Alumni Profile: Melissa Montanez ’11


Please introduce yourself, the year you graduated, and what was your major when you graduated?

Hello everyone! My name is Melissa Montanez, and I am from Paterson, NJ. I am a graduate of the class of 2011, from the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs and my major was in Political Science.

What was your Syracuse University experience like when you attended?

Attending Syracuse University was an indescribable experience. Although, I was admitted to one of the most prestigious universities in the nation, as an incoming freshman I often doubted my abilities to succeed at an institution of such a high caliber. When challenges and adversity started to overwhelm me several professors and peers who believed in me helped to guide me in the right direction to overcome my obstacles. Four years later, I transitioned from a shy-timid individual full of fear and blossomed into a mature adult that was able to sustain meaningful friendships, develop leadership skills and was no longer afraid of asking for help.

What did you do post-SU?

Upon graduating from Syracuse University, I spent many months looking for work. Not being able to secure a full-time job at a well-known organization, I decided to work several part-time positions because of my financial situation. Waiting for a callback was not an option I had, I had to take any opportunity that came my way at the time.

Although, I was working part-time positions networking was always at the forefront. Getting comfortable where I was-was not an idea to entertain. After several months of working at a retail store I decided that maybe a change in environment would help me to secure a better position. Rather than solely applying to jobs in the New Jersey area, I decided to expand my search into New York City.

Applying to jobs started to become a job in itself but after much persistence opportunities started to arise, scheduling interviews became the norm. But, it was actually through a family member that I was able to receive my job outside of the retail industry. She asked me if I would be willing to take a part-time job in New York City. Of course, with a change of environment being needed, I quit both of my jobs at the time, packed my bags and moved to the big apple.

The first thing I did, once receiving this offer, was to tell myself, “Melissa, make this experience count, create a portfolio, give yourself a time-line to be promoted and remember to network.” Because, I dedicated quality energy into my work and surpassed targeted blood pint goals by 10% at each drive, a promotion happened within seven months of my being within the company. The opportunity allowed for me to travel and add to my already existing network.

While, I was climbing up the corporate ladder, I realized that I was still missing something. At this point, I had achieved my first goal, which was to get a full-time with benefits, but it was not a career that aligned with my personal interests. Helping people was definitely enjoyable but being in the health-care industry was not my passion.

And, just like that as these thoughts started to circulate in my mind I lost my first full-time job. I decided that this time around, when applying for jobs it was not as difficult as when I first graduated from college. I had already been on the other side being able to understand what hiring managers were looking for in their candidates. Aside from that, my first experience helped me to clarify the route I was taking in pursuit of my goals. I knew that my next opportunity would have to bring me fulfillment and really cater to my passions. Not only did I apply to traditional websites with job postings but also, I put my networking skills to great use. I dipped back into the pool of professors and peers that once helped me overcome my obstacles as an undergrad, explained to them my situation and asked them for assistance in my newfound journey.

Through a friend of a friend and because of my accolades at the New York Blood Center, I was granted an interview with the Huffington Post. It was unbelievable. What were the chances that they would actually hire me? In the beginning, I began to doubt myself a lot but I had to remind myself that I was not that girl I used to be when I first entered Syracuse. What did I do? I did my research. I made sure that I was well prepared for the interview. Also, I knew that being hired to work at the Huffington Post would forever change my life. I walked into that interview confident, prepared and passionate. The hiring manager and I related on so many levels and I made sure to let her know that although my background was not necessarily in journalism, I had always been a hard worker.

Fast forward to today, every day when I wake up for work, I know that the hours I put in at my office will never go undervalued. I have found a career that has substance that ignites my adrenaline and makes me feel like I am really helping other people. Being a Production Assistant at the Huffington Post has not only already opened several doors for me but the job itself makes me feel like I am at the right place. Sometimes you need to lose yourself in order to find yourself again and thankfully for my network and my preparation at Syracuse I was able to use my internal compass to find where I belonged.

What’s the best advice you would give to current students?

The best advice that I would give to current students is don’t be afraid to fail.  Was it perfect timing that I lost my first job? Had the friendships I made at Syracuse impacted my life outside of the university? Was I just lucky? Luck was definitely not it, remember many people will try to undermine your success when you make it to certain places in life.  I have always been a hard worker and most importantly I have always valued networking.  If you work hard, follow your passion, and network success will be within your path.

What do you think about LANSU Scholarship?

I think that the LANSU Scholarship is a great start to supporting the Latino community at SU.  As an alumnus of SU, I understand the importance of giving back. Those who paved the way should continue to support for those who are the future seeking to succeed.

Gracias Melissa!

You can follow Melissa on Twitter.

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