W&J alums take big risks by moving to big cities

September 2, 2013
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Lindsey Coffey
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Sharon Shi
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Evan Zampatti

Evan Zampatti, a recent Washington & Jefferson College graduate, took his first gamble in Las Vegas by moving there before he was officially offered a job. He was unsure where he would work, or if he would be hired within his field of accounting and economics, but he said taking that risk is “definitely paying off” now.

“I never wanted to stay in Pittsburgh and, five to 10 years from now, say, ‘I should have went,’” Zampatti said.

Some local graduates like Zampatti, 22, originally of Jefferson Hills, have found success by picking up and moving to big cities to find opportunities that may not exist in Pittsburgh. For some graduates, that means taking an unpaid internship to gain experience, accepting a job in a different field or moving to a new city without knowing anyone who lives there.

For Zampatti, it meant moving to Las Vegas three days after graduating in May, at a time when he was still navigating the interview process with chemical solutions company Ecolab Inc., which ultimately offered him a position as territory manager.

Zampatti flew out to Vegas during his college winter break to search for job openings, which is when he landed his first interview with Ecolab. His responsibilities include managing resorts, hotels, casinos and other industries that simply are not as robust in Pittsburgh, he said.

While accepting the position meant straying from his field, Zampatti has no regrets. He said it was helpful that his two brothers, also W&J alumni, were already living in Vegas.

Roberta Cross, director of career services at W&J College, said “the fascination of the big city” attracts many new graduates, but it helps if they network or connect with alumni in the city where they are relocating.

Sharon Shi, a 2009 W&J graduate in business administration, did not know anyone when she moved to Chicago two months after graduating. While others might find this nervewracking, she was accustomed to new beginnings because she previously interned in Los Angeles and studied abroad in Shanghai and Dublin.

Shi moved once she accepted a job with Starcom, a global media agency, and worked in different positions before accepting her current title as media supervisor. Now, she is hoping to transfer to Australia through her company and start all over again.

Shi said that while she could not have anticipated which direction her career would take after graduating, she always liked the idea of moving to a big city and working for a major brand on a high floor with a view.

Despite her small-town roots – “a really small town, 3,000 people, smaller than Washington” – she is happy living in Chicago because “there’s so many opportunities and you’re never bored.”

Lindsey Coffey, 21, originally of Centerville, also set her sights on big city lights at a young age. Coffey is still a political science student at W&J, but she decided to take a risk and move to New York City in January to pursue modeling.

“Modeling is a very unstable career,” she said. “You don’t know when your job is. You don’t know if you’ll even have a job.”

Coffey signed with a modeling agency and continued her studies at another university in the city. She plans to transfer credits, return to Washington for a few months to finish her degree and eventually attend law school.

While splitting time between casting calls and classes can be tiring, she said her status as a student provided some stability while moving to the city because she could live in a dormitory and “test the waters” before committing to an apartment.

Coffey has modeled for retailer Gypsy Warrior, Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, Cosmopolitan and Gallant Fashion, to name a few.

For others who hope to move to the Big Apple, Coffey advises them to have something to fall back on, like school or a side job, but most of all, to follow their dreams.

“It’s really hard to get on your feet, but once you do live here, I feel like it’s so worth it, knowing that you made it,” Coffey said, “Even if it’s not the hundredth floor of a Central Park building, still, you know you made it.”

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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