If you’re getting ready to get your diploma (or have just gotten it!), there’s a good chance you’re freaking out about what’s next. The prospect of not only finding a job, but finding one that’s a fit for you and your career goals can be intimidating to say the least.
Well, we’re here to tell you that there’s no need to panic. Plenty of people before you have found their dream jobs after college, and plenty of people after you will. Which means, you absolutely can, too.
To help ease your nerves and inspire you to keep up the search, we’ve collected the stories of 10 amazing graduates who really landed the perfect gig—straight out of school. While it wasn’t always the job they were planning on, it always worked out for the best in the end.
(For even more advice, make sure to check out our new grad guide!)
1. Kaitlyn Jankowski
Supporter Experience Manager, charity: water
After starting as a pre-med student at Virginia Tech, Kaitly Jankowski found her way to a communications major with a focus in PR, which she loved because of the idea of talking to people as her job. Meanwhile, while still in college Jankowski learned about nonprofit charity: water and fell in love with the organization and its mission.
Upon graduating, Jankowski applied to her dream internship at charity: water—and didn’t know what to do with herself when she landed the gig. Even better—after completing her internship, she was offered her current full-time position. “When I was offered the position, it was a dream come true,” she shares.
Now, Kaitlyn spends her days keeping customers satisfied by answering their questions and solving their problems, keeping donors happy by helping them get the most out of their campaigns, and keeping everyone engaged by helping with the company Instagram and Twitter accounts.
2. Aimée Baez
Manager, Teacher Leadership Development, Teach for America
A psychology major at Bard College, Aimée Baez realized that her passion for education could be turned into something bigger. She returned to her hometown of New York City after graduation to teach in the TFA Corps, working in a classroom in the South Bronx with elementary school students for four years.
After that experience, Baez found that she had learned as much (if not more!) from her kids as she had taught them, so she decided to use her newfound expertise to help new teachers coming into the program and applied to her current staff position.
But don’t worry—she hasn’t left the classroom. Instead of sitting at a desk all day, Baez gets to go around and observe first- and second-year teachers in action, giving them the feedback and guidance they need to be truly outstanding educators.
3. Jon Jacques
Senior Account Executive, Virool
Jon Jacques didn’t have a traditional passion in college. In fact, from age six, what he loved most in the world was magic, and even spent a good portion of his childhood giving performances around the world.
While a skill like this may not seem to have many transferrable skills, it was actually Jacques’ talent for wowing a crowd that landed him his current gig. While in college, he met Alexander Debelov, the CEO of Virool, who was impressed with his presentation style and ability to connect with people, something he felt would translate seamlessly to impressing clients.
Jacques now uses his crowd-pleasing skills every day as he works with Fortune 500 companies, major music artists, and celebrities to ensure they get their video campaigns up and running smoothly and have everything they need to be happy customers.
4. Caroline Casey
Loan Originations Associate, SoFi
A double major in English and art history, Caroline Casey still left college feeling uncertain about what she wanted to do in the professional world. So, she decided to try something completely different, applying for a temporary finance gig at SoFi.
Before long, Casey saw an exciting career path ahead of her, and was thrilled to be offered a full-time position at this growing startup. Not only does she get to spend her days making a difference by helping student borrowers successfully get educational loans from alumni and community investors, but she’s also thrilled to be working in an organization where she feels any employee—from top to bottom—can have an influence on the direction of the company.
“This is a great place for individuals who have a lot of energy and new ideas—and don’t want to just accept their company as the status quo,” she explains.
5. Dima Mogannam
Program Manager, Beauty Insider, Sephora
While Dima Mogannam didn’t start in her current role, her career with Sephora began straight out of college, and she hasn’t wanted to leave the company since.
In college she studied sociology, but worked a part-time gig as a seasonal cast member (a.k.a., sales associate) for a Sephora store. Instead of quitting this job upon graduation, she decided to take the opportunity to move up in the company instead, moving from a shift leader to an assistant manager position to a store director, and finally shifting to the corporate side of the business in the education department.
After a few more promotions and lateral moves—and almost 10 years of work for Sephora later—Mogannam has found herself managing the Beauty Insider program and making sure it runs smoothly in stores across the country. She’s living proof that you never know where that side job in college could lead you.
6. Drew Howard
Product Strategiest, Fueled
Like many college students, Drew Howard was never really sure what he wanted to do with his degree. Having studied international relations, he didn’t feel like he had found his niche—until he interviewed with for a product strategist role at Fueled, where he felt his skills for collaborating with others and working across disciplines made him the perfect fit.
Howard now spends his days working with clients across disciplines and teams all across the company to create designs and products that will turn clients’ ideas into reality.
As someone early in his career, Howard especially appreciates the flat management structure that he gets by working for a small startup. It’s given him a lot of freedom to take on different projects and try new things, allowing him to learn everything from creative direction to project management to product management—on the job.
7. Jacci Levine
Account Executive, H.Bloom
Upon graduating from Ithaca College, Jacci Levine knew she wanted to find a position that incorporated sales and marketing with some aspect of design—she just wasn’t quite sure what that position looked like yet.
What she probably couldn’t have guessed is that she would find that mix in flower arrangements. She stumbled across the CEO of H.Bloom’s blog and was really drawn to the idea and model of the company. “I was kind of proud of the business before I started here, so it led me to apply and eventually get the job.”
Starting out as a sales associate in the company’s SEED sales training program, Levine was able to jump start her career and ultimately move up to her current role.
8. Megan Hurlburt
Communications and Marketing Manager, Venture for America
What began as an entry-level assistant to the CEO position turned into a much bigger career move than Megan Hurlburt could have anticipated. After gradating from the College of South Carolina with a degree in communications and journalism, Hurlburt knew she wanted to move up to NYC and was lucky to stumble across the job listing for an assistant at VFA only six months as the company started.
As only the fourth employee, Hurlburt quickly found opportunities to pick up projects outside of her job description. Because nobody was really doing communications work yet—and she had a background in it—she started working on the blog and social media, and eventually picked up some fundraising tasks as well.
Soon, Hurlburt found herself shifting to a more defined communications and marketing role, where she is now thrilled to be able to really help shape the voice of Venture for America.
9. Brian McMullen
Community Management Specialist, Uber
After finishing journalism school, Brian McMullen hoped to find a job that allowed him to use his writing skills while also tying in an interest in marketing. He was lucky enough to not only find that role, but to find it at a company he really thinks is making a difference in the tech world.
McMullen now gets to split his days between customer support—answering questions to keep Uber customers getting where they need to go happily—and communications and PR—creating campaigns to keep users up to date with the exciting things the company has in store.
10. Mallory Ross
Digital Associate, (RED)
An advertising design and graphic design student at Savannah College of Art and Design, Mallory Ross was always attracted to (RED)’s mission, doing projects related to the company for classes throughout high school and college. “It was always, I guess, kind of in my DNA.”
Two weeks before graduating college, Ross saw a tweet from the company looking for someone with just her skills. Now, she gets to spend her days creating beautiful designs that make a difference and sharing them with the world via (RED)’s social platforms to get new users invested in making the next generation an AIDS-free population.
In the end, she couldn’t have found a gig that was more inspiring: “It’s one thing to go to an advertising agency—which is great and all—but to be able to work in a small environment that’s hands on, you have all these projects you’re working on, and it’s for social good? It’s really rewarding.”