I took. For example, I'm in Angola right now thanks to the experience I had in Brazil the year before, and I wouldn't have traveled to Brazil if I weren't enrolled at Harvard Divinity School, and I wouldn't have gone to graduate school if it weren't for Pomona and the two years I spent after graduation as a middle school teacher etc. etc. ...

Once you apply yourself to something, once you do something—anything—that experience often opens the path to another, at times taking you to places you didn't expect to be before. On a practical level, one opportunity (job, internship, seminar, travel, hobby, conversation, etc.) exposes you to more information—introducing new people and ideas into your life—and you might end up with different or revised priorities. On a more personal/emotional level, you learn more about yourself as you gain more experience, getting a better sense of what activities you most enjoy and what values you want to center your life on. To use a food metaphor, if you want to know which flavor of ramen you like the most, you first have to try each flavor, one at a time.

So if you might be unsure about what you want to do after college, I guess my suggestion would be to do something—anything—and just do the best you can at the time (nobody can do more than that!). But when it comes to giving advice, I recall this quote from Oscar Wilde: "The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself." You know your situation best, so take care of what's in front/inside of you, and let's not limit ourselves to always following good advice from others.

Here's a few more quotes that have helped me in the past, in case they might be helpful for you as well:

"Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. Let go."

"As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it MATURITY." —Charlie Chaplin

"Own your bad news. When something goes wrong, someone is going to tell the story. You'll be better off if it's you." —Rework p. 231

“Never make excuses. Your friends don't need them and your foes won't believe them.” —John Wooden

"…we are under a moral obligation in choosing our experiences, since the result of those experiences must ultimately determine our understanding of life." —Jane Addams

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference."
—Reinhold Niebuhr

"You don't need another person, place, or thing to make you whole. God already did that. Your job is to know it." —Maya Angelou

"Go hospitably disposed to whatever may come your way." —Professor Jerry Irish

"Know that the happiness we feel when we bring joy to others is the greatest happiness in the world." —Mokichi Okada

Please feel free to connect with me through the website. Always happy to chat with Pomona students! :)

Walking Your Path

Iris Jong

In the aftermath of my first four post-undergrad years, I am surprised to realize that I have, more or less, successfully met the career goals I set in college and in the years since.

I proved myself worthy of a coveted management consulting job. I then survived three years of management consulting, and my resume is adorned with some very sexy phrases, like Strategy & Innovation and Strategic Projects and C-Suite Executives and $200M in sales. I held true to my principles and abandoned the corporate world for a nonprofit job, and have been working for the last 1.5 years at a fantastic, effective, efficient organization, on a team that regularly makes me laugh until tears spring from my eyes. I negotiated a part-time schedule and get to spend huge swathes of time doing illustration, comics, writing, and coding. I am living the “nonprofit strategy + creative side projects” vision I concocted years ago.

So, yes, congratulations to me. But tales like that are deceptive, just as LinkedIn profiles and Twitter follower counts and speaker bios are deceptive. I am lucky to have accomplished what I set out to do, but written out like that, it seems far neater than the last four years—actually, make it six, because that’s when I started fretting seriously about post-grad jobs—really felt. I can make my path sound like a nice, straight line, four points mapped onto a quadrant, but that’s the work of hindsight.

The thing is, finding out that you got the job takes seconds. Living through the job, on the other hand? Years. It’s inhabiting the job that comprises the bulk of your life. Which means summaries like the above, which center on the getting of the job, are necessarily incomplete.  

I made it into consulting, but I mostly did not enjoy being there! In middle school, I pored over issues of Businessweek and fancied that business executives spent hours lounging in expensive chairs, fingers steepled, untangling thorny issues and plucking brilliant ideas from the ether by thinking really, really hard. A few months into consulting, I realized that business was less about executing intellectual feats and more about emailing lots and lots of people and meeting with all of them to inform them of the people they needed to email. Dramatic oversimplification, but still. The point is that my experience being in consulting was drastically different from what most students wistfully imagine it to be.

And, listen, I love my job now, but in a few months, I don’t think it’ll be enough. I’m going to have to move on eventually. The real, true, cosmically unfair thing is that I don’t know what comes next. I have ideas (too many ideas), but not one of them has come forward and declared itself The One.

So! Like you, I am still striving and uncertain. It’s just that I’ve had an extra four, five, six, whatever years to amble forward on my path. But it’s not like I can see where the rest of it goes. I’m not sure I ever will, nor do I really want to. Because that means I’ll have settled. That means nothing in my life will markedly change ever again. Ambiguity remains my nemesis, but stagnation is way worse.

I hope this is reassuring rather than wildly upsetting. I hope you abandon any illusions that you will at any point finally feel like you’re done, like you’re satisfied, like you’ve finally made it. There is no it to be made.

Finding your way forward is a total paradox, I know. True: your first job out of college won’t cement your fate. Also true: it could very well determine the first several years of your career. ALSO true: you have the power to shape your career at any point in your life, no matter how many years you have behind or ahead of you.

True: some combination of majors, minors, courses, internships, extracurriculars, research projects, etc. etc. is going to earn you a coveted job. Also true: you can whip yourself into a frenzied, frothing mess, trying to divine an ideal combo of accomplishments, and still end up not getting the job, or getting the job and hating it, all while hating your four heart-crushing, soul-compacting years of undergrad.  

And so: have dreams and work hard, but make sure your dreams are true to you. Do more things for the joy of it, because that’s how you figure out the best contribution you can make to the world. Take more classes for the intellectual pleasure, not for the winnable grade. Worry some, but not so much that it breaks you.

You’ll figure it out. In a few years, you’ll have your own glossy little bio. It’ll be great. But then you’ll still have over forty years’ worth of your path to figure out. So have faith that you’ll be able to, not just now but always.  

Answers from Jake


1) During your time at Pomona, where did you see yourself a few years out from college? How did your path differ from this and what most surprised you?

I entered Pomona thinking I'd go into business. I wasn't particularly passionate about it, but it seemed like a good enough choice, and I wasn't especially concerned with the future. I had my first "aha!" moment in Rick Hazlett's intro to EA class, when for the first time I gave a damn about something (the environment). I also discovered science as a strength/passion and figured a research career in the chemistry of photovoltaics would enable me to lend a hand in the fight against climate change. But senior year I realized that I needed more human interaction and sunlight than the laboratory could provide, so I switched gears and finished up the pre-med requirements and worked as a medical scribe for a year after graduation. I saw some really weird stuff and it was awesome, but I determined that medicine was not right for me. I switched things up again and took a Fulbright to the Philippines to work for an off-grid solar non-profit, and BAM - that was my second "aha!" moment. Instant clarity. I immediately knew that international development, specifically bringing enabling technologies to the bottom of the pyramid, was my calling. It has been such a relief to find my true passion, and everything has come naturally since then. I wasn't surprised per se, but I couldn't have predicted that this is where I'd end up. It was just a matter of trial and error to find the thing which ignited a hitherto unknown passion. The development sector is quite broad, and I still don't know exactly which enabling technologies I'll devote my life to (currently I'm focused on rural energy access, but next year I could be into healthcare or education), but I'm totally fine with the ambiguity because I'm on the right path. I'll continue to dabble and hone in on the things which I find most fulfilling.

2) Any regrets - things you feel you didn't make the most of but should have during your time in Claremont?

Truthfully, I wish I hadn't studied as hard. Not once has an employer asked to see my transcript or GPA. I wish I had been more involved in activities on campus, and placed more importance on my social life. Balance is important.

3) Do you think the liberal arts aspect of your education helped you after college? How so?

I'm not sure. I took almost exclusively science classes, and I wish I had dabbled in the humanities a bit more. I don't know that it would have made me a significantly different person, but it might have at least helped me reach those "aha!" moments a bit earlier.

4) What would be your advice to a student who is really unsure about what they want to do after college?

Just shotgun it. Try everything and see what you like. You'll know once you find it. Network to the extent that you're comfortable - like it or not, it really is all about who you know. But the good news is that most people are more than happy to help. LinkedIn is amazing, and your fellow Sagehens are a tremendous resource. Brush your teeth.

5) What was your experience of transitioning from college to the outside world? What would be your advice for students to handle this?

Not that Pomona wasn't fun, but I have enjoyed life after college so much more. The big transition for me was finally becoming a contributing member of society. Up until graduation, I had done nothing but consume resources invested in me. Post-graduation, I was finally working and producing something, and that has given me immense satisfaction. Nonetheless, it can be difficult living far away from friends rather than constantly around the corner, so you may have to put more effort into maintaining your friendships. If you're having difficulties adjusting, trust that your peers are too, so reach out and commiserate.

6) How do you - apart from this - bear your added riches to the world?

More than anything, Pomona taught me how to think critically and creatively. I like to think I bring a healthy, balanced mindset to whatever I'm a part of, something that is much needed these days.