The Life Skills team offers programming and advice from alumni about topics such nutrition, transitioning to life after Hamilton, and much more. 

Life Skills Blog

Answering the Post-Grad Question: “So, now what?”

By Noam Barnhard ’18

Noam Barnhard '18
Noam Barnhard '18
Tags Life Skills

For several months after graduation, I was asked one question more than any other question I’ve ever been asked, “So, what do you do?” So innocent, so trite, and yet so painfully awkward when I was forced to respond, “Oh, I’m kind of just looking for a job. Going through the process, you know.” It was only made worse when it was preceded by a group of friends in finance, law, and post-grad programs—really anything is better than nothing.

However, the real stress actually came months later, when I finally did get a job offer. I actually got two offers within a week of each other—what was once a dream now caused me to deliberate my decision for days. One was an intern for an exciting new start-up, WeWork, and the other as a full-time analyst at a much more established company, American Express. I took a risk and eventually got the best of both worlds. I accepted the intern position at WeWork and had a fun, albeit somewhat insipid and anarchic, few months. I enjoyed the great benefits of a start-up culture and worked through the disadvantages of a rapidly growing company. To jumble them together into a single sentence: free beer, lack of mentorship, dope office, elementary tasks, vibrant coworkers, misaligned goals and communications, exciting future. At the end of the day, I decided the cons outweighed the pros and I wanted to work at a company where I would learn and grow. 

As someone I once networked with said, “If I’m ever in a position where I’m not constantly learning, I’m out.” And so, I reached back out to AmEx and applied for a new position, ultimately getting hired as a senior analyst. As my friends like to joke, they gave me a promotion for turning them down. And now, almost a year in, I can confidently say I’ve really enjoyed my role and made the right decision.

I can also say that, although it may not be easy to find a job, it is easy to learn a lot through the process. It’s really just a cycle of listening, practicing, asking for feedback, and adapting—rinse and repeat. It’s not like my GPA got better or my experiences got more impressive in the months after I graduated. I just improved my interview skills by focusing on being clear, concise, and confident. And if you were interested in specifics, I’d recommend looking up the “STAR Method.” A Hamilton alumnus used it to help structure my resume and practice behavioral questions for interviews.

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve finally done it. I can actually respond to, “What do you do?” And you know what? That question still sucks. Now I just have to talk about my job. When you’re at Hamilton, you meet someone and talk to them about what they’re interested in, what they’re learning, and what keeps them busy. There’s no fallback question to seamlessly create cheap small talk—you actually have to put in the effort. 

And with all the clubs and activities surrounding that small beautiful bubble in upstate New York, it’s easy to keep yourself busy with fun and unique experiences. But you won’t really appreciate it until you’re out in the real world and need to go out of your way to be a part of something outside of your work and social life. So take advantage of it, respond to one of those emails from some weird club, eat a cricket, kick a rugby ball, listen to Mongolian throat singing, and, for the love of God, don’t ask anyone what they do.

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