It was fall semester of my senior year at NYU Stern in 2012 and I vividly remember being surrounded by my peers as they were freaking out about getting a job.
The culture was that most students secured an offer after their junior year summer internship. Unlike my peers, I knew my summer internship at a national architectural & engineering firm was not where I saw myself beginning my life after school.
After interning at NBCUniversal in Affiliate Marketing & Client Services division the previous fall semester, I knew I was more interested in a marketing role that would allow me to be a part of the process from start to finish vs. being handed a product to then develop the marketing for…which brought me to brand marketing.
I made a list of 10 companies that I was most interested in. Then after doing my research and reaching out to alumni and MBA students who had experience at those companies — I narrowed that down to one company, Unilever.
After doing my research, I was 100% clear…this is where I wanted to work. The only catch was at the time they were not recruiting undergrads at NYU. I didn’t care. With my intuition being the guiding force, I developed and executed a plan that landed me with an offer from the company.
- Be resourceful. I checked surrounding NYC schools’ career development calendars to see if they’d be there (at the time I couldn’t find this info on their website). Jackpot. I found that they’d be at Columbia University. No I didn’t show up — that would appear too overzealous and potentially get me kicked off their campus. Instead, I found the e-mail address for the university recruiter. I e-mailed her and got the expected response “sorry, we don’t recruit at NYU.” That didn’t deter me as I now had useful info: Unilever’s e-mail format.
- Get creative. I then went to LinkedIn and started making as many connections as possible to anyone related to the company. Once I did that, I started delving through their second-degree connections. I now had a powerful combination: a list of names + e-mail format. I knew these connections probably received tens of LinkedIn messages a day so I wanted to show my eagerness by being a step ahead of the game by popping in their work inbox.
- Be persistent. I then sent around 50 e-mails to people at the company explaining that though I knew they didn’t recruit at the school, I still wanted to work there and pointed out the reasons why I’d be a good fit.
- Ignore anything outside of your vision. All it takes is one person to say yes. Believe that the impossible is the most opportune time to exercise creativity. I remember out of all the people I e-mailed, I got responses from three people saying they forwarded my resume to HR, which led to another university recruiter reaching out to me and setting up the 1st interview. Who knows how many just forwarded it and didn't respond back to me? Despite what anyone else thinks is possible, know what can be possible for you.
- Prepare for the moment. I think it’s important to note that by the time I e-mailed my resume and creative cover letter, I had been through several mock interviews and resume review sessions with CPG professionals. I reached out to my teaching fellows who were MBA students that interned at the company and visited the career center to get contacts from the alumni book. My goal with doing so many mock interviews was to gain 10% incremental knowledge through each person. Though 90% of advice shared was what I heard in a previous session, I’d always gain a nugget of info I’d never heard before to apply to the hiring process. For example, one former intern told me that the company uses 6 P’s of marketing instead of 4. I applied this info to the group case study portion of the interview and was able to showcase my in-depth research of the company.
- Visualize it. Weeks before the interview, I envisioned what I thought it would feel/look like to work for the company. I would write my company e-mail address with my name over and over again. I thought about projects I’d love to work on and concepts that I planned to pitch once in the doors.
- Notice when it comes full circle. I realized how my vision had turned into reality months after working there. It was peak recruiting season and I accompanied the university recruiter that initially told me that they were not recruiting from the school back to NYU’s campus, as they decided to make it a core recruiting school. Sometimes what you feel called to do is much bigger than you. You plant seeds for those who come after.
- It all comes together. The lessons I learned from that experience taught me how to create a life I love to live while staring in the face of impossibility. Though I’m now an entrepreneur visiting campuses sharing these tactics with students and pitching my 2nd business developing innovative strategies to attract, engage and retain millennial talent to companies, my experience at Unilever gave me a career boost and knowledge to pursue these endeavors. I’m ever grateful for the journey.
If you’re a college student and reading this and a bit stressed about what life looks like after graduation, don’t worry… everything is coming together. Get clear on what it is you see your life shaping to be, form a plan of action, and don’t forget to ask for help! Cheers on this journey — you have the ability to make it remarkable!