University of Oregon

So You Want My Job?: The Power of a Natural Sciences Degree


Last night the Career Center, in collaboration with the College of Arts and Sciences, UO Libraries and the UO Alumni Association, presented "So You Want My Job?" a panel discussion featuring recent UO grads from Natural Sciences majors.  

Deborah Exton was our keynote speaker and shared her own unconventional path to her current career as senior instructor of Chemistry at University of Oregon. After time spent as a logger, greenhouse worker and bartender Deborah ended up going back to school after a long hiatus and studying Chemistry. Upon graduation with a Ph.D. she spent several months cleaning hotel rooms before being hired for her first teaching job. She stressed the importance of identifying your passions, gaining new and interesting experiences as a young person and taking full advatage of your time as an undergraduate.

The program then focused on a question and answer period with our panelists moderated by Deb Chereck, director of the Career Center. Our panelists included:

  • Julie Embree '83 (General Science), physical therapist and manager, Slocum Therapy Center
  • Jeff McBride '91 (Psychology), professional development manager, Intel
  • Damon Reicher '01 (Computer and Information Sciences), software developer, Digital Inspections
  • Rachel Smith '99 (Biochemistry & Spanish), scientist, Life Technologies

Here is a sampling of the questions posed to our panel by students and our moderator and the panelists' answers:

How do you cope with a first job that is not your dream job?

  • Have a plan. Know what you what to get out of your current experience and think about where you'll be in 3-5 years because of the experience you're gaining.
  • Don't stop networking. Be pro-active in acquiring new contacts that will help you achieve your goals.
  • Do your best. Even if it feels like drudgery, make sure you're performing at the top of your game.
  • Learn, learn, learn. There are learning opportunities to be taken advantage of no matter where you are working.

How do you get around experience requirements in job postings?

  • Take a risk. Apply…all they can say is "no."
  • Volunteer. Volunteer positions that allow you to manage projects are especially valuable.
  • Know your strengths and be able to articulate them. Are you a critical thinker? Think about how you can demonstrate that in a cover letter or in an interview.
  • Develop unique skill sets. Knowledge and experience with specialized software systems are very valuable to employers and may make up for your lack of experience.
  • Don't lie. It's not worth it to lie. Trust that you'll find the right match for your experience level.

Overall tips and pointers for those embarking on a job search?

  • Be patient. It will take a while to get to your goal but there is lots to learn and benefit from along the way.
  • Stay inspired. Understand who you are and identify your strengths and passions. This will give you the energy you need to pursue your dreams and keep you motivated.
  • Have a support system. Build your life outside of work too. Have fun.
  • Expose yourself to a variety of opportunities. You may discover a new passion, connect with a valuable networking partner or gain a different perspective.

"So You Want My Job?" was an inspiring presentation and hopefully put at ease some of the anxieties that students are feeling about entering the job market and gave them some new ideas about how to pursue their goals. A Liberal Arts degree really does prepare you for the world of work and the Career Center can help you learn to express your passions and skills to potential employers.

Don't worry if you weren't able to attend last night. We will present a "So You Want My Job?" Spring term too (Tuesday, May 4, 2010 focused on Humanities majors). We look forward to seeing you at one of our upcoming events or in the Career Center office (220 Hendricks Hall) sometime soon.

Questions about what the Career Center can do for you? Call us at (541) 346-3235 or e-mail

Mika Farrington's picture