Alina Serbina, Class of 2019 graduate from the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics with a degree in marketing and minors in international business studies and Russian, started her job search two weeks before her graduation. Over several months of looking for the right role, Serbina learned various tips and tricks for a successful search process. She recently secured a full-time position as an account services representative on the lifestyle and entertainment team at NBCUniversal in New York City, New York. In order to help her fellow Blue Hens, Serbina shared the greatest lessons that she learned from the job search process and advice for those looking to start their own search.
My Job Search Story
When I started my job search, I knew that I wanted to somehow be involved in the entertainment industry. My previous internships, informational interviews and career treks influenced me, especially a panel at NBCUniversal in January 2018. I completely fell in love with the stories that the speakers told.
My preference of roles ranged from marketing to public relations, but the role I ended up landing is actually in ad sales. It is a very strategic and excel heavy role that plays to my strengths.
Originally, I had two very different opportunities I was planning to pursue, but a few weeks before graduation they fell through and I started looking for full-time roles. This was very late in the game but I decided that I was going to give it my best effort anyway. I thought it was a numbers game and mass applied everywhere via LinkedIn and company hiring portals, but didn’t hear back from most companies.
That’s when I decided I would enjoy my summer and work part-time while building genuine relationships with UD alumni and previous employer and mentor connections. I also consistently checked the hiring page of my top three companies and applied to any role that I found interesting.
By taking both of these steps, I got my first interview for NBCUniversal for the digital campaign specialist role. I had connected with a UD alum in that role a few weeks before applying. He passed my resume forward and I was contacted by human resources at NBCUniversal. While I made it to the last round of interviews, I did not get the job. However, three weeks later, I was invited to a hiring event for account service representatives, which perform similar tasks to digital campaign specialists. I attended and a week later was asked to join the entertainment and lifestyle team.
A Numbers Game
- I had easily over 100 informational interviews and coffee chats with potential employers and connections in my junior and senior years at UD.
- I submitted my resume over 200 times for open positions and really more than 300 if including LinkedIn inquiries.
- I met with the Lerner Career Services Center 1:1 at least four times to review my resume, LinkedIn profile and to get other important advice for the job search. I also attended the Lerner Internship Edge program, in addition to the expert in residence and career treks offered by the Center.
- I had seven job interviews that ranged from major media networks and technology companies to small, local advertising firms.
- I sent hundreds of thank yous. After each phone or video interview, I emailed thank you notes to all the people involved, even the person that set up the call or meeting. After in-person interviews, I sent hand-written, physical thank you notes to every contact I had met that day. Pro-tip: A hand-written thank you note helped me land my job!
- I dealt with a lot of rejection. The reality of the hiring process is that most of the time you will never hear back.
Keys to Success
- Look for UD alumni at your preferred company and schedule informational interviews with them. Reach out to alumni at every level in the company, you never know who can open the door for you. Be sure to ask them about what the company culture is actually like as an employee.
- I worked with Lerner Career Services and was able to schedule a mock interview quickly and get feedback on how to better sell myself and my skill set. Until the mock interview, I didn’t realize that I was leaving out some important parts of my experiences. Jill Pante, director of the Lerner Career Services Center, also asked a few job-description specific questions which were helpful for the interview I had coming up.
- Engage on LinkedIn consistently, don’t be afraid to comment on your connections’ posts, this is how I got my first interview with Google!
- Attend career fairs, both those offered at UD and ones offered by organizations like FindSpark. I met with employees from major companies and heard what the work environment is really like.
- Having a strong relationship with my mentor, Mike Jason, through Career Services’ Lerner Executive Mentoring Program really helped me in my interview process. I had three very different interviews towards the end of my job search. The roles were all in contrasting industries but I could see myself succeeding in any one of them. Mike helped me navigate the juggling of multiple interviews, as well as the final negotiation process for my salary and benefits. We were in touch via phone calls and he always made time to listen to my thought process and give post-interview feedback.
- Adjust your resume and cover letter to each job, using the keywords from the role description. Putting the description into a resource like wordle can help you identify these keywords.
- Check for new job openings regularly because taking a week off could make you miss the window for your dream job.
What to Avoid
- Don’t think you don’t have a network just because you don’t have family connections. Be sure to tap into your network of friends. As an immigrant, my family doesn’t have connections in my industry. However, my friend’s parents knew my goals and introduced me to some important connections.
- The job search is a numbers game and only sending a resume through LinkedIn didn’t work for me. I sent my resume for hundreds of roles on LinkedIn with barely any responses, so be sure to use all of the resources available.
- Avoid unorganized and unstructured professional networking events. I went to a networking happy hour in New York City and the lack of structure meant that none of the connections I made were really able to further my job search.
- Don’t accept the initial offer if it isn’t what you’re looking for. I was offered a contracted role originally but negotiated with the company and leveraged other offers in order to get the full-time role I wanted.
- Don’t pursue a role if the interview ends early or it feels like the conversation was forced, that means that the company probably isn’t your best fit and that is ok! You will know in the interview if your “dream” company is actually right for you.