Christopher Martinez can confidently say that UW Tacoma was the right choice for him. “I made some lifelong friendships and met mentors that I still keep in touch with today,” he says. “My time at UW Tacoma had a huge impact on my career and education.” And his career and education are going far — currently, Christopher is in his third year at the University of Washington School of Law, and works in California with the Department of Justice’s Civil Division doing employment and labor litigation.
As a Politics, Philosophy, and Economics major with a minor in Human Rights, Christopher secured an internship through the Washington State Legislative Internship program at UW Tacoma, and he credits that experience with his subsequent job at the Attorney General’s Office. These experiences cemented his desire to go to law school. Of course, they honed his professional skills, too. Developing skills like public speaking and professional networking was hard, but Christopher believes in persistence. Of networking, he says, “It’s always going to be weird going up to people you don’t know to (1) ask about their lives, and (2) ask them for advice about yours. That being said, practice makes perfect and I would suggest that everyone go out and try to make connections with professors, potential employers, peers, and anyone else they might want to meet. These connections are so important for being successful, and who knows, you might make a few lasting friendships.”
But what about during your time as an undergraduate? That’s the perfect time to start practicing! “Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone,” he says. “Challenge yourself and throw yourself into situations that you aren’t familiar with. It will make you a better student and help you grow as a person.”
A big part of this will be cultivating your relationships with faculty. Christopher says he “can’t speak highly enough” of SIAS faculty Dr. Sarah Hampson (PPPA Division), Dr. Stephen Ross (SBHS Division), and Dr. Nicole Blair (CAC Division). For students wondering how to build good relationships with their professors, he says, “I’d simply recommend finding the professors that you connect with and sticking with them, because they might be the people you turn to years after graduation when you have questions or need life advice.”
Translating this to the working world can be tricky, of course. Christopher emphasizes the importance of finding professional mentors, but he admits, “It’s always awkward.” The good news? “Everyone wants to help you succeed. If there’s one thing I’ve discovered it’s that people LOVE to help students in any way that they can. If you’re interested in a job or continuing your education, don’t be afraid to do some research, make a list of people you’d like to talk to (and ask questions to), and then reach out to them! It generally ends with free coffee, a great chance for you to practice your networking, and if it doesn’t work out don’t let that stop you from trying again.”
Of course sticking your neck out can be scary. Whether it’s in school or work, the temptation to second-guess yourself is often hard to avoid. For this, Christopher shared his favorite piece of advice – a great note to end on: “A quote that has always stuck with me is, ‘I am not judged by the number of times I fail, but by the number of times I succeed; and the number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I can fail and keep on trying.’ So challenge yourself, don’t be afraid of failing, and most importantly, never stop trying.”