\While job hunting after college, Melanie Feldman ’07 realized that landing work would require more resourcefulness and gumption than merely sending out her resume and waiting for bites.
Actually, Feldman recognized the importance of being boldly proactive at Punahou, while applying to college. Although primarily a basketball player, she hoped to play volleyball, so she cold-emailed 25 Division I volleyball coaches with a tape of her playing on Punahou’s team. “That’s actually how I chose my college,” she said. “Creighton was the one school out of 25 that said, ‘Come walk on and be on the team,’ so I went.”
After two years there, she transferred to the University of Pittsburgh – after again, reaching out to the volleyball coach to become a starting player. She graduated with a business degree, then flew home to Hawai‘i without a job, but with a desire to end up in New York City.
During her three months of unemployment, Feldman furiously sent out resumes, but with no response. Feelings of worthlessness and despair set in. So she resorted to plan B, which was to get on calls with potential employers. “After I switched everything up, I had interviews at all those companies, and landed a job that I had previously applied to 10 times before and never heard back,” she said.
She took a position as a media buyer with a digital advertising company in New York, but she couldn’t stop thinking about the lessons from her job hunt. “A lot of my friends were in the same boat and struggling to find work,” she said. “I told them what they had to do, and all of them said, ‘No, I don’t think that will work.’ So I decided to write a book and find stories of successful people who had amazing jobs sometime early in their career or mid-career. I wanted to hear how they did it.”
With co-authors Joshua Siva and Liz Madsen, she published, “BOLD: Get Noticed, Get Hired,” featuring interviews with 20 people who got work in creative ways. The book garnered national media attention from Forbes and Business Week, and was incorporated into the curriculum at Carnegie Mellon, Lehigh and other universities. “That was where I got a lot of traction,” Feldman said. “I spoke at about 10 different colleges the year it was published.”
She started a blog with video interviews of those who inspired her, including Neil Everett, an anchor of ESPN’s SportsCenter. Meanwhile, a former co-worker who ended up at Twitter, reached out about a sales opportunity at the company’s San Francisco office. “It ended up being an opportunity I couldn’t give up,” Feldman said.
After a few years at Twitter, a client offered Feldman an opportunity to lead their sales team. It was risky to leave for a startup, but she took it, traveling the world for the next few years to sell advertising. But again, the unpredictable winds of opportunity swept her in a new direction, this time with Apple. “When a company like Apple reaches out to you, it’s an opportunity you can’t pass up. I had to at least interview,” Feldman said. “I wanted a job where I’m not hardcore selling, but rather, working as a consultant, and that’s my job now at Apple.”
Feldman has worked with Apple for almost two years as a client partner to sports and entertainment apps, helping them grow their businesses. Simultaneously, she started a career development company, Going Places, with her best friend, Anna Schuliger. The pair began offering virtual career coaching sessions, and last July, launched their “Get Hired Course.”
The four-part video course pulls back the curtain to the hiring process for anyone struggling in the current job market. “It’s for those who are willing to think about things a little bit differently and bring an entrepreneurial spirit to your job search to get meaningful results,” Feldman said.
The pair created the course so that everyone has the opportunity to learn the basics of networking, something that is as importance to success, but rarely addressed in the detail required to do it well. The lessons cover tangible things, like improving resumes and online profiles, to more cerebral exercises like considering sources of energy and motivation. One section focuses on networking and outreach, which Feldman sees as the core of the course, since most people are hired on internal referrals.
Job seekers learn how to get on calls with people they’ve never met, and get people to want to help you, Feldman says. The series wraps with what she calls “sticking the landing,” which entails navigating the initial call, preparing for an interview and negotiating a salary.
This month, Feldman will share such advice with the Punahou community, taking part in virtual master classes organized by Punahou Alumni Relations. One of her main pieces of advice is for alumni to leverage their valuable Punahou ties. “The Punahou network is so strong – that’s actually how I landed my interviews after college,” she said. “I just started emailing people, and reaching out to people on LinkedIn and saying, ‘Hey, I’m an alum of Punahou. I see that you are too. Would you be open to get on a call?’”
Remote working, which has become a norm during the pandemic, has also opened up job possibilities. Someone who lives in Hawai‘i may now be in line for competitive jobs in New York City or San Francisco, because companies increasingly are open to virtual talent, Feldman says. And even though this will create more competition, she said it’s critical for job seekers to overcome a fear of rejection. “Everyone is scared of rejection, but this fear is a dagger that will inhibit you from moving forward.”
She offers Everett as an example of someone who persisted to land one of the country’s plum sportscasting jobs. Before ESPN, Everett spent 15 years working in Hawai‘i for local television stations, and as the assistant athletic director and sports information director at Hawai‘i Pacific University. “Someone who went to HPU was on a treadmill at Equinox in New York and was running next to ESPN’s recruiter, and said, ‘You’ve got to check out my boy, Neil Everett,’” Feldman said. Although Everett got an interview with ESPN, he wasn’t initially hired. It took three years before he was tapped as an anchor on ESPNews, which then led him to his current gig as co-anchor of the West Coast edition of SportsCenter.
Feldman loved Everett’s story and wanted him to be part of her video series, so she emailed him for two months. He finally replied, and said, “Call me, I have 10 minutes.” During the call, Everett told her he wouldn’t do a video, but agreed to a 10-minute phone interview. Feldman told him she would fly to his studio to do the interview. “He probably thought I was crazy, and he goes, ‘All right, come to the studio and bring a camera, because if you’re going to fly all that way, I’ll let you bring a video camera.’
“These pivotal moments changed my life, because Neil is now one of my mentors, and he wants to help our business. It’s a story that warms me, because honestly, his Hawai‘i spirit is really what connected us. I think it’s so powerful to find commonality with people, because it can result in opportunities you’d never expect.”
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