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How a Young HBCU Alumna Landed a Big Company Job
Posted By: Eddie Francis on January 12, 2016

When you don't have the hook-up, landing a job isn't easy. When I think of it, most of my jobs came through someone in my network. Don't get me wrong, I did impress folks in my networks enough for them to recommend me for positions. But it’s much more satisfying when you beat out other candidates based only on your résumé and being the bomb in interviews. Recently, I met a young professional who did just that.

Brandi Biagas earned a spot in Staples’ national Business to Business Sales Specialist January 2016 training class. What makes her interesting is she graduated from Xavier Univ. of Louisiana in 2015 with a degree in biology minoring in communications, and her résumé shows an impressive college science background. Conventional wisdom among recruiters and hiring managers says that a science graduate may not be the best fit for sales but Brandi defied that wisdom. I wanted to know how she beat the odds.

EDDIE: You had a cover letter that nicely explained why you thought you would be a great fit for the job. What was your thought process in writing the letter and did you get any help?

BRANDI: The only help I received was my mother telling me that I needed to have a cover letter. Since I never bothered to make one before, I went online to look up some examples. My thought process while I was writing the letter was, ‘How can I show interest, give a small rundown of my credentials, and grab their attention at the same time?’ I did my best to convey that in my cover letter, which was actually super easy because this training position was exactly what I envisioned for myself in order to move to the next level of my sales experience. If the position is exactly what you’re looking for and you know you’ll make a great fit for the company, making the cover letter comes naturally.

EDDIE: Your degree and résumé clearly point to your science background. What did you tell your interviewers when they asked you why you were interested in sales?

BRANDI: I explained that while my passion for science was very strong throughout my tenure at Xavier, I also branched out and took a minor in communications which allowed me to be exposed to a different set of possibilities that I wouldn’t have had as a ‘normal’ biology major. I also mentioned that out of the various part time jobs I had while at Xavier, my favorite was working as a sales associate in retail. It was at this job that I recognized my affinity for people, so I loved and excelled at it from day one.

EDDIE: Washington, D.C. is a very competitive area when it comes to employment. Were you ever concerned that there were more qualified applicants going for the same job?

BRANDI: In the very beginning I was very apprehensive about finding a job at all based off of everything you read, and friends and family telling you how difficult it is finding a career even with an education. When it came down to applying in D.C., those fears were increased considerably because it is such a competitive environment. My saving grace during my job hunt was my mom always telling be to be patient and remain focused. She comes from an HR background in the government, so she gave me tips and advice often, I believe the thing that kept me the most grounded was after every application put in or every ‘no’ letter received, she reminded me that I’m just starting out, that I’m going to get some ‘no’s’; and those ‘no’s’ might have been there for a reason and that there are more qualified and experienced people applying for the same jobs. But wherever I end up at will be because I was meant to be there.

EDDIE: How has pride in your HBCU played a part in your very young career journey so far?

BRANDI: Xavier has always held its students up to a level of excellence in all things that we do. During my career search and even during the steps to getting this job offer (i.e. résumé, interview prep, etiquette, etc.), I could easily recall on seminars where I was taught all of these important factors at Xavier. I know through our core classes outside of our major that each student must adhere to that. I have gained insight and have been taught lessons that prepared me for this next step in my life better than I could have ever imagined while taking them.

EDDIE: When did you get a feeling that you might get an offer?

BRANDI: I began to get the feeling that I might be offered a position near the end of the interview process. The final interview (from where I was sitting) seemed to be going really well because I could tell some of the questions I prepared impressed both of my interviewers. I knew when they started giving me very in-depth examples of what I would be learning on their team and when they saw my enthusiasm for this training process that I had a pretty good chance of receiving a call.

Pictured: Brandi Biagas
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