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Meet Marisa Apple.
Currently an Associate on the Client Services Team at AlphaSights, Marisa is on track to step into a manager role this coming January. That opportunity for growth and leadership, Marisa says, is one of the many things she loves about working at AlphaSights. AlphaSights is an information services company, specializing in connecting clients with industry experts through a proprietary expert network so clients can make better-informed decisions and deliver superior outcomes.
In the midst of a global pandemic, Marisa navigated a path from her studies in Communications & Media, to Events intern, to her current role at AlphaSights. Follow along as Marisa shares with the Hub’s Employer Engagement Lead Ben Anderson her advice to current LSA undergrads looking for internship experiences, the essential exercise of networking, and finding a role that fits you.
Ben: Hi Marisa! Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us. We’re excited to learn a little bit more about you and your role at AlphaSights. Can you start by telling more about your career path from student to professional?
Marisa: Absolutely! So at UM, I was a Communications and Media major in LSA, and what’s great about this program is that it’s very broad, so I was able to take those transferable skills and apply them to a lot of different jobs. I also knew I wanted to work in events, so I began framing my internships and experiences around that. However, I decided to keep an open mind when it came to deciding my career path, so I sought out different opportunities through the LSA Opportunity Hub. I attended résumé workshops where I learned how to tailor my résumé to different job applications and I utilized the university career center’s Handshake site and searched for keywords to help find specific opportunities.
Ben: That's awesome! As a Communications and Media student what elements of your academic pursuits do you still use in your day to day?
Marisa: The beginning of my second year, I took a class that was very excel heavy, teaching us how to do processes on excel and I remember thinking, ‘this isn't communications related’ — but now I use excel everyday, and am able to apply the skills I learned. Communications and Media is a very broad field so I was able to take classes that helped me discover my niche. Having the ability to eloquently communicate is also a very important skill regardless of the job you have. It’s also a transferable skill; being able to articulate a thought is very important regardless of your industry.
Ben: How did your experience in the Hub’s ALA 125: Positioning Yourself for a Success Internship help guide your career exploration and inform your next steps in pursuit of full time work or internships?
Marisa: ALA 125 had such a large impact on me. A lot of what we did in the class—talking through résumés, networking, developing different skill sets—showed us how to utilize the plethora of resources that UM provides. Outside of the many events the Hub planned, they also showed us how to navigate job websites, like the LSA Opportunity Network and Handshake. They walked us through how to run Google search queries for jobs you're looking for through use of keywords. The exercise had us pick three major keywords and use those to apply to three internships. Luckily for me I actually got one of those positions and ended up finding my internship with Star Events, which gave me the experience I needed to eventually apply for the full-time job I currently have.
Ben: Tell me a bit about the internship scholarship you received. How did that support your internship with Star Events?
Marisa: My internship with Star Events was exactly inline with what I thought I wanted to try to do. However, they were located in Chicago and I'm from Cleveland. Without that internship scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to go. Thankfully the scholarship provided me with the resources I needed to relocate for the internship and find housing over the summer. During the internship, we wrote blog posts on various projects and based on our own experiences. It is so nice to be able to reflect back on it as it makes the experience much more meaningful and can help me think about applying for a job later on.
Ben: So how did you go from working in events to your current position with AlphaSights?
Marisa: In terms of switching over to AlphaSights, I had gotten furloughed with events due to COVID, and I knew I wanted to switch directions career wise. So I decided to make a list of things I thought I was good at, and things I knew I wanted in a job. From there, I used LinkedIn and Handshake to read through job descriptions. I would search for words that were on the list of skills I had made and use that as a guide on which jobs I applied to. What ended up happening was that a friend of mine, who was also a Communications and Media grad and currently working at AlphaSights, posted the job opportunity that I’m now in. And I applied for the position because as I read through the job description, I noticed a lot of similarities between the skills needed for the position and the ones I had on my list. So I reached out to my friend to get more information. And actually after I had applied and interviewed, I realized a recruiter had reached out to me on Handshake while I was still a student at UM — so always check your Handshake messages!
Ben: Thank you for sharing that. So you explained what led you to AlphaSights—the classes, workshops, and networking—but what did your role actually look like once you were there?
Marisa: AlphaSights is a “knowledge on demand platform,” but I think of the platform as a matchmaker. We work with a variety of clients who are conducting research into a particular industry or field—i.e. companies looking to gain a better sense of direction—and we connect them with experts that have the industry