CSUF! True Alumni Stories: Starting Your Professional Life on the Right Path

CSUF! True Alumni Stories is a semester long series of events presented by Mihaylo Career Services.  Recent alumni were invited to share their honest experiences about their transition from college to career.

Mihaylo alumnus Obed Garcia, marketing ’07, began his career working for an automotive company. Because of his hard work and dedication, he was promoted eight times in four and a half years.

Recently though, he decided to embark on a different career path.  He currently works for McMaster-Carr, an industrial supplies company, where he is a business operations specialist. He also plans on going back to school to obtain his MBA.

For Garcia, starting his first job after college was a major eye-opener: “I stepped into a position that wasn’t my dream job. Later I thought, ‘Wow – how did I end up here?’”

He recommends students start looking at the big picture before graduation and set realistic expectations for the business world and their careers. Here are some helpful tips on steering yourself on the right track.

1. You are going to make mistakes; it’s okay. Garcia admits that people will make mistakes while navigating the path they want for their career. It’s all part of the learning experience. The earlier you prepare yourself, the fewer mistakes you will make in the future.

2. Get involved early. Garcia highly recommends getting involved with campus activities and organizations. They provide opportunities to connect with the university and develop a network.

3.  Get out there and network. It is important to begin networking while still in school.  Establishing relationships with the right people will help on the journey toward success in your chosen field.

Networking demands a certain kind of skill – you have to learn how to sell yourself. According to Garcia, it’s okay to be shy, but it’s about overcoming that hurdle that will help make you successful. If you want to get ahead in your career and life, you will need to network.

Garcia admits he’s a shy person and struggles with walking up to strangers and striking up a conversation. However, he found an alternative way to help him network. “I ask my friends, ‘Who do you know that you can introduce me to that can help me?’ ” said Garcia. “That has helped me so much, because all of sudden you have something in common with that person because we have a mutual friend.”

4. Plan for internships. He also advises students to start looking for internships as soon as possible. He said if he had the chance to do it over again, he would have started applying for internships his freshman year. “I’m not saying though, if you’re a senior and haven’t done any internships, life is over,” said Garcia.

5. Find your passion and work toward balance. Garcia also advises students follow their passion and do what they love. Pursuing your calling should become a priority because it will lead to a path of happiness.

He cautions students not to waste time working at job where they are unhappy for the sake of a paycheck. “You can be making all the money in the world, but if you don’t have time to enjoy it, then you’re not going to be happy,” said Garcia.

Life is about finding the right balance. Garcia stressed that if people focus all their energy in one direction, it will leave them feeling unfulfilled and lacking completeness. Having a little bit of everything is not only possible but recommended.

At his first job, he found that he was working too many hours and feeling unhappy with his situation. He realized he wanted a job that would allow him to have work and life balance. Today, Garcia feels he has the best of both worlds.

In summary, he recommends working toward finding a career path that you’re interested in and focusing on that goal.


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