It is your first day of college. You don your best first day of school outfit, eat a hearty breakfast…and go to sit at the desk in your childhood bedroom. It is Fall 2020. A virus has wreaked havoc on the world, and instead of running around a campus of close to 30,000 students, here you are, surrounded by the past, aching to run towards the new.
My first semester at UMass Amherst, as well as many of yours, looked very similar to the above situation. After hours of virtual classes, we headed to online extracurriculars, resulting in strained eyes, minds, and an abounding sense of loneliness in this socially distanced world. Every day felt eerily similar, a blur of screen time and sweatpants, the same bowl of cereal accompanying each repetitive morning. My sister, a recent graduate of UMass Amherst and a medical student at UMass Medical School, reminded me that this was not an accurate representation of her alma mater. Soon, I would experience the hum of college life, join the breakfast line at Roots, and my Zoom room would be transformed into a classroom. Soon.
The benefit of having two older sisters, apart from access to their closets, is that they collect wisdoms like pennies. As the youngest, I have gathered these tokens of advice to amass a wealth of knowledge, gathered from the experiences of my siblings. One such insight came from my eldest sister, remembered in the depths of my COVID semester: if you want an internship in college, you have to start the process in the Fall before the summer you want to intern in. At the time, I was taking mainly general education requirements, and I felt worlds away from the Isenberg School of Management that had convinced me to commit to UMass. After an academic year riddled with holes by the pandemic, I wanted an experiential learning opportunity that would give me a peek into the corporate world that most of my future classes would prepare me to join. But where to start the process? I needed a mentor, someone who could give me the support to start recruiting despite the virtual sphere I was stuck in.
Enter the Chase Career Center. I received an email at the beginning of September inviting me to attend a resume workshop in preparation for Isenberg Virtual Career Day at the end of the month. I signed up, aware that the first step in recruiting for an internship would be a resume that encompassed my accomplishments succinctly. Pamela Mathison led the workshop and her wealth of insight and care for her students was palpable through the Zoom call. I followed up with her once I had finalized my resume. She asked all the right questions, pushing me to think deeply about what I wanted to share with employers and why.
I registered for Isenberg Virtual Career Day via Handshake, which released a list of participating employers a few days before the event. Employers each offered 10 minute one-on-one sessions with students, 10x the time that a student typically would have with a recruiter at an in-person career fair. Through my conversations with Pam while creating my resume, I learned that I wanted to pursue a marketing internship and an experience that would allow me to hone my data analytics skills. I selected eight employers, based on their descriptions, to have one-on-ones with, one of which was Newell Brands. I cashed in another token of sisterly advice: to best prepare for an interview with a company, set up a one-page document with the following three sections: Recruiter Information, Company in the News, and at least five questions about the company and/or position you are looking to apply to. I did this for each of the companies I had appointments with. So my resume was all set, my company research was complete, what else did I need to do in order to succeed at the fair?
I needed to answer the question “tell me about yourself.” Usually answered in the span of 30-60 seconds, the answer one gives to this common inquiry is called an “elevator pitch.” With the help of the Chase Career Center, I learned to share what was necessary and to give recruiters just enough insight into my background to get them to see how I could be an asset to their organization.
On the day of the Career Fair, I put on Dua Lipa’s Physical and danced out the nerves before my first interview with Newell Brands at 10:20AM. After learning that Newell Brands was the parent company to some of the most beloved brands in the world, and in my household, (ex: Sharpie, Rubbermaid, Calphalon, Coleman, Marmot, etc.), I knew that if I had to choose amongst the employers I wanted to intern with the most, Newell was at the top of my list.
At 10:20AM, I was asked that question by the Newell recruiter, “Tell me about yourself,” a question I have answered hundreds of times since then. Our conversation enlightened me to a greater benefit of Newell that I had not been able to glean from the company’s website or financial reports: corporate culture. It speaks volumes of a company when a recruiter, like the one I spoke with, gushes about how much they love working for that enterprise without being prompted. There was no doubt that Newell had a one-of-a-kind environment, the kind that embraces its employees, drives them to pursue new heights, and encourages workers to set and achieve their goals. After my call with Newell, I attended the rest of my appointments, but at the end of the day, I knew Newell was where I wanted to be Summer 2021. I applied to every marketing internship Newell had posted on Handshake, sent a verbose thank you note to the recruiter I spoke with as well as a copy of my resume, and then, I crossed my fingers.
I was a freshman with not even one semester of college under my belt. All the opportunities I was interested in claimed to only accept older students, but the moment I chose to attend the virtual career fair, I was working against the odds. Ignoring skepticism and focusing on what I had done rather than what I still needed to accomplish enabled me to learn more about myself, and what I wanted to do, more than any of my classes did that my first semester of college. I continued checking in with the Newell recruiter I had spoken to, updating him on my academic progression, asking questions about Newell, and reminding him of my interest in the company.
This correspondence lasted for six months. For six months, I waited for a response from Newell. I scoured LinkedIn for UMass alumni at the company, and spoke to all of them, gaining an even greater admiration and desire to work for the company as I learned more about the day-to-day roles and projects these individuals had the fortune of working on. In the span of that time, I came to UMass for my first in-person semester. I participated in yet another career fair in February, but none of the companies I spoke to gave me the same excitement as Newell did. I cashed in yet another token of sisterly advice: be assertive. If you want something, go after it. There is no guarantee it will come to you.
I scheduled an appointment and met with Pamela Mathison again. I expressed my interest in Newell to her, and she said she would get back to me with next steps. Sure enough, Pamela emailed me the following day with individuals to reach out to. Some were UMass alumni who were friends with recruiters and some were Newell employees. I set up calls with each of them, connected on LinkedIn with them, and sent my resume to those who were willing to pass it on to their network. I continued to wait, and my fingers continued to be crossed.
I got an email from Pam about a week after our first meeting. She told me she had been at a Marketing Career Fair and had met a recruiter from Newell. Pam had passed my resume along and put me in contact with the recruiter from the fair.
I got an email to interview with the Digital Marketing Team of the Newell Brands Food Business Unit (pertaining to the brands Calphalon, Rubbermaid, FoodSaver, and Ball) at the end of that week.
Until the date of my interview, I worked tirelessly with Pam to prepare. I used Chase Career Center’s interview resources to prepare for certain questions, and I challenged myself to understand WHY I wanted to work at Newell. It came down to the culture and the people, to the UMass alumni I spoke with, to those individuals Pam had connected me with, and that first recruiter I spoke to at the Isenberg Virtual Career Day.
The day of my interview, I danced to Dua Lipa’s Physical in my dorm room to shake off the nerves.
I did not need to. The practice questions I had done with Pam, the career exploration I had performed back in September, and the skills I had honed for the career fair had prepared me for this moment. I received my offer to intern for Newell Brands in March. I spent from June 2021 through August 2021 at the company I had set my sights on back in September.
Here is a token of advice, from me to you: Participate in Isenberg Virtual Career Day. If you want something, go after it.
Fiana Herscovici is a Sophomore Operations and Information Management major within the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is currently a Digital Marketing Intern on the Food Business Unit of Newell Brands, writes for HerCampus UMass Amherst, and contributes to her university’s business school blog. Fiana is also the co-founder of StudioU, a free headshot photography studio that enables students to jumpstart their online presence with a profile picture that captures their genuine self. When she’s not writing or working (or practicing yoga or daydreaming about being on the beach), Fiana is a competitor for the Isenberg Business Ethics Team and a Junior Analyst for the Isenberg Undergraduate Consulting Group. You can read her works here, where she shares insights about sustainable business practices, the importance of small businesses, and investment trends.