College to Career Advice from JMU Alumni Now Working at Ripple Effect

Are you job searching? Need some advice?

JMU alumni who are now working at Ripple Effect shared their advice for the job search, like keeping an open mind and writing post-interview thank you emails.

Read about their college-to-career experiences and more advice in the interview below!

Want to know more about Ripple Effect?

Ripple Effect works with federal, private, and non-profit clients to support some of the most crucial policies and programs that shape our nation. We provide professional staffing and project management consulting services in the areas of: Communications & Outreach; Program Management & Policy; and Research & Evaluation. We are researchers and communicators, scientists, analysts and more, linked by curiosity and a commitment to excellence. We undertake challenging missions every day, and to make them successful we recruit bright, adaptable people who truly understand our clients’ issues and pair them with functional specialists to build common sense, tailored solutions. That’s the Ripple Way, and our clients deserve nothing less.

Meet JMU Alumni at Ripple Effect!

Anna Crichton, B.F.A., joined Ripple Effect after a competitive round of recruiting for a Junior Graphic Designer in July 2018. Anna brings 1 year of professional experience in marketing material design. Anna’s JMU (’18) degree in Graphic Design supports corporate communications initiatives.

Autumn Jones, M.S., joined Ripple Effect as a Project Support Coordinator in July of 2018. Autumn brings 3 years of professional experience in data analysis, research, and specialized problem solving to her role in the Scientific Workforce Division. Autumn utilizes her Master of Science in Experimental Psychology from Saint Joseph’s University (’18) and Bachelor of Science in Psychology and minor in Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communications from James Madison University (‘16) to cross-serve various business areas, including Human Resources (Recruiting), Business Development, and client project support.

Melissa Blum, B.S., joined Ripple Effect as a Junior Communications Specialist – Digital Content and Events in January of 2019. Melissa provides digital content support for internal communications and various external clients by utilizing her professional experience in graphic design and social media marketing and her JMU (’17) degree in Media Arts and Design.

Can you describe your student experience and involvement at JMU?

Anna: I had an amazing experience at JMU! I have so many good memories, and Harrisonburg will always hold a special place in my heart. I graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and a minor in Studio Art. I worked on campus as an Outreach Coordinator at the Community Service-Learning office, where I received valuable experience and made some great friends. I learned what it means to be an active citizen, and even went on an Alternative Weekend Break, which was very rewarding. Additionally, I completed a post-graduation study abroad trip to Amsterdam, which is where I was during my second interview with Ripple Effect!

Autumn: I graduated from JMU in 2016 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in WRTC. My four years at James Madison were the best four years of my life. I was an active member of JMU’s Club Equestrian team and an avid volunteer at the local Rockingham-Harrisonburg SPCA. I spent a lot of my academic time either studying in ECL or conducting research in Miller Hall with the psychology department. When I wasn’t focused on my schoolwork, you could usually find me with friends in Shenandoah National Park.

My family was always so far away from me, but JMU was my home away from home. Coming back to campus from holiday breaks never felt like a chore, it was always exciting.

If there is anything I regret from my time as a JMU student, it was that I didn’t get even more involved in on-campus activities. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until after I graduated.

Melissa: I graduated from James Madison University in May of 2017 with my Bachelor of Science in Media Arts and Design (Digital Video and Cinema concentration) and minors in Sport Communication and Anthropology. During my time as a student, I joined the Gamma Phi Beta sorority, participated in the Semester in London study abroad program, and worked with the Athletics Communications office as a volunteer and a practicum student. However, by far my favorite part of college was when I joined the shadow cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show (which is now an official JMU club!) If you ever want to feel 100% confident in yourself by acting out one of the worst movies ever made, JOIN. The people in the cast became my family and I only wish I had known about it sooner than the second semester of senior year.

Can you describe your transition from JMU student to employee?

