Wolfram Computation Meets Knowledge

Prepare to Be a Professional: A Wolfram Guide for Postgraduates and More

Prepare to Be a Professional: A Wolfram Guide for Postgraduates and More

It’s a beautiful spring day. Your robe and cap are a little itchy, but you don’t mind. You know your family will be taking an excessive amount of pictures, but that’s OK. You are graduating! Years of dedication and hard work have paid off and you’re about to walk across the stage with your diploma and start summer vacation! Wait—summer vacation? Do you even have a summer vacation now? What’s next? Should you look for a job or should you focus on bolstering your resume first? So many questions….

“So what’s next for you?”

If this scenario sounds familiar, you may feel overwhelmed—and you aren’t alone. Finding that next step doesn’t have to feel like such a daunting task. With the help of Kathy Bautista from the Wolfram academic programs team, we have invited five of our fellow Wolfram associates, experts in mentorship, postgraduation education and professional development, to share their insights on preparing for the next stage of life.

Meet the Experts

Cliff Hastings

Cliff Hastings
Director, Sales & Strategic Initiatives and Parkland College Head Volleyball Coach

Jamie Peterson

Jamie Peterson
Director, Wolfram U and Computational Learning Savant

Kayla Moore

Kayla Moore
Global Recruitment Manager and Internship Aficionado

Rory Foulger

Rory Foulger
Manager, Precollege Educational Programs and Wolfram Emerging Leaders Program Champion

Yi Yin

Yi Yin
Academic Innovation Programs Manager and Self-Described Tech Evangelist

What Should My Top Priorities Be as a Recent Graduate?

Cliff: If you’ve finished your education, regardless if you’ve already landed a job or are still looking, the Wolfram Early Professionals Program is a great resource. Not only do you get Mathematica, but you also get an invitation to a LinkedIn group to learn about networking and job opportunities. You’ll find links to exclusive trainings and new webinars on there as well, so you can continue to build your skills.

Early Professionals Program

Rory: Outside of getting that connection, I’d also say your priorities really depend on where you want to go. If you’re into academia, then finding great places to continue your education is most important. If you’re trying to get a job, then networking and relationship building are really important.

Kayla: If you are looking to jump into the workforce, your top priorities should be updating everything you need before you start applying—resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, everything.

Rory: And, if you think you are interested in doing further education, it’s also important to know you don’t have to do that as soon as you finish your undergraduate degree. Getting a job first, or even doing a master’s part time while you have a job can be a really valuable way of approaching your academia with your professional life. That’s what I do. I have two master’s degrees now and I’ve been doing them part time with full-time pay. You can get a job, you can get further education or you can do both!

Cliff: Either way, maintaining your personal development and understanding yourself will pay off in getting yourself established in this new phase of life—including job or grad school interviews.

You should have a well-prepared answer to “Tell me about yourself.” If you don’t practice an answer to that question that is succinct, complete and displays your sense of professionalism and passion, it’s an immediate turnoff.

Your answer should be a 30–60 second rundown on how you want present yourself and what you want people to know that is not in your resume or cover letter. Your answer should help the interviewer think, “This person is well-spoken, mature and presents themselves well.” These are all things that anyone who is conducting interviews for any job, grad school or anything else is going to want.

Rory: Which reminds me, if you’re currently in college, look for year-round internships where you can work part time at a company or try to connect your thesis or capstone to a company. That’s what I did with Wolfram. I worked part time here, they paid me to write my thesis and then they hired me. It was great! Try to connect to companies you care about or are interested in. You want to be connected, so try to get part-time work for that last year of college, then during that summer, write your thesis on a topic that is relevant to what you want to do.

Stephen Wolfram at the Wolfram Summer School

Cliff: You should also think about how to couple your degree with your personality and communication skills. My distinguishing characteristic is not that I’m the most technical or that I’m the best communicator, but that I’m quite good at both worlds. That is a very difficult thing to find in the world and a way to differentiate yourself.

I would also say don’t feel like you need to look for your dream career or job immediately upon graduation. Find a job that will challenge you and help you answer what you don’t want to do.

I think everyone tries to look for their dream job immediately, but it tends to be fraught with failure or disappointment. I think people in their 30s tend to be much happier when they have understood what it is they don’t want to do and are then able to articulate what it is they do want.

Yi: I’d also recommend following some newsletters or going to industry forums to follow up with what’s happening. There will usually be gaps between your academic program and industry trends. Especially in tech, things can move so quickly.

Attending events or extra classes from a program like Wolfram U will help you dig deeper into these trends and see what’s happening outside of what you learned in the classroom. Staying informed can help you draw a narrative of how you can contribute to the industry.

