As a career coach, I find nothing more rewarding than hearing back from alumni who have embarked on a career journey they love. I was absolutely delighted to receive an email from Vivian Pan, MS Marketing 2017, with the exciting news she had to share. I was very curious to hear what had actually helped her get to where she is. Vivian was so kind to spend over an hour on the phone with me. She has graciously allowed me to share our conversation with you and hopes that it helps you succeed.
When did you graduate and what do you do now?
I graduated in August 2017 and am currently working at Wunderman D.C. as an Associate Strategist. Wunderman is a member of one of the world’s largest communication groups, WPP, specializing in digital marketing consulting and advertising. Three of Wunderman’s major clients are Microsoft, Amazon, and Pfizer. Wunderman D.C. is also known as Wunderman Health and mainly serves health care companies, such as Pfizer and Merck. The role of a strategist focuses on optimizing brand-to-customer relationships through market research, consumer insights, channel planning, and CRM.
How long did it take you to get this job?
It took me 3 months in total to get this job. I went through two informational interviews with a contact within the company to learn more about the company and position. After my referral passed on my resume, I went through 1 phone interview with the HR director, 3 rounds of office interviews, 1 phone interview with the department director, references check, and then one 48-hour marketing project assignment that finally led to the offer.
What were the biggest lessons you learned through the job search process?
Below I’ve listed lessons learned through this job search.
- Many jobs you could get don’t even exist on the market!
- Mary thought I was suitable for a strategist role; however, there was no opening for a strategist the first time I talked to her. Later, she found that an Associate Strategist had just left the company, and she immediately passed my resume to the HR director. I kept pushing for this position and eventually got the company to allocate the budget for it; in other words, Mary and I “created” this job for me and it was never published on their website.
- Networking works and it is broader than what you think:
- It’s very likely to find a job opportunity when you didn’t mean to.
- The friends you made in school could also be helpful for your work.
- Do homework on salary from the very beginning:
- I almost ruined this opportunity by stating a salary that was too high, because the question came during the very first interview and I wasn’t prepared.
- Follow-up and never give up:
- If you don’t hear back from HR for a while, follow up with him/her. You might need even 2 or 3 follow-ups. You shouldn’t give up until you know for sure they are not interested. I got my in-person interview after my third follow-up when I had almost given up.
- Ask for clarification if you are unsure about something important:
- I was invited to the office interview without knowing for which position, as my interview with HR was pretty general. I was glad I asked for clarification and knew I would be interviewing for the Associate Strategist position. Then I was able to fully prepare.
- Research job titles on LinkedIn:
- Search for your target job titles to find people with those job titles on LinkedIn, see how they describe their jobs and if there are any skills, responsibilities, and deliverables you can leverage or improve. For example, from the search I noticed many people mentioned consumer journey map and persona developing, so I re-worked what I had and brought them to the in-office interview, and it worked out really well. I was able to navigate the interview focusing on things I was prepared to talk about.
- Research interviewers on various platforms, not just LinkedIn:
- I researched the department director not only on LinkedIn, but also on Twitter, to see if there’s any value or interest we have in common that I could leverage in the interview. I was able to catch and utilize one important and valuable point to use in the interview.
- Impress the employer with your assignment:
- Do your best to make your assignment as thoughtful, comprehensive, and neat as possible. This means making the best of the time given, interviewing subject or industry experts if needed, conducting research as thoroughly as you can; making references in APA format neatly. My employer was impressed with my assignment, which helped them make the final decision of hiring me. This part of recruiting is the one you have almost 100% control over, so make the best use of it to show your strengths.
How have all the relationships you built helped you?
I had two internships with another two WPP companies before, but I got to know Wunderman through my fiancé’s colleague’s fiancé, Mary—sounds funny, right? That’s how life surprises you when you step out your own comfort zone and try to connect to the rest of the world. I didn’t get to know Mary with a purpose of finding a job—I just got to know her by casually chatting with my fiancé’s colleague. Later on she played a critical role in helping me get my current job—shared my resume for two different roles and helped me understand the company and the role.
My good friends in the MS Health Care and MBA/Public Health dual degree programs offered me health care industry information that was helpful for my 48-hour assignments. Go out and make friends from other programs.
I have three references in general and two of them are Carey professors. One is my supervisor for a TA job, another serves as an instructor. Both of them were impressed by my work or class performance, and spoke highly of me when the company checked with them. It’s also important to impress your professors by participating in class and maintaining good relationships with them.
How did you utilize the Career Development Office?
The Personality and Effective Networking coaching group with you really helped me identify my personality features and explored how my strengths could be leveraged and weaknesses be avoided in professional communication.
I had multiple mock interviews with CDO; the instruction and the mock interviews themselves helped a lot for all my interviews—even small details matter.
Resources on Carey Compass were very helpful for me to prepare for my interviews throughout the year and I noticed myself doing better over time.
The Achieving Career Excellence (formally Career Jumpstarts) series really helped as well.
What general advice do you have for other students?
Build your social network by genuinely making friends. Many times I found job opportunities from people who I met in non-job related circumstances. Be smart and resourceful in job searching and preparation. There are a lot of resources that can be utilized to help with job searching and interviews. Definitely make good use of CDO—make appointments, explore resources, attend workshop sessions; I cannot emphasize how helpful they are. Last but not least, follow-ups are really important; don’t give up too soon. Your persistence might not help in many cases, but when it does, you get the 1 out of the 1.
Actively participate in various case competitions—it helps shape the way you think and work with teammates from other programs or schools, and you get the chance to offer business solutions to real business problems. Most importantly, if you win top 3, it looks very good on the resume. The case competition I won at Duke University helped me in my interview, which landed me this job.
If current students are interested in connecting with you, what’s the best way to do that?
They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.