Anna: The transition from being a student to an employee was a big change, but overall it was a positive experience. My classes prepared me for my job as well as they could, which made the transition easier. The hardest part was adjusting to being in a professional office setting and taking on more responsibilities than I had at previous jobs. At Ripple Effect, my coworkers are very supportive and that helped a lot. I do miss JMU, but not having homework or finals is a huge benefit of post-grad life!

Autumn: Once I graduated from JMU, I immediately went to graduate school to pursue a Master’s degree in experimental psychology. It was at that point in my life that I realized science was my passion and I wanted to explore all possible angles and approaches to it. Upon graduating from my Master’s program, I spent some time thinking about what was right for me and deciding the path I wanted to take.

I lived with my parents for a few months after graduating and worked part-time to save up some money for myself as I actively picked up the job hunt. It was a frustrating experience at first. I interviewed with some great companies, but nothing felt like the proper fit for me. I really felt the pressure to get a job after school and it was a slow and exhausting process. After a few months of searching I had my first interview with Ripple Effect and for the first time since starting my job hunt, the interview felt like a conversation rather than being grilled with questions. Ripple’s interview process was so streamlined, I interviewed one day and 2 weeks later was given an offer. It was an amazing experience. Joining the Ripple team felt so easy!

Melissa: The transition from JMU student to working professional was a relatively easy one, because I had already done practicums and worked in professional environments as a part of my education. Additionally, the curriculum in my academic programs taught me the technology and skills that someone in my field would need to know to be successful. While every job has a learning curve, I already had a solid foundation to build upon.

How did you find out about your company?

Anna: I found out about Ripple Effect through a job posting on Indeed. I had been applying to lots of positions, but when I saw Ripple Effect’s job description, I knew it would be a good fit.

Autumn: Given that I spent my undergrad and graduate years conducting bench research, I wanted to see what other aspects of the field I could explore and what other knowledge there was to gain. I began exploring opportunities outside of academic research and found it to be filled with various industries, such as consulting. I found Ripple Effect through Indeed.com and I was instantly intrigued when I saw that some of the work Ripple Effect did was with major institutes like the NIH and the Army. After some internet searches and exploring the website, I knew I had to apply. It wasn’t long after inquiring about opportunities with Ripple, that I was given the chance to experience the science that I love from the administrative side of the field. I now currently support various government projects from an overhead perspective as part of Ripple Effect’s Scientific Workforce division.

Melissa: I was on the job hunt and came across a posting for the Junior Communications Specialist position on Indeed.com. To be completely honest, I am a sucker for a good company name. So, with a name like Ripple Effect, I was automatically intrigued.

What about your company or company culture made you want to work there?

Anna: I really appreciated Ripple Effect’s focus on lifelong learning and work-life balance. Everyone I encountered throughout the hiring process was very helpful, and I got the impression that Ripple genuinely values their employees. I was also impressed by the quality of work in their portfolio, and the important clients they have worked with. I’ve always wanted to use design to make a difference in the world, so I liked that a lot of Ripple Effect’s work deals with important issues, such as improving healthcare or educating people about participating in research so that they can make an informed decision.

Autumn: Being a Rippler has introduced me to innovative ways of thinking and being creative and adaptive in all aspects of my work. I was told that Ripple is very technology-forward, and I was ecstatic to have the majority of my work be virtually paperless—everything I need is always right in front of me! Lastly, the people at Ripple make the culture what it is. There is constant communication among peers, so things are done very efficiently. The people at Ripple come from similar backgrounds so it is very refreshing to still be able to talk about the science that I love with others who appreciate it just as much!

Melissa: One of the many things that stood out to me about Ripple Effect was that they treated me with respect even before I was hired. After going through the interviewing process with many other employers, I expected a similar process: the hiring manager would wait a few days to reply to an e-mail I sent over just because they could and would make me jump through many (and sometimes pointless) hoops to prove my worth and value. Surprisingly, as soon as I had my first phone interview with my now coworker Debbie McCarron, I walked away thinking, “I feel like I just talked to a friend I’ve known for years.” Debbie was genuinely interested in my educational and work experiences and never made me feel like she was going through a list of predetermined questions just to check a box. A few hours after my interview, I got an e-mail from Ripple telling me that they wanted to move me to the next round of the hiring process. Every step I took through this process was meaningful and made sense for the job, unlike other experiences where I felt like I was immediately set up to fail. The last step in the hiring process was an in-person interview with four members of Ripple’s Communications and Outreach team. After the interview, I remember thinking how much I wanted them to hire me, so I could be a part of such a great team. I drove home afterwards and as soon as I walked through my door (approximately 20 minutes time), I got the call from the team saying they wanted to hire me. I had never been so happy.   