Wolfram U

Jamie: Whatever you choose, don’t stop learning just because your classes are over. From a professional and personal development point of view, you want to keep staying relevant and abreast of the latest technology. You may have finished your coursework, but your real-world learning has only just begun.

How Can I Find Jobs That I Actually Want and Am Qualified For?

Yi: I think the most important thing is to understand what is needed in the industry. The tech industry especially is so dynamic. Understand what’s going on and then how to design your own path. You may have better luck finding entry-level positions that require a broader range of abilities like technical skills, people skills and business acumen. A lot of people-oriented jobs, or students with STEM degrees, may not consider it, but that’s currently what the industry needs.

Kayla: Of course, companies will have their own pages like the Wolfram careers page. A lot of schools will have their own job boards too. Handshake is a really big one, and other platforms, like Symplicity, are more college oriented. If I’m posting a position there, I’m going to be posting one that is more entry level. Sometimes they do have positions that are for alumni, but utilize those resources when you can.

There are also often whole centers dedicated to helping students after graduation, which can be super helpful. Definitely take advantage of those resources.

Cliff: And, if you have Mathematica and Wolfram Language experience, you can find internships and entry-level career opportunities from Wolfram and a host of other companies looking for graduates with these skills through the Wolfram Early Professionals Program LinkedIn group.

Yi: You should also meet with the people you want to be. Socialize with people in your dream company or in the industry you want to be in. To meet with them, I think the best way is to go to conferences. Some students may get tunnel vision and think, “There’s no point with me visiting my dream company’s booth, or that conference, because they’re not hiring.”

I think just talking to people, no matter what their position is, will help you know more about the culture or product that will aid you down the line and maybe even find you a job that might not be posted on the internet—but because you know people, there may be a job you’re qualified for.

Networking at the Wolfram Technology Conference 2021

Kayla: And don’t be afraid to take a step back and see what you want your career trajectory to be. For example, if I was a new grad and I wanted to be a director of HR, there’s no way I could immediately do that. I can, however, take a step back and say, “What’s a good position that will help me get the experience to create a pathway to get to that point?” Maybe an HR assistant isn’t what my “dream job” is, but that’s a great start to get you on that path to get what you want.

Cliff: When I interviewed for Wolfram, my interviewer and I did a good job of defining all of my skills, even if I didn’t think those skills matched what a software company would have wanted.

I grew up on a farm and I was shocked to realize that the skills I gained from that would be valuable to Wolfram. They wanted to find a technical person who could communicate well, wanted to travel the country and could work on large vehicles at the same time. So, in the end, my job was driving the MathMobile around the country and presenting Mathematica.

Wolfram MathMobile

The only reason it all worked out so well, though, was because I was able to present myself and all the skills I could bring to the table clearly and efficiently.

Yi: In a similar direction, there are some students who attend the Wolfram Summer School who do really awesome projects, and we end up creating a position for them because they have a lot of potential.

Kayla: When you’re being interviewed, that’s also your opportunity to interview the company. Do you align with them? Are they doing things that excite you and that you want to see in the world? Is that a team you feel you’re going to fit in with? I’m always a little disappointed when people don’t have questions at the end of a call, especially if it’s someone we haven’t talked to before. Even asking questions like “How do you like it? How was starting out for you? How is it for other new grads for start?” can be great.

Cliff: I think young people tend to not know what their skills are—and if they don’t know, it’s very difficult for an interviewer to understand why they are special or unique. Understand who you are and what you bring to the table. At that point, I think the rest kind of plays out.

What’s the Best Way to Network and Connect with People in My Field?

Kayla: If you have a dream company and they have a strong online presence, watch their YouTube videos and comment on them. Stephen Wolfram will sometimes ask us to reach out to people who interact on his livestreams or other videos when people comment.

Do what you can to spark those connections. Sometimes people reach out to me who say, “Hey, I’ve been talking to this person on LinkedIn. They’re really interested in what we do.” Even those little things can go a long way. LinkedIn and other platforms have a lot of different groups you can join to meet likeminded people.

Wolfram groups on LinkedIn

Jamie: Oh, yes, we have a Wolfram U LinkedIn group where you can join discussions or follow posts. You can also participate in professional opportunities or events, like online webinars or Daily Study Groups, which are not just for students! Use resources like Wolfram Community to connect and share ideas. The Wolfram U group hosts many discussions on Community for Daily Study Groups, interactive courses and more.

Kayla: I know Wolfram Community is unique to Wolfram, but platforms like that are really great ways to start talking to people, get an “in” and start connecting with others. Programs like the Summer School are a great way to get recognized and get an “in” with Wolfram folks, even if it doesn’t necessarily mean employment right away.

