Student Spotlight: “In Every Corner of Your Community”

“I’m like the poster child for taking advantage of the Career Center,” jokes Sam Ressin, a spring 2020 Pitt graduate. Ressin, who studied economics and statistics, had used the Career Center’s resources as early as freshman year, attending career fairs and workshops. However, it wasn’t until he’d almost reached graduation during his senior year that he began working with career consultant Carol Balk.

With Balk, Ressin updated his resumé and cover letter, and sought out advice from the consultant. Balk encouraged him to market himself more effectively by including a short bullet point list at the top of his resumé highlighting his key strengths and skills.

“I thought so many positions would be unavailable to me as a recent graduate, but I was surprisingly wrong about that,” Ressin says. “Carol’s advice about branding myself is honestly why I think I was able to be so successful with my job applications.”

Ressin graduated in 2020, right in the middle of the Covid pandemic. He had secured a Boren Scholarship to study Portuguese in Brazil, but that program was adapted to be Covid-friendly and Ressin wasn’t allowed to travel to Brazil anymore. 

“At the time, I was really sad but the path I’m on now is better than the path I would’ve been on,” Ressin explains.

Aside from crafting competitive applications with Balk, Ressin also attended a webinar hosted by the Career Center where Pitt alumna Melanie Feldman gave a presentation about bold networking. Feldman suggested having a strong presence on LinkedIn and not being afraid to send someone a message on the platform if they work at a company you’re interested in.

“I didn’t fully get what she was saying until about a year after that presentation,” Ressin notes. “I thought I didn’t need to do all that, but she was right. The people you message on LinkedIn often respond and want to have a conversation. People think it’s cheesy to network that way, but you’re closing so many doors if you don’t.”

Heeding Feldman’s advice, Ressin applied for his role at his current job and messaged a recent graduate on LinkedIn that worked at the same organization. 

“I really do think that helped me get noticed and secure an interview with the organization,” Ressin asserts. “In the interview, I thought of what Carol and I had talked about, and I showcased my strengths and what I’d bring to the organization.”

Ressin works at Advanced Energy Economy, a trade association based in Washington, D.C., as a policy associate. The organization works to ensure that the rules and regulations that govern the electricity economy are fair to clean energy technologies that don’t have the same market influence that other, traditional generators, like fossil fuels, have. The organization’s goal is to help spur the transition to 100% clean energy.

Ressin first gained his passion for energy advocacy when he served as an Elsie Hillman Honors Scholar during his undergraduate career. During the scholarship, Ressin interned at the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, an organization that advocates for reducing fossil fuel emissions. Ressin read and summarized documents to present to stakeholders, and even got to attend a hearing at the state legislature in Harrisburg.

“I was working closely with those documents and those issues, and it really just inspired my passion for environmental justice.”

Ressin also appreciated the message of the Elsie Hillman Forum, and has used it as a mantra to guide him during his post-graduate career.

“We were taught at the forum that you are needed in every corner of your community, no matter how small it is,” Ressin recalls. “That’s like my guiding post now. I want to be a contributing member of my community, wherever that may be.”

With that in mind, Ressin has a broad definition of success. 

“Success doesn’t have to be exclusively professional, it’s just when you’re doing something that you feel matters,” Ressin says. “If you want to raise a family and you’re not working anymore, that can be success, too. It’s different for every person, and you have to be careful to not define success as what somebody else wants for you, but rather as what you want for yourself.”

Now, two years after his graduation from Pitt, Ressin has figured out what it is that he wants for himself.

“I want to be part of the effort to transition the country to 100% renewable energy. It gives me motivation to do the work I’m doing, and it’s something that I think matters a great deal. I intend to be engaging with these issues for a long time because I want a more equitable, just, and compassionate world.”

By Dionna Dash
Dionna Dash Nordenberg Scholar