What has been your biggest accomplishment and challenge so far into your career?

Anna: My biggest accomplishment has been creating two educational videos for the HHS Office for Human Research Protections. It was a challenge because there was a lot of information that needed to be communicated in a way that was easy to understand and that was visually engaging. I was also using a program that I had minor experience with from my time at JMU, but I still had to learn a lot to achieve the level of quality that we were aiming for. Both videos were big projects that took a lot of time and effort, but the client was very happy with the end results, and I grew a lot as a designer.

Autumn: My biggest accomplishment so far has been my ability to successfully straddle business areas. My primary role is with the scientific workforce division, but I have also stepped in to help with recruitment, evaluation and data analysis, copyediting and other various roles. My biggest accomplishment has also been my biggest challenge. I am constantly pushing myself out of my comfort zone when I meet with new people or tackle something outside my area of expertise. At Ripple, I am surrounded by the most supportive team. They are constantly reminding me that it’s ok to make mistakes and help me to learn from them.

Melissa: I think my biggest accomplishment has been overcoming the fear of entering the next step in my life. Since I was a four-year-old, I knew what I would do for the foreseeable future. I was going to graduate elementary school, next middle school, next high school, and then college. But after that, it was all up to me to decide what was next. After graduating from JMU, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I was going to make a mistake that I would have to live with until I retired. Thankfully, the decision to work at Ripple Effect has been a great one and that fear has subsided. As for challenges, I’m still starting out as a working professional, so I can only imagine what I will face as I move through my career. The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far at Ripple is learning specific government terms and acronyms. My first day, it was like someone was speaking a foreign language to me. Good thing Ripple encourages us to be lifelong learners, because I’m definitely still learning!

What is something JMU students might not know about your company from looking at your website?

Anna: What you don’t see on our website is what a great community we have. People here are friendly, supportive, and genuinely want you to be successful and grow in your career. Plus, our trivia nights are great!

Autumn: Our website is really fun and interactive, and some people might not realize how accurately it reflects our company culture and the people who work there!

Melissa: You would never know how many incredible, inspiring people work here! I am surrounded by PhD level scientists and seasoned professionals who treat me like I’m a part of their family. You also wouldn’t know that, at least once a week, there are treats in the kitchen for everyone to enjoy. That’s probably my favorite part of going into the office.

What is your best advice to JMU students conducting a job search?

Anna: My advice would be to apply for lots of jobs and be open minded about any opportunities that present themselves. You never know when the right job will come your way. Also, if you have the opportunity to get feedback on your resume or portfolio, you should definitely take it.  The way you present yourself can really make you stand out to employers.

Autumn: If it doesn’t feel like your dream job is out there or if you have your doubts, just stay strong and everything will fall into place. I have definitely felt the pressure to find a job right out of school but be patient. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask for criticism. The best advice I could give during the interview process is to always send your follow-up emails! As my mom always says: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease!”

Melissa: I think my biggest piece of advice would be to step outside of the box you’ve set for yourself about what your career should look like. Upon graduation, I was set on working in sports as a video editor and I couldn’t see any other path. Even though I did accomplish this for a short time, it didn’t make me feel as happy and fulfilled as I thought it would. I wish I would’ve known that stepping out of my creation of this idealized world would’ve given me so many more options for what was truly important to me, which is how my job made me feel. Everyday at Ripple, I feel like I did something meaningful and that my coworkers are grateful that I’m a part of the team. I couldn’t say that before at my “dream job.”

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