Wolfram Community

Rory: Yeah, and the academic programs are often a mix of students and professionals. You get to talk to people and get to know people in environments that aren’t formal networking events. People appreciate building actual relationships rather than exchanging business cards and following each other on LinkedIn. You’ll get so much more from a real relationship with more experienced people in your field and finding people and mentors. You can talk to them about your shared directions and maybe get a mentor out of it. Avoid networking events, form relationships.

Most industries will also have minority groups for you to join, like African Americans in medicine, women in STEM, neurodivergent people or physically disabled people in whatever industry, which is great for networking but also for seeking help and advice on specific issues and perspectives.

Jamie: And don’t forget how important your connections—even the ones online—are. Keep your mind open to opportunities and be aware of the full scope of where your interests lie. My son recently graduated and ended up deviating from the path he planned to follow with his degree. He pursued an opportunity to job shadow at a construction project and was like, “Wow. That’s what I want to do with my days.” He has found his calling. I’m really proud; it takes some real soul searching.

What Can I Add to My Resume to Stand Out from Other Applicants?

Yi: In my experience, resumes can be quite limiting. If you have a personal website or have a professional social media account, you can better show your projects and utilize good visual storytelling. I think this helps you stand out beyond your resume. The hiring manager may go to your website to see what you have done.

Rory: Having a website for your portfolio or interactive version of your resume you built yourself is definitely a positive and impressive thing.

Cliff: Anything that sounds unique—achievements, awards, designations or anything else like that, whether it’s academic or extracurricular—are what really stand out to me. If you show me diversity in your accolades, it tells me you can manage multiple things at one time and find joy and passion, and that’s what I’m looking for.

Student presentations at the Wolfram High School Summer Research Program

Kayla: If you’re struggling to figure out what you should be putting on your resumes, always think about the personal projects you have. I feel like people will often discount the personal things they do in their free time that could be very applicable.

Rory: It’s also important to have both individual projects and group projects to prove that you’re capable of ideating and finishing a project, but definitely share projects you do on your own outside of school. It proves you have internal motivation to do stuff that isn’t being graded or assigned to you.

Cliff: It says they don’t just have to be the best at one thing, they have to be very good at lots of things. You have to be able to relate to lots of people and do lots of things.

Rory: It also shows you’re a self-starter and motivated to work in your field, and that you have good time management, research skills, subject-specific knowledge and that you’re able to work in a team.

Kayla: I think candidates sometimes don’t want to put personal projects on there because it wasn’t done in a professional setting, so the hiring manager must not care, but I don’t think that’s true. My brother has a little bit of experience and went to school, but he has a lot of personal projects that make him valuable. Or in our Global Technical Operations department, we’ll have people who went to school and have an associate’s in networking or something, and maybe they don’t have any professional experience, but then you find out they have a whole network that they set up or a server they manage in their house. Curious minds like to tinker!

It’s the same with certificates that you might get outside of school—I think those are really important, even if it’s Coursera or Udemy or something. That’s still you going out and pushing yourself outside of school. Those are the kinds of things that make you stand out and show that you’re continuously learning. I don’t think everything needs to be done in a professional or academic sense. Of course, that’s helpful, but people need to give themselves a little more grace of what their experience actually can be.

Wolfram Technology Conference presentations

Rory: Publishing in real journals is impressive, but putting projects on community platforms like Wolfram Community is also a valuable thing. They allow you to share your work with a lot of different people and get feedback from professionals around the world, and that’s exciting.

Yi: I think, all in all, it’s a good story that will help you stand out. Build a story that shows you’re a good candidate, your passion, what you’re interested in, your mission and a good personal project.

Kayla: And, above all else, be honest about your application. I have had people who haven’t been honest or stretched the truth about their experience or job titles, and that is more of a red flag to me and to hiring teams than someone who lacks some experience. I think typically people are more willing to take a little extra time to train someone and get them up to speed than take a chance on someone who is going to be untruthful about what they are able to do.

What If I’m Not Ready to Enter the Workforce or Start Graduate School?

Yi: If you can find an internship, that’s the best way. A lot of internships are quite competitive, though. If you’re having a hard time finding an internship, look for a program hosted by companies, like the Wolfram Summer School. That’s also great because you get a mixture of research, academic learning and industry contacts.

Rory: Oh, yes, getting involved in summer programs and during-the-year programs is fantastic.

