Student Spotlight: “There’s No Benchmark”

In the fall of 2020, Kaitlyn Nuebel was seriously worried about her future. The nonfiction writing and communications double-major feared she would never be able to secure a full-time job, even though she was still two years shy of her graduation at that point.

Nuebel, who recently graduated in spring 2022, claims she had no idea what she was planning to do with her degrees as a sophomore.

“My professors told me I could go to grad school or teach or do other things, but none of that really interested me,” Nuebel explains. “I figured if I wanted to have some sort of job where I was actually writing, I needed to have some internships first.”

Nuebel sought out help at the Career Center, meeting career consultant Erin Wheeler, who initially reviewed her resumé, and then quickly became a major support person in Nuebel’s network.

“I’m really bad at time management, and it was February and I still didn’t have an internship for the summer or a polished resumé, so I went to Erin with a resumé I’d written the night before,” Nuebel says. “I’ve come to Erin with a lot of crises during my whole college experience. I’ve often been overwhelmed with internships and classes and not sure of what to do, and she’s always been my lifeline. I would email her and she would give me actionable things to do.”

Looking to expand her writing portfolio, Nuebel joined the Pitt News staff. From there, she was able to secure an internship with Pittsburgh Magazine, writing local news and features stories.

“Having that internship made me feel like I had one foot in school and one foot in the real world,” Nuebel describes. “That helped make the transition from college to my full-time job feel less jumpy, and more like a glide.”

Despite that ultimate smoothness, Nuebel struggled for a while to find full-time employment her second semester of senior year. She was still unsure of what she wanted to do for a career and she was dealing with mental health complications.

“I didn’t find out I had ADHD until my junior year of college,” Nuebel notes. “It’s often not diagnosed in women until much later. The ironic thing is I’ve always wanted to be a writer but sitting down and reading a book is so hard for me. I was in Pitt Band but I had to quit because I wasn’t getting any of my work done. I feel like a lot of my college experience was fighting sort of an uphill battle.”

Shortly after, Nuebel was also diagnosed with anxiety. At one point, she was worried she wouldn’t be able to graduate with all of her missing assignments.

“I was so afraid I was going to fail my classes,” Nuebel recounts. “I talked to all my professors and had to take two of my classes for an ‘incomplete’ grade so that I got to do the work after it was due. I finished my work for college the Monday after graduation. During the ceremony, I was writing a final essay in the notes app on my phone.”

In early February, before graduation, Nuebel had reached her lowest point.

“I was spiraling and having a panic attack and freaking out about not getting a job,” she says. “I remember thinking that I was going to be waiting tables for ten years in the future.”

Two days later, Nuebel received an email from the president of the Brother’s Brother Foundation telling her he’d seen her profile on Handshake and thought she’d be a good fit for a full-time position writing stories about the impact of the foundation’s work. Brother’s Brother is a Pittsburgh-based non-profit organization focused on international relief services. They send medical supplies to countries in need and offer grants for health care, infrastructure, and disaster relief.

Nuebel set up a Zoom meeting to interview with the foundation’s president, who offered her the role on the spot. A couple weeks later, she went into their office to meet her new coworkers.

“The type of work I do is not super deadline-driven, so it’s perfect for me,” Nuebel explains. “It’s been so great. I love the people there.”

Nuebel says her coworkers have been particularly welcoming towards her.

“I identify as gay, and I’m lucky because the people I work with are super open-minded,” she notes. “I’ve never felt singled out. I feel like a lot of my college experience has been figuring out how to be my authentic self, and it’s really nice to be accepted for who I genuinely am.”

Despite all of Nuebel’s accomplishments, she still has trouble considering herself successful.

“I graduated and I have a nice studio apartment with a nice little view of the city and I have a cool job and I like to walk to work, which is super convenient. But I fall asleep on my couch in the middle of doing freelance assignments and I have a bunch of dishes in my sink that I haven’t done. I guess I just think that there’s no benchmark for success; you can’t compare yourself to other people.”

By Dionna Dash
Dionna Dash Nordenberg Scholar