W&L Outcomes: Kristen Xu ’22 Kristen Xu ’22 worked diligently during her time at W&L to accomplish her dream of working with a beauty company after graduation. Currently, she is a global marketing coordinator at NARS Cosmetics in New York.
Hometown: Overland Park, Kansas
Post-Grad Plans: Global Marketing Coordinator at NARS Cosmetics in New York
Industry: Marketing and Advertising
Areas of Study: Business Administration, Cognitive and Behavioral Science
“I found inspiration in lots of places, but most came from alumni. Everyone had a journey they took to get to where they are today, and hearing about the ups and downs of their careers reassured me that there was always time to change and reach my dream job.”
Q: What will you be doing after graduation?
I’ll be working as a Global Marketing Coordinator for the beauty company NARS in New York City. NARS is owned by Shiseido.
Q: How did your career plans evolve over the course of your time at W&L?
I came into W&L with the vague and somewhat far-fetched idea of working at a beauty company but had no idea which one, how I would get there or even if it was what I wanted to do. I explored every option available to me before and even during senior year. There was a particularly tumultuous time sophomore year when I switched majors/career paths every couple of weeks. I mostly considered careers in management consulting, journalism, ad agencies and market research.
Q: What internships or other summer experiences did you partake in and how did those experiences shape you and your career plans?
After my sophomore year, I worked as a social media intern for an online beauty blog/e-commerce website. The summer after my junior year, I was a summer analyst for the restaurant Leaf & Grain in Houston, Texas. The company’s small size and fast pace allowed me to have complete ownership of multiple projects and work closely with the VP of Strategy. Due to my prior experience in social media, many of my projects were focused in marketing. I found that the work I liked best in that role was uncovering consumer insights to drive business decisions. I then interned for Phoenix Brand Strategy, an Amsterdam-based marketing consulting firm. My work included market entry research and competitive analysis. While I enjoyed the day-to-day work, I found that I preferred being immersed in the research for just one company instead of multiple clients. This experience led me to look for market research roles in the two industries I was most interested in learning more about: beauty and entertainment.
Q: How did Career Development support you and which resources did you find most helpful?
I was one of those students that made my first Office of Career and Professional Development (CPD) appointment during my first year but I didn’t start utilizing its resources properly until my second. The Career Fellows do a really great job providing overviews of different industries and providing opportunities to explore them. I went on a trip to New York City my sophomore year to visit a variety of alumni working in marketing. This allowed me to see the various positions available at public relations firms, ad agencies and in-house marketing teams at other companies. I got a feel for the different environments and the type of work each offered, which helped me filter through which roles I actually wanted to apply for.
In addition, CPD and Handshake send frequent emails with opportunities that suit your interests. They led me to opportunities that I wouldn’t have found or considered on my own. Both my Leaf & Grain internship and Phoenix Brand Strategy internship came from Handshake. Additional email updates from Lauren Vance, associate director of CPD and Kelley Melvin, CPD director of communication, allowed me to apply on time to companies with specific recruitment timelines. I’m most grateful for the endless support of CPD through every application process and career pivot. I practiced numerous case studies when considering management consulting, I received weekly resume and cover letter reviews when I was applying to jobs in journalism, and advice was just an email (and eventually, text or phone call) away when I was receiving interview invites and offers for full-time positions.
Q: What did you study here and what are some skills or learnings you will take from your academic experience into the professional world?
I was a cognitive and behavioral science (CBSC) and business administration double major. My CBSC classes taught me how to scan through large amounts of information, draw out the most important themes and apply them to problems. I also learned how to write concise, unbiased summaries of my findings and create visual representations of data analysis. Business classes taught me how to question assumptions, work with various teams to plan and execute marketing strategies, and push myself and others to produce the most thorough and creative work possible in short timeframes. I also brushed up on my Chinese during my first couple of years at W&L, which I hope to use if I ever get the chance to work abroad.
Q: Who or what has inspired you along the way?
I found inspiration in lots of places, but most came from alumni. Everyone had a journey they took to get to where they are today, and hearing about the ups and downs of their careers reassured me that there was always time to change and reach my dream job.
Q: Did you connect with alumni during your career development process?
I connected with so many alumni during my career development process. I have two or three little notebooks at home overflowing with scrawled notes and questions from our conversations. Whenever there was a company, role or industry I was interested in, I contacted alumni to ask them about their experiences. I have a lot of interests and I don’t think I would have been able to narrow them down nearly as much without those conversations. Specific alumni were particularly great, passing my resume around and giving me paragraphs of advice whenever I asked them questions.
Q: What career-related advice would you give to next year’s graduating class?
Directly reach out to recruiters whenever you can, never underestimate the power of networking early, and try to plan your interviews so that you can get all your decisions back at around the same time. You never know when you’ll have a quick deadline.
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