The Wolfram Emerging Leaders Program (WELP) has a special section for college-aged students where you come up with a project to solve with Wolfram Language in any field. We find you an expert mentor from Wolfram and help you over the course of the year to develop a project and write a research paper to publish on Community or in journals and research papers, if you choose to do that. We’ve seen a huge variety of subjects, from computational politics, to deeply theoretical work, to physics or civil engineering. Students find the program a very intense and rewarding one where you end up with this published piece of research for others to see, letters of recommendation and a mentor whom you have been hanging out with for an entire year as you transition into postgraduate life.

Wolfram Emerging Leaders Program

Yi: Yes, I work with the Summer School and there are a lot of mentors from various backgrounds. I get to see how people with different backgrounds who have different visions of technology can work together to make the technology more user friendly. And, just like with WELP, you will have completed a project notebook. We help the students build a gallery and publish it online so they can attach the link to their resume for people to see what they have done, and publish their work to Community. Then they can receive feedback from other Wolfram users about their work

Wolfram Summer School

Wolfram Summer School class of 2023

Rory: The Wolfram Student Ambassador Initiative is really valuable if you’re more interested in networking. You get to make connections and find people with similar interests to you from all around the world. We have tons of people who are excited about Wolfram tech in a variety of fields who want to be your friend, startup cofounder or research partner.

Kayla: You can also take this opportunity to add a few nuggets to your resume! Maybe it’s a programming language you didn’t learn about in school, or a certification. If you’re finishing school, more education is probably the last thing you want to be thinking about, but I do think it can go a long way. When I graduated, I had zero idea of what I wanted to do. I ended up getting a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate. Even though I unfortunately did not utilize it, it ended up being something that caught the eye of my interviewers here at Wolfram. They were excited to see that I had continued my education outside of school.

Rory: And if you’re fluent in Wolfram Language, becoming a mentor at the Wolfram High School Summer Research Program can also be a really positive thing. We’re always looking for mentors to help students work on their projects. Getting teaching experience is also really valuable for all jobs and helps with public speaking, your ability to explain stuff, networking and deepening subject knowledge. So if you’re interested in that, you can email camp-admin@wolfram.com.

Yi: You can also look for some courses hosted by commercial companies, which often have more business flavor, like Wolfram U. Those courses are also helpful when applying for internships or full-time positions because it shows you invested time in their content—you can show that you know the company’s product and how it’s used.

Jamie: Your resume is also a great place to plug certifications like the Level 1 Proficiency in Wolfram Language or, even more advanced, the Level 2 Applied Expertise in Wolfram Language Programming certifications. Not to mention, the “applied expertise” from the Level 2 means you actually develop a project that you can share in a portfolio—whether it’s a computational notebook, a report or a cloud-deployed file.

Wolfram U Daily Study Groups

Daily Study Groups are another great resource, and they’re free. We just hit our 50th group recently and did a deep-dive blog about the Study Groups to commemorate the occasion, but basically, you attend a lecture, answer some questions to test your comprehension and then participate in a Q&A session.

You’ll also have a chance to network in our Community thread. We will often archive our Study Group events in our catalog. They’re a great way to learn about unique uses for different technologies.

One of our recent groups, Guiding Principles for Systems Modeling and Simulation, was led by our Wolfram System Modeler folks. They shared all kinds of examples that are not just engineering or turbine design. It’s modeling biological systems, financial systems and more, and applying those to different scenarios.

Guiding Principles for Systems Modeling and Simulation

Boot camps are more intense. They are paid for and you’re online all day. You’re still with instructors and a cohort of learners. You’re being guided and instructed through completing graded, hands-on exercises and explorations. You participate in office hours, get some tutoring and, at the end of those boot camps, you will have a personalized project to present. Ideally, our boot camps end in a Level 2 certification, so they’re more immersive. Right now, our current boot camps are Neural Networks and Data Science.

Should I Consider Working for a Software Company?

Yi: You live in the twenty-first century and cannot avoid it. If something affects your life this much, why not join forces to make the future instead of predicting the future?

There is so much hype right now for that or robotics or automation, so there is a lot of potential. A lot of students use ChatGPT to help with their tasks or with their homework—they’re seeing the potential to scale up and properly design them to help our lives. Software as a product has a special feature: the marginal costs are almost zero, which makes it easier to scale up compared to traditional manufacturing. If you’re looking for an industry with potential, software is the way to go.

Kayla: And I’d say that goes for technical and nontechnical roles. I get people all the time who assume that they can’t apply for a software company because they don’t know a programming language. No one on my team can program. That’s not what it’s all about. It takes all kinds to make a company work. Of course, being technical can help, and if your dream job is software engineering, then of course that would be applicable.

I think software companies can teach you so much about ebbs and flows. There’s a lot going on. Things are always changing and it’s a great way to gain experience. I never saw myself working for a software company or in some kind of STEM space whatsoever. I have always considered myself an artsy, humanities person, and there’s just so much happening.

Cliff: To me, the beauty of Wolfram or a company like Wolfram, which I understand now and did not understand at 20, is the collection of things going on, skill sets that are needed and projects that are being worked on under one roof. It allows for a lot of different kinds of people to enter the door, but also allows for a lot of different people to find promotions or changes within those doors to truly find their career path.

I’ve hired so many athletes of mine and it’s interesting watching their journeys unfold. Sometimes they start in sales and recognize that this was not their path forward. They have a passion for Wolfram, but not a passion for sales. Conversely, we have done the opposite, where they have been hired in different areas and then had success within sales too. As a 20-something working at Wolfram, you could bounce from technical support to PR to sales trying to figure out your best path forward, and I think that’s really cool.

Rory: And picking a company to work for based entirely on benefits is entirely reasonable. I would imagine, for a majority of fresh graduates, you don’t care if your life insurance or parental leave benefits are great. A lot of people, especially in tech, get kinda starry-eyed over a large salary package—and that’s totally fine if that is your priority—but it is worth, in your last year of college, evaluating the priorities you have. If your life’s ambition is to educate, or work in healthcare, build roads or whatever is important to you, then doing whatever pays you a billion dollars is not the most important thing. Having a high moral inventory can be important to know what you want and pick companies based on that, rather than prestige or money or whatever.

Kayla: Find where you fit best. There are just a lot of different kinds of companies and company sizes that I think as long as tech is prevalent, it’s always going to be something that’s around.

Do You Have Any Additional Advice for the Class of 2024?

Jamie: The pandemic loomed so largely for this group of grads. You were right in the middle of it all and you had to be flexible and navigate the changing learning environments, and then transition back to campus life and classes. To be a graduate, you’ve successfully navigated these crazy things life has thrown at you.

Cliff: I think these graduates are in a really unique place now. In a post-pandemic landscape, they don’t have to think about geography as tightly as we did previously. Where they once were applying for jobs with a specific city in mind, they can now think about applying for jobs or careers based on what sounds interesting and that can take them to different cities where they can be in remote positions. I think that’s really complicated, but also just opens up potential for more opportunities.

One thing I’m pushing grads to take away from my life story is that most people eventually pursue a partner and kids. If you follow that path, then you are really limited with where you can go, and there’s nothing better than your first job having some level of travel. You get to see the country, potentially the world. It’s basically like a vacation the company is paying for.

Rory: It’s a tough market right now, and you have to keep looking and expanding your resume to be a good fit for these jobs. You may apply for 150 or 200 jobs and you’re excited for all them, but you don’t get any of them. That’s not a reflection on you or your abilities. Don’t be generic in your applications. Find companies and job titles that are genuinely exciting, and let that show in your interviews. Finding things you’re passionate about leads to employment, not the other way around.

Kayla: Be open minded. Don’t discount any experience that you gain. Every position can offer experience that you can use later. Maybe it won’t always be technical, but soft skills can get you really far too. This is such a weird time in the world and a really tough job market, so don’t give up. If something isn’t working, just restructure your strategy and try again. There are so many resources for interview and resume advice. Use the resources available to you and don’t take for granted any opportunities that might come your way.

Yi: And don’t be a perfectionist—don’t think “I need to find a dream job right after school.” You have plenty of time to find that. There are opportunities to try out projects, move up or switch departments, and the business is evolving. Do something different than your graduating hire position. Think about the potential rather than needing perfection immediately after graduating. If you find any job, take it, gain experience and learn everything you can. No matter what happens after that, that experience will help you find something you really want.

Follow-Up Resources

Congratulations to the class of 2024 and best of luck forging your new path! See the following for a list of the resources mentioned in this post.

  • Join this group for access to Mathematica for six months, our LinkedIn group, special discounts, Wolfram internship and job board notifications and more.

    Find our complete list of courses, certifications, Daily Study Groups and other educational resources.

    Learn more about how you can be a part of the Wolfram Summer School, the Wolfram Emerging Leaders Program, the Wolfram Science Winter School or the Wolfram Student Ambassador Initiative.

    Curious about the behind the scenes at Wolfram? Connect with Stephen Wolfram on his livestreams, including Live CEOing; Business, Innovation & Managing Life Q&A; and Research Working Sessions.

    Register for Wolfram classes, trade shows and special events.

    Learn more about Wolfram’s history and principles and look out for job openings and internship opportunities.

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