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Lisa Ledvora ’16
How did you explore your interests and decide on your major?
Deciding on a major was a difficult task for me because I enjoyed learning about every humanities and social science subject. Before I chose my majors (and minor), I spent quite a bit of time in the Career Advancement Center and professors’ offices discussing my ever-changing career goals, strengths and weaknesses, interests, and more. Ultimately, I chose a path that allowed me to enjoy every class I took for my core and elective credits. I decided on international relations (IR) and sociology and anthropology (SOAN) because I believed choosing those majors would allow me to have an interdisciplinary experience at LFC. Taking IR and SOAN classes helped my worldview to broaden and gave me the flexibility to enroll in a wide range of courses (from philosophy and linguistic anthropology to macroeconomics and Chinese).
Describe a moment or experience you had in college that helped define your career path.
Participating in Professor Tuttle’s Mexican-American Border Studies class and off-campus studies program. Participating in the Border Studies program opened my eyes to a variety of perspectives related to immigration, multilateral trade, prison privatization, human rights issues, and more. The program also helped me see how much the people who work in the nonprofit sector do for our country (and the world) and increased my passion to do meaningful work. Border Studies, along with my many international relations and sociology and anthropology classes and professors, directly led to my desire to establish a career in the nonprofit sector.
What steps did you take in college to prepare for your career?
To prepare for my career, I participated in two internships, one semester with WorldChicago and one semester with Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), in order to gain experience in the nonprofit sector. I also worked in the sociology and anthropology department as a research assistant (and departmental aide) in order to improve my research skills and make valuable connections with professors. As a senior at Lake Forest, I wrote a thesis in order to independently study a subject that interests and showcase to the public my growth as a writer and researcher. Continuing to learn Spanish and Chinese and participating in off-campus programs (in Beijing and along the U.S.-Mexican border) have also been an important part of my career preparation. I will enroll in a Master’s in Public Administration or Public Policy graduate school program in the next year or two in order to further my career preparation.
What role did your internship experience play in shaping your career path?
My internships helped me gain first-hand experience related to working in the nonprofit sector. I learned how two different organizations function and how staff members work to fulfill organizational goals. My research experiences developed my writing and analysis skills, which will both be important skills to have throughout my career.
What would you recommend Lake Forest College students considering a career in your field do to prepare?
I recommend that Lake Forest College students participate in internships in order to verify their passions and to learn about what it means to work in the industry in which they wish to work. I also recommend making connections with professors, alumni, and community members who might be useful resources when it comes time to needing advice, career counseling, recommendations, etc. You can make connections during office hours, at networking events, or though the Career Advancement Center’s online resources. Lastly, do your (online) research. Look up organizations for which you would want to work. Understand their mission statements and goals. You might also want to look at the educational experience of organization staff members to see what their paths were like to get them to where they are now.
How did the Career Advancement Center and the Forester community give you an edge on taking your first steps after graduation?
I attended as many networking events as possible because it’s impossible to predict who will be the key to helping you achieve your career goals. I got my current job through alumni connections and through professor connections. My current manager is a sociology and anthropology (SOAN) alumnus who emailed Professor Holly Swyers looking for recent graduates who are good writers to fill an open copywriting position at Performics. Holly then emailed all the SOAN graduates to tell us about the opportunity. After sending along my resume and visiting Performics for an interview, I was hired! Although my current job is not in the nonprofit sector, I took this job in order to gain important digital marketing and communication experience that will be of much use to the organizations for which I will work in the future. I obtained my first post-graduation job offer with the help of my Forester connections, and I know that many people in the Forester community are more than happy to help fellow Foresters achieve their career goals.
What have you found the most rewarding in your career and life after graduation?
Moving away from home and becoming more independent has been an exciting ongoing post-graduation experience. It has been rewarding to see how much I can accomplish on my own and to work towards learning more in order to become more independent. I also find it very rewarding to attend networking events for Lake Forest as a “professional” because that role helps me pass on what I have learned to current and prospective students.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Don’t be afraid to email alumni out of the blue to ask for advice, request an informational interview, or follow up on a Speed Networking meeting from months or years ago. Regardless of whether or not the alumni remember who you are, they will most likely be willing to help you in any way they can. Good luck!