Marissa Viramontes '15

photo of marissa viramontesProject Coordinator/Senior Research Assistant, Oregon Health & Sciences University

Major: Psychology

As a student, I participated in research activities with my professors, which gave me the skills to land my first job. I felt supported by my professors, who were always willing to lend me advice or connect me with colleagues. We still keep in touch, and many of them have written me letters of recommendations. I also relied on the Career Center several times following graduation to help me spruce up my application materials. Having a mock interview with Max was one of the most helpful things I ever did to prepare for an interview!

My first job was as a Research Assistant at OHSU, which came about after volunteering for the lab during my senior year of college. I highly recommend volunteering to get your foot in the door at any company. After that first job at OHSU, I tried my hand as a Human Resources Coordinator before landing back in research with the Department of Psychiatry.

From my role in Human Resources, I learned that the details really do matter. Thoroughly reviewing your resume and cover letter before submitting, tailoring materials to the job, researching the company/role, sending a thank-you note following an interview…it all makes a difference. Recruiters notice when you go above and beyond—it sets you apart from other candidates!

Currently, I am the Project Coordinator (Research Assistant) for a research lab that studies adolescent brain development. I find this job meaningful because I contribute to important research that helps us understand the developing brain better!  I will be starting the Masters of Social Work program at PSU in Fall 2020 and am looking forward to making a meaningful career by serving my community.

For me, the most intimidating part of planning for life after graduation was the collision of the THE PRESSURE and THE PLAN: the pressure of achieving in career and lifestyle, and how the plan you have doesn’t always work out the way you think.

The plan I had after graduation was to take a gap year to gain research experience before applying to PhD programs. Well, one gap year turned into 3, and in my 4th gap year, I applied to PhD programs and didn’t get in. Time went by extremely fast and I realized that my priorities had started to shift. I married my high school sweetheart and we bought a house in the area, deciding to stay in Portland long-term. This took PhD programs off the table, since it’s important to spread the net far and wide in terms of applying to schools. I decided that a Master’s program would be better suited, not only because it was a shorter program, but because it would allow me to have work-life balance later in my career. Before applying to a Master’s program, I also considered not going to graduate school at all and working in the administrative world. From this experience, I learned that evaluating shifting priorities and taking a deep look into the why behind your goals is what’s most important.

The why is where the pressure comes in. Be it societal pressure, familial pressure, or self-inflicted pressure, most people feel the weight of the “shoulds” on their shoulders. “I should be a _____…I should get married…I should start a family…” Although it’s not easy, I’ve learned to let go of the goals that don’t fit in well with what I truly want in my heart. The side of me that loves to plan has learned to be more resilient and comfortable with adjusting life goals based on what’s best for me at the time.