How a visit to the career fair launched a psychology alumna’s career at the FBI

Author: Carrie Gates

Fall Career ExpoMore than 500 employers make regular recruiting visits to Notre Dame every year, including at the Fall Career Expo, where a recent psychology major landed a job with the FBI.

Erin walked into the fall career fair her senior year — and walked away with a job at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

She visited the FBI’s booth, secured an interview for the next day, and was promptly offered an entry-level position.

“My job hunt was very easy because of that one choice,” she said. “I just went to the career fair, and that was it — that was how it all started.”

The FBI regularly visits campus to recruit — and has found a great return on their investment, said Anita Rees, an assistant director at the Mureulo Family Center for Career Development. The government agency has been one of the top employers of Arts and Letters graduates over the past several years.

“Our students are smart, analytical, and more so, committed to citizenry — making a difference for the people of the United States,” Rees said. “I’m not surprised that the FBI makes it a priority to recruit at Notre Dame. They get students who are ethical, thoughtful, and work well with others — particularly when that teamwork might save lives.” 

Erin, whose last name and graduation year have been withheld to protect her identity, majored in psychology and minored in poverty studies at Notre Dame — a combination that she said made her a better person and equipped her for success, no matter what path she chose.

“Being better able to understand people is always valuable — you work with people in everything you do,” she said. “And the combination of psychology and poverty studies just made me a more open-minded and compassionate person.”

Now an analyst, Erin has connected to a network of Notre Dame alumni at the FBI — and said graduates from every major are valuable to the bureau.

“We serve the American public, which is very diverse,” she said. “So, in order to adequately protect and serve them, we need to reflect that population.”

“Being better able to understand people is always valuable — you work with people in everything you do. And the combination of psychology and poverty studies just made me a more open-minded and compassionate person.”

Study what you love

When Erin came to Notre Dame as a transfer student in her sophomore year, she was not sure what she would study. But she distinctly remembers the advice she and her fellow students were given at orientation.  

John McGreevy, who at the time was dean of the College and is now the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, told them to choose a major not based on how it might appeal to potential employers, but to study what they love.

For Erin, that meant that when she discovered a passion for psychology in her first semester, she never looked back.

“I loved learning about the mind — the neurological and emotional parts of it — so, right after that first class, I declared my major,” she said. “It was a really easy decision. I wasn’t worried about getting a job. I just wanted to study what I loved, and it all worked out.”

Overall, she said her Arts and Letters education gave her a passion for knowledge that still serves her well today.

“I’ve learned in life and in work so far that it’s not about being the smartest person in the room. It’s more important to be the person who is easy to teach and willing to learn,” Erin said. “And that was the most beneficial lesson I learned from Arts and Letters — it instilled in me a desire to learn about a variety of disciplines and to enjoy each and every one of them.”

“I’ve learned in life and in work so far that it’s not about being the smartest person in the room. It’s more important to be the person who is easy to teach and willing to learn. And that was the most beneficial lesson I learned from Arts and Letters — it instilled in me a desire to learn about a variety of disciplines and to enjoy each and every one of them.”

Serve and protect

Now, Erin has advice of her own for Arts and Letters undergraduates — to take advantage of the many opportunities available to them, from office hours with faculty to research and internship opportunities.

As an undergraduate, she worked in the eMotion and eCognition research lab with Mitch Kajzer, a graduate student in psychology at the time and now a faculty member in the Idzik Computing and Digital Technologies Program and director of the St. Joseph County Cyber Crimes Unit.

In the lab, Erin had her first experience working with law enforcement, reviewing and coding online conversations between undercover police officers and potential criminals.

She studied abroad in Dublin in the spring of her junior year and stayed through the summer to complete an internship with the U.S. State Department at the American embassy there.

Erin also took part in a number of community-based learning courses and service opportunities through the Center for Social Concerns, including seminars in Appalachia and at the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as serving in the South Bend community.

All of these experiences were invaluable in helping Erin to discern her career path after graduation.

“My experiences in government and law enforcement helped me realize what I wanted to do — and gave me experience that made me a better candidate for employers,” she said. “And my poverty studies minor afforded me opportunities for outreach across the United States, which helped inspire my career choice to serve and protect the country.”

Drive and dedication

As an analyst at the FBI, Erin works with a squad of special agents who investigate international counterterrorism threats and provides intelligence that directly progresses investigations.

She relies on the specific skills she honed in Arts and Letters — like research, critical thinking, analysis, and communication — every day, she said.

“That’s my job in a nutshell,” Erin said. “I research and analyze information and then I have to communicate it effectively in both written products and briefings.”

Erin was promoted to her current position after only a year and a half. She credits the work ethic she developed on campus for her success.

“I was just so driven, and that was directly related to my time at Notre Dame and the dedication and commitment to learning I gained,” she said. “It taught me to be a hard worker and that has proven helpful in all aspects of my life.”

When Erin was offered the promotion, she was excited to discover that it was a fellow Notre Dame alumna at the bureau calling with the news.

“It’s amazing how Notre Dame stays with you after graduation and into your career,” she said. “It’s how I got my job. It’s how I’ve made my friends. The best part of my life is Notre Dame.”

“It’s amazing how Notre Dame stays with you after graduation and into your career. It’s how I got my job. It’s how I’ve made my friends. The best part of my life is Notre Dame.”

Originally published by Carrie Gates at al.nd.edu on December 04, 2019.