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Landing your first full-time corporate role after college is difficult for everyone. It can feel especially difficult when your experience is mainly in minimum wage roles like food service, customer service, or retail. Yet, there are opportunities out there. One important thing to remember is all of the transferable skills you gain from those types of roles that are very applicable to corporate roles.
We’re excited to share the story of Jaclyne Washington, a FindSpark member and non-traditional college student who landed a role at TEKsystems through Hustle Summit after working in retail only after college. Her story demonstrates the importance of persistence, preparation, and patience.
Jaclyne is just one of the many FindSpark members and post-grads hired at TEKsystems – a company that truly invests in the training of its people and hires for potential.
You’ve described your education as non-traditional. What was your college experience like?
Like so many young students, I started college with no idea what I wanted to do for a career. So I chose to major in something I loved and was good at rather than going the more career-centric path — I was a History major with a concentration in English history specifically. Though I enjoyed school, I slowly became disillusioned and concerned about what my options would be after graduation, so I took a long break, over a year, and debated whether I would go back at all. Eventually, I decided to finish my degree and came back to college after all of my friends had already graduated. I officially received my degree in February of 2019, at 26 years old.
You started working retail for the reason most people do, to make some extra cash. What are your tips for people who feel stuck in their retail or minimum wage jobs?
It is a lot harder to get into new industries when the bulk of your experience is in retail, but it’s not impossible. Keep applying, keep searching job boards, and respond to the postings that speak to you and sound like work you would be good at or would enjoy doing. If you’ve worked retail for a while, you have a huge wealth of sales experience, so look for roles that look for people with sales experience. It’s time-consuming, but you’ll have to be persistent and keep throwing ideas at the wall until one sticks.
Were there points at which you felt like giving up when you weren’t getting responses to your corporate job applications? How did you push through?
Yes, for sure! I applied to what felt like a million positions and spent all of my spare time scrolling through job boards. But eventually, my desire to get out of retail and into a career where I could really take care of myself overrode any frustration I felt about my job search. I knew I just had to keep pushing and that eventually, by the law of averages if nothing else, someone would get back to me and give me a chance. I kept holding out hope for just one non-retail interview where I could show the value I could add to a team — if I could just get into a room with a manager, I knew I would be able to break into a new industry.
After deciding to attend Hustle Summit, which you discovered through your career advisor, how did you prepare for the event? When looking through Hustle Summit companies, what made TEKsystems stand out to you?
I prepped first and foremost by looking up every company that was coming to the event — I wanted to see what roles they were looking to fill, what those roles required, and if available, how much they were willing to pay for a starting salary. TEKsystems stood out immediately despite my never having heard of them because they were looking for people with sales experience, and I knew I had 10 years of it. They also said they were fine with candidates not having recruiter experience, and that they were ready and willing to train anyone willing to learn. This was music to my ears as I wasn’t required to have any prior jobs in this industry to get an interview.
Once I realized TEK would be the main team I wanted to visit, I researched the company further, checking their company website and any interactions they had with Findspark. There were videos on the FindSpark website where internal recruiters from TEK explained what they looked for in interviews, what impressed them, and what turned them off. I took copious notes and made sure I was prepared.
Jaclyn’s headshot from Hustle Summit
What was the interview process like at TEKsystems? What do you think added to your success in the process?
TEKsystems’ interview process is extensive. After my initial interaction with their internal recruiters at Hustle Summit, I had a phone interview with one of the recruiters, Maggie. She then set me up for a one on one interview with an Account Manager at TEK’s office in the city. After that, I had a half-day shadow interview, where I spent the entire morning in the office with the team, spoke with multiple team members, and eventually was interviewed by the DBO.
Naturally, I was very nervous going into each of these, but the prep I had done before the first interview was scheduled helped enormously. I also leaned on Maggie each step of the way — I asked her who I would be meeting with, what to expect on each interview, and made sure to clarify how I should be dressed, how long I should expect to be there, and what kind of questions might be asked.
This meant that I never went into my interactions blind — I always had some prior knowledge of where the conversation might go and was able to keep myself calm and centered. I focused on being myself and letting the team get a good understanding of who I was as a person, not just a candidate so that they could judge for themselves what value I might add to their organization.
You had sales experience from your retail job, but no “corporate” job experience. You mentioned you had no idea what a recruiter, or at least within the world of IT. TEKsystems truly does take people without that experience and trains them. So, what was that training experience like for you?
I absolutely loved my training experience at TEK. Coming in with no recruiting or corporate experience was obviously nerve-wracking, but the team was incredibly supportive. The training began with computer modules that explained how the company works and offered exercises to help me get to know my team members and learn the day to day of the job. I was also assigned an Account Manager who met with me every day to go over my progress, answer my questions, and help me adjust to my new surroundings.
After about 2 months, I was sent to our corporate offices in Baltimore to complete my training with other new recruiters from across the country. We had an amazing time and were able to hone our skills with trainers who offered constructive feedback and encouraged us. When I arrived back in NY, I started recruiting officially, but this is a role where you are always learning, so in that sense, the training has never really ended.
How has going from minimum wage to a salaried role (and uncapped commission opportunity!) changed your life?
Honestly, this salary has changed my life in every conceivable way. Within just one year, I was able to move into my own apartment with my fiance, pay off a considerable amount of my student loan debt, and start a savings account where we can start planning for our future. None of this was possible for me on minimum wage.
You’ve joined the TEKsystems Multicultural Employer Resource group. What sort of work have you done through those to be a part of TEK’s D&I initiatives?
Working with our Multi-Cultural Employee Resource Group has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my role. We created and led workshops to help our office become more inclusive, focusing on topics like correct name pronunciation, microaggressions, and how to support team members of color during the trying times we now live in. We also worked closely with the head of D&I for the company and with the internal recruiting team to help find ways to increase diversity in our team.
You were promoted at exactly your One Year Anniversary mark! First off, congratulations. What tips do you have for people who are ambitious and want to be promoted quickly? What are some of the biggest parts of your success at TEK?
Thanks! One of the many awesome things about TEK is that they love to promote from within. If you want to be promoted quickly, your first step is to discuss what the options are for advancement with a senior member of the team — you can become an Account Manager, or a Recruiter Lead, or move into internal recruiting, etc. There are so many possibilities. Once you know what you want to do, start finding people on your team who already do it, and ask lots of questions. And don’t be afraid to approach your DBO and let him or her know what your ambitions are! They can help you plan a way to get there and let you know what they need to see from you in your current role before interviewing you for a new position.