Life After College: from San Jose State University to a Full-Time Job in Silicon Valley
When I first started attending San Jose State University I was majoring in kinesiology. I envisioned myself becoming a physical therapist for a professional sports team since I was a freshman at Dublin High School. My passion for kinesiology quickly faded once I realized it was something I could not see myself doing for the rest of my life. It took me an entire semester to figure out which direction to take my studies. All I knew at a certain point in my freshman year of college was that I wanted to plan events and represent people. It was not until my sophomore year that I decided to take an intro to public relations course. I was hesitant at first but decided to enroll in the class anyway. I immediately fell in love with the major and declared myself as a public relations major with a business minor the second half of my sophomore year. The only downfall to changing my major and adding a minor was that it set me back a semester. Although there was a minor drawback, I knew I would be happy in the long run.
Once I was in the public relations program, I quickly made friends within the department and thrived in all of my classes. During my junior year I was given an opportunity to be the Director of Public Relations for the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which is SJSU’s public relations club. During my junior year I worked as a director for PRSSA, interned for a student-run PR and advertising agency called Dwight, Bentel, & Hall Communications, and worked as a supervisor at Victoria’s Secret.
My junior year of college was definitely one of the hardest because I took on too much, too quickly. Looking back on my junior year, I would not have done it differently because it led me to great job opportunities. During my internship at Dwight, Bentel, & Hall Communications I worked with multiple clients varying from fashion, health, tech startups, and luxury home decor. I worked very well with a particular client of mine named Stacey. She was impressed with my work ethic and offered me a marketing assistant position at her startup after my internship was over. That job offer was an immense advancement for my career because I received a chance to work in the industry I loved before graduating college.
After accepting the job, I worked as a marketing assistant throughout my senior year. The startup I worked at is called Indigo 7 and is located in Cupertino. I worked on multiple projects such as creating paid advertisements, developing press kits, and running photo shoots. The coolest part about Indigo 7 was the CEO of the startup is also the creator of Guitar Hero. I was able to hear first hand from him, a successful entrepreneur, what it is like to build a business from the ground up. I learned as much as I could at the company until I decided to resign from my position. I left the company once I graduated SJSU because I wanted to continue progressing in my industry.
To say the least, life after college was a big eye opener for me. I graduated from SJSU in December of 2015. It was a great time for me and all my peers, especially since graduation landed during the holidays. The biggest obstacle I faced post graduation was trying to find a job. I went through endless interviews and could not secure a new position. The good thing about interviewing at various jobs is that you get really good at interviewing. Eventually all the interviews are similar and you know what to expect. The downfall to not finding a job is that you get restless. If I could re-do the interview process I would tell myself that it is okay to have people help you find a job. It is crucial to have an open mind and allow people in the industry to help you get a foot in the door. My former social media professor, Michael Brito, once told me, “It is not about who you know, it is about who knows you.” That quote really stuck with me because every single job I was offered was because of the connections I had previously made throughout my time at SJSU.
Professors, former co-workers, and mentors who knew me personally were willing to put in a good word for me at a handful of companies. I got offered a job a couple months after graduation because I took the time to reach out to my network. The job I earned was a marketing internship at John Wiley & Sons in San Francisco. During my time at Wiley, I was able to work with top executive editors and authors. The internship boosted my confidence and helped me develop a strong professional presence. Once the internship ended I decided I wanted to work in Silicon Valley again.
I filled out numerous job applications and went to a handful of interviews before I found my current job. Now I am a marketing associate for a startup company called Napa Technology in Campbell. At Napa Technology, I am in charge of social media calendars, blogs, social media campaigns and other marketing related content. My boss is the former vice president of Apple and is incredibly smart. He has taught me a lot which has allowed me to progress as a professional. I love the environment of a small team because I am always learning something new. I feel very lucky to be working in Silicon Valley. It is difficult to find a job in a competitive field but it is extremely rewarding once you land the perfect job.
My biggest takeaway from college and working in the real world is that there are no hand outs. You have to work hard and prove yourself to others. Being an entry level professional is challenging because you are new to the industry. You have to show that you can deliver great work while balancing all the tasks you are given. It can be overwhelming but it is doable.
The best advice I can give to those new grads is to always work on improving yourself. Continuously learn new information and content that benefits your career. There is a lot of competition out there so it is important to be versatile. I would suggest reading, staying up-to-date with your industry news, and doing freelance projects so you can become an expert at whatever it is you love to do. Also, surround yourself with smart people that will aid to your success. Throughout all of my job experiences, I have been surrounded by smart individuals who were all willing to help me grow as a professional.
For those who are about to graduate I want to tell you to not be scared to try jobs that scare you. Every single “real world job” I have been given has been somewhat intimidating, however, I proved to my superiors that I was meant to be there. Everyone can be successful if they choose to work hard! Do not be discouraged if the first job does not work out. It will take some time to find a job with a company culture that suits you. Most importantly, enjoy the journey after college and be positive. Everything works out in the end.
For anyone interested in bettering themselves as a professional I suggest:
- Reading How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Reading You Are a Bada**: How to Stop Doubting Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
- Reading or listening to The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
- Following news articles that are relevant to your career/industry and listen to podcasts
- Reading up on people that have your “dream” job to see what they have done and reach out to them for advice if possible
Ashley Hernandez is a Dublin High School Class of 2011 graduate and San Jose State University Class of 2015 alum.