Trying to figure out what type of job you might like? Here’s a little trick that might help: Think about what people are always asking you to help them with. Do your friends always seek your advice on the perfect Instagram hashtag or caption? Do family members know that you can be counted on to draw a big crowd to their garage sale or charity event?
Just ask Recruiter and Brand Manager Salina Mendoza. Her passions for social media and networking scored her a series of jobs in high school and college and eventually led her to a dual-purpose role that allows her to capitalize on both of her strengths.
Guest writer Chau Le interviews Salina about her career path and gets a few tips on what matters to recruiters—and what doesn’t.
I’m a little amazed that I caught up with Salina Mendoza tonight. She was generous enough to allocate some time to talk to me, even though she’s driving from Berkeley to Orange County to relocate for her job with Gen110, an electrical company that offers residential electricity alternatives. Talk about a superwoman!
But it doesn’t even end there! This is Salina’s rundown of all the projects she’s currently involved in: “I direct all recruitment and branding at Gen110 as a Talent Acquisition and Brand Manager. I also direct all social media and branding for DreamItAlive.com. I also consult growing start-ups on their brand direction and social media profiles. I prefer to work by bootstrapping as much as possible so I am very efficient with ROI on little to no budget. I am also in the middle of creating a new mobile application that is in its first development stages.”
What is a typical day like as the Talent Acquisition and Brand Manager?
Every morning, Salina posts on Facebook and other social media avenues—she’s got full control of all accounts on her phone and makes daily posts for DreamItAlive and Gen110. She’ll usually have a meeting with her team of recruiters, which until now has been done over the phone because everyone’s based in Orange County (another reason for her move).
Salina calls herself a “one-stop shop,” since she does the online and social media branding, scours Facebook and LinkedIn for possible recruits, and also does the head hunting and account acquisitions. Salina picks and chooses her people, so she knows her interns inside and out. She’s a pretty hands-off manager who trusts her hires to hit the ground running. She gives them guidelines, trains them, and lets them make their own experiences.
She’s recently trained and promoted one of her recruiters, who will work on building a team of entry-level recruiters. Fun, huh? This will leave Salina with more time to focus on strategizing, which she loves. She’s going to have a bigger in-company role, acting as the recruiter for 40+ franchise offices.
Why did Salina pursue social media management?
Salina has always loved marketing and talking to people. She’s a social person, so it only makes sense that she would land in this role organically. Salina’s always been big about branding and got her first gig at 17 while she was still in high school as her principal’s trainer’s Twitter manager. Salina remembers the interview, where she was asked these two questions: “Do you know how to use Twitter?” and “Can you run all of my marketing?” Salina said yes, although in her mind she was thinking, “Um… can I??”
Salina ended up really liking it, started to build her own social media profiles, and began networking early. This paid off when she got to college, because at 19, she became a brand ambassador for Vitamin Water, and calls it “hands down one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.” Between seasons she worked for BetterBody foods, a non-GMO food company that specializes in baking ingredients.
And while she enjoyed all of these experiences, Salina originally was simply trying to make ends meet. Salina was accepted into Chapman University in Orange, California, but she was located in Arizona at the time. She had no way of getting to school, because her car had been towed in an accident right before, and she had no financial support. With her minimal savings, she convinced two friends to drive her to school, covering all expenses for everyone as the pay-off. Once Salina arrived in her new environment, she realized she’d need a way to cover her expenses and quickly settled on being a brand ambassador.
What does it take to be a recruiter?
Salina says that it’s crucial to have a really, really strong network. As a recruiter, you’re in charge of finding the right fit for the company. Where do you find an engineer that would fit into the company culture, or locate a gung-ho intern who’s crazy about electricity? This is when Salina’s extensive network comes in handy, helping her connect to the perfect marketer in New Jersey or architect in the Bay Area. And sometimes, you really don’t know where everyone’s at, or where to start, but you just have to make it work.
This responsibility is one of Salina’s favorite parts of her job. She explains, “Being a recruiter is really interesting—I love the trust that my company puts in me, and know that they have my back, because they know that I’m going to bring in the best people.”
But there’s also a lot of pressure, because everything’s on Salina. She has to be proactive, or else there won’t be any results, and she needs to work within budget, which requires being crafty and thrifty. Luckily, Salina knows how to balance budgets and make do with scant resources. She picked up these skills when she started college with only a small amount of savings, and applying these tactics in the workplace isn’t too different. It’s all about understanding and knowing the process inside out, and knowing what works and what doesn’t. A method that has no results goes out the window and she has to find a new working system. It’s high pressure, but Salina manages, and loves the challenge.
How Salina ended up with Gen110
By junior year in college, Salina needed another job. She found a marketing/outreach position with Gen110 through craigslist. The position sounded really interesting, so she went in for the training and popped out a door-to-door Outreach Specialist, getting paid hourly, plus commission and bonuses. She became a top specialist by the first month, and was eventually offered the role of recruiter, doing both roles for the next six months. The first half of the day was dedicated to recruitment, and the second half she’d be in the field, working door to door with the peers she’d hired.
By the time Salina became a senior in college, she was promoted to a full-time position before she even graduated, and this last fall she became the Talent Acquisition and overall Brand Manager.
Salina’s advice to students and recent grads
Networking is not for after you graduate: “The younger you are in college, the more opportunities you have to set yourself up for success. Focus on building a strong network, because business will rely on that. While previous generations probably have a massive network built over the years, there’s a point where you have to start targeting and marketing a different demographic. By growing a diverse network now, you’ll be at an advantage to claim your first job.”
Salina adds that while it might not be the most fun, getting any sort of job is better than nothing. “Have the right mindset going into college. Know that it’s going to be tough and that grades don’t matter.” As a recruiter, Salina could care less whether you have a 2.5 or 4.0 GPA; she just wants to know that you graduated, that you took the time and money and put it towards a degree.
She adds to make yourself marketable from the start—seek an internship or job that helps you develop strong interpersonal relationships. Salina says a three- to six-month internship does not mean anything to a recruiter. Why was the internship so short? Did you get bored? Did the company not want you to continue? Spend a minimum of six months with a start-up or company to show that you were committed to learning and getting the most out of your experience.
Finally, don’t be scared to try: Salina was in love with social media, even when the naysayers said nothing would come out of it. But it made her happy and she persisted. “This is the revolution—don’t worry, social media’s going to blow up,” she told them. And it did.
“The bottom line is to trust your instincts, and if you have a desire to do something, just do it. Don’t doubt yourself.”
Homework time! Salina talks about starting to use social media professionally when she was still in high school. Be open to any opportunities that come your way—and don’t be afraid to seek them out. Be sure to check out this story about high schooler Lauren Chan who reached out to people in her network for internship opportunities (BTW, this post also includes email templates you can totally copy and use yourself!).
About the author: Chau Le is an avid globetrotting polyglot, who has an unhealthy romance with Nutella, an attraction to writing, and an addiction to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Read more of Chau’s writing at http://thetravelingcherub.wordpress.com.