occasionally, and they will be tremendously helpful as you
bounce around in this world.
I applied to jobs all over: in environmental consulting, labs, and
even warehouses. My approach looked something like this: find
a job posting; decide why the job sounded interesting; and try to
communicate my exuberance and suitability. I figured that saying
I had some project management experience was sufficient, rather
than drawing the connections between my past, their needs, and
our future together. I assumed each company was going to make
the effort to see how and where I could help.
Not surprisingly, despite having a degree in the physical sciences and four summers of internship experience, I still got no
calls back. This was due in part to my approach, and the fact that
the fall of 2009 really was a bad time to compete for entry-level
employment. It turned out to be an excellent time, however, for a
After three months on the road, I returned to my parents’ house
in Michigan with a rapidly dwindling bank account and some radically redrawn plans. I had assumed I would find a job with a starting salary of at least $38,000 (the median annual salary among
recent graduates with a B.A. or B.S., according to ACS). But I never
PHOTOS COURTESY OF
At the Fairchild Semiconductor fabrication facility, Kelly spends much
of his time in a cleanroom suit running experiments and solving
problems relating to wafer manufacturing.
even considered the idea that I might be unemployed— just as
were many of my college classmates.
Preparing for my next act
I spent weeks sitting in local coffee shops, searching online, and
applying to jobs. I became efficient at writing e-mails to people
from whom I never expected responses. I made phone calls,
bought people coffee, and generally did everything one is told to
do… but to no avail.
At some point I became disillusioned with jobs in energy, environment, and chemistry, and decided I just wanted to work outdoors for a while. I applied with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and U.S. Forest Service. I had always
thought it would be fun to be a wildland firefighter, so I sent out
salvos of applications through USAJobs.gov, the federal government’s official job site. About six weeks later I was offered a job
on a fire engine in Pike National Forest in the Colorado Rockies.
Coming out of academia, serving on a fire crew was an adjustment. The people, working environment, and responsibilities are
all vastly different. Before, I had to accomplish multiple projects