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Student Survival 2009: How it's done 

Four local alumni defy post-grad malaise and take charge of their careers

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In an inhospitable job market, these four local alumni are feeling comfortable. Each is on track for his or her ideal career: in television, nonprofits, medicine, and business, respectively.

Want to transition unscathed from college to your next step? Take notes.

Ashley Holm, CC '03

Freelance producer

Major: Psychology

A year after graduation, Ashley Holm moved to Los Angeles to pursue work in television production. After five years in the industry, Holm has produced episodes of Real World, Project Runway and Amazing Race, just to name a few.

What was it like to move to L.A. without a job? That was a very scary time, to be honest. L.A. is very daunting, and the idea of moving here without a job was scary. I also understood that if I was going to work in this industry, I had no choice but to live here. So, I took a leap of faith.

What strategies do you use to succeed in such a competitive field? Networking is of the utmost importance. If you don't constantly keep your name out there, people will forget you. Also, working hard. I want to be remembered because of the work I have done.

When you were freshman, did you already know that you wanted to work in TV? When I was a freshman, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I wish I had known, because I would have utilized the film department more. It should be encouraging to students to know that if you do figure things out late, like your senior year or even after college, it's not too late to get into that industry.

Do you think you have been disadvantaged by not having a degree in film? No, I don't think that not having a film degree has hindered me from getting jobs.

What do you want to be doing in 10 years? My passion is documentary programming, and eventually I want to produce my own documentary film.

Alyssa Parker, UCCS '08

Development associate, Pikes Peak United Way

Major: Organizational communications

The semester before she graduated in December 2008, Alyssa Parker worked 50 hours a week at Pikes Peak United Way, took a full course load at UCCS, and worked part-time at Bed Bath & Beyond.

What was it like, balancing a full-time job while also being a full-time student? It was really difficult. I started here at United Way in May of 2008, so I had the summer to focus on the new job, and then I went back to school in the fall. Luckily, most of my classes were at night. I also had to do an internship in order to complete my communications major. Both UCCS and United Way were flexible, so I was able to intern at United Way, but in the marketing department.

As a development associate, what do you do? I work with local companies to coordinate giving campaigns, and encourage employees to donate to United Way or various nonprofits in the community.

How did you find out about the position? I found the job listing on the Center for Nonprofit Excellence Web site [cnecoloradosprings.org], and it sounded like something I was interested in. I thought it was out of my league, but I applied anyway, just for the experience.

Why did you think it was out of your league? I think sometimes college students don't know what they know until they are using it. I didn't know the skills or the abilities I had until I was put into this position.

Sean Dean, PPCC '09

Student

Major: Pre-medicine

Sean Dean spent three years after high school trying to figure out what to do with his life. He worked as a gas station attendant and a bank teller before a counselor suggested he returning to school. Three years later, he's leaving Pikes Peak Community College for George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

When did you decide to go pre-med? Halfway through my freshman year. When I first enrolled, I thought I wanted to go into psychology, but when I took my first biology class I realized I liked the hardcore science and anatomy more.

Medical school is a huge commitment. What motivates you? I really love helping people. When you are a doctor, you are seeing people at their worst moment ever. You are able to help people when they are at their lowest.

How are you paying for college? My tuition is fortunately covered by a scholarship. I also do work-study 10 hours a week: first, in the records department, and then I became a tutor. Luckily, I have my mom's support. If I had to this without her help, there is no way I could have done this.

How you feeling about the move to D.C.? I'm a little scared. I've never been to the East Coast, and D.C. is a humongous city. Here, I was the student body president, and if I needed something I knew where to go and who to ask. And I don't have that anymore. I'm a little guy again, and that scares me. But it also exciting because I'm moving on.

Rene Tate, UCCS '09

Photographer

Major: Communication

When Rene Tate was 19, she started a photography business to make money while still in school. Each summer, however, she was hired to do more and more weddings. Business got so good that it eventually occurred to her, "Hey, I could make a career out of this."

When you were a freshman, what did you want to do? I contemplated dropping out of UCCS my freshman year, and going to the Art Institute to study graphic design. I realized it was so expensive, and it just truly wasn't for me.

Do you still want to pursue graphic design? When I was 10, I started a Web site development business, so I've always been a bit of entrepreneur. With my business now, I get to design albums and photo collages and, once in a while, wedding invitations, so there are still opportunities to design.

What kind of advice would you give to someone who's thinking about starting his or her own business? Follow your bliss and have genuine faith. Mentor and be mentored. Ask a lot of questions, read a lot of books, and work your tail off. When you own your own business, 9 to 5 doesn't cut it, 40 hours a week doesn't cut it.

How many hours a week do you work? Oh, I have no idea. Let me think. [Long pause.] I probably work 60 hours a week. I do a couple weddings a weekend, so that's 20 hours right there.

What is the most exotic place you have gone for work? I recently went to Puerto Rico for a wedding.

What do you think you want to be doing 10 years from now? I want to be doing more international weddings, and I want to be a leader in the industry by holding workshops and speaking at industry conferences. Also, hopefully married with kids.

Click here for the complete Student Survival 2009 table of contents!

  • Want to transition unscathed from college to your next step? Take notes.

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