Working It!

Recent graduates successfully start on their career paths

Photo: Mike Peters

2013 Montclair State graduate, Mike Sulick, at his workplace, Fanbrandz.

For recent college graduates, landing that first job can be a challenge. The job market for 20- to 29-year-olds has been tough for the past few years but despite this situation, Montclair State graduates have beaten the odds by landing jobs that have established them on their chosen career paths. Here, a few alumni share their insights and advice for job seekers – and the secrets of their success.

Achieving by Design
Mike Sulick began working as a junior designer at sports and franchise branding company Fanbrandz a week and a half after graduating this past May.

The Graphic Design major is delighted with his position. “It places me exactly where I want to be right now,” he says. “As a graphic designer, two of my biggest focuses are on illustration and typography, and sports branding at Fanbrandz is the perfect combination of what I love!”

Sulick, who gained professional experience as a graphic design lab assistant at Montclair State, is a semifinalist in the prestigious 2013 Adobe Design Achievement Awards. He insists that hard work produces portfolios that will impress potential employers. “If design is what you love and what you want to do, you have to commit everything to it. Do what you can to get your work out there – portfolio websites are important.”

Taking Care of Business
Renata Dicoska, who graduated in May, begins working at a Big 4 accounting firm in an entry-level position this fall.

The Business Administration major credits Montclair State with giving her the skills she needed to land the job. “My education prepared me not only by providing knowledge, but also by organizing networking and career events with opportunities to meet accounting professionals.”  An accounting internship also gave the Macedonia native the kind of “real world” experience potential employers look for.

Her fellow 2013 graduate Kenechukwu (Kenny) Obiekwe makes use of his international business classes in his job as a Microsoft Dynamics AX Trainer with Argo Turboserve Corporation, a company that offers supply chain management services.

“I train employees in local and international branches to use this system effectively,” he explains. Obiekwe, who was born and raised in Nigeria, relishes his first-hand exposure to diverse international business practices.

 “I always envisioned finding a job that could bridge a gap between my passions for IT and international business,” he says. “This job lets me balance both interests while helping me build for the future.”

Breaking into News
Tanja Rekhi ’12 searched for six months before landing a job as a local television news reporter at WENY-HD News based in Horseheads, N.Y. “I wouldn’t be where I am now without the guidance of my amazing professors, my internships and a great network of alumni,” she says.

The English and Broadcasting major is thriving in the competitive environment of television news. “I’m a one-man-band reporter, which means I shoot, write and edit my own stories,” she says.

She advises students looking for broadcasting jobs to “Put your best effort forward. Make sure that you always keep your goal in mind and work towards it.”

The Sweet Smell of Success
Chemistry major Julianne Harraka is the rare person who found her job on the day she began looking. She began working at Robertet, Inc., a fragrance company specializing in natural raw materials, perfume compositions and food flavorings, in November 2010 as a Sensory Analyst. “In January 2011, after graduating, I became a full time GC/MS Lab Technician or Analytical Perfumer,” she says.  “My responsibilities are in the company’s raw material and fragrance divisions.”

Harraka, who is currently pursuing her MS in Chemistry, is grateful to her Montclair State connections. “Robertet VP Steve Dente is an alumnus who was chemistry professor Marc Kasner’s student.  Dr. Kasner sent him my resume.”

Students seeking similar jobs should build connections through internships or temporary positions. “It’s also essential to network as much as possible with people in their industry of interest and with professors who can help them find jobs,” she advises.

From Intern to Employee
Gina Giardinieri ’12 turned a required Family and Child Studies program internship into a rewarding job. As a senior at Montclair State, she interned at the Fresh Air Fund – a nonprofit organization that gives inner city children the opportunity to spend their summers either in camp or living with a rural or suburban host family. After working part time after graduation, she was hired full time in October 2012.

“As Community Outreach Manager, I’m the liaison between the Fresh Air Fund and community institutions such as schools, churches and precincts,” she says. She also trains and supports community partners and manages the placement of children into Fund programs.

The daughter of Colombian and Argentinean immigrants, Giardinieri is the first person in her family to graduate from college. Yet she knows a college degree alone does not guarantee a job. “The best advice I can give students looking to find jobs is to get as much experience as they can – even if it means unpaid internships,” she says. “Companies like to see experience and that you work hard.”

“I Love My Job”
French major Joelle Gozlan traveled in Asia for months after graduating in January 2013. “I started in Japan volunteering on a farm for six weeks to practice my Japanese.” Plans to teach English in Thailand were cut short by a bout of dengue fever. After recovering, she continued her travels in Laos, the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Three weeks after her return to the states, she was hired to teach French at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, N. J. “To be a good teacher, there are three things to remember,” she says. “Like what you do and be good at it and have a lot of energy!” The new teacher reports, “I love my job.”

Relationship Building Counts
Since graduating in January 2013, English major Jade Leach has been working as a freelance fashion and beauty writer. “I’m constantly thinking of unique ways to publish a story that will attract a large audience,” she explains.

Montclair State’s co-op internship program made all the difference to her, which is why she has a single word of advice for students: intern. “You may not think your time and effort is appreciated because there is no pay, but you meet so many people and build so many beneficial relationships that take you so much further than filling out an online job application.”

Just Say Yes
Former Marine Gil Balanzat graduated in May 2013 with a degree in Political Science. Since August, he has been working in eDiscovery Technology Services for the global financial services firm, UBS. “I’m responsible for supplying the end-to-end technology platform for the fulfillment of litigations, regulatory inquiries and internal investigations,” he says. “Technology and law will always have a place in society and I am in the crossroads of it. I can go into either field with relative ease.”

He urges students to try new things. “Join every club you can and say yes to any opportunity that comes your way.”

Balanzat notes that in today’s competitive job market, “the college experience, while amazing, is not enough. Learn a language, learn to program or develop professional social networking skills – and always raise your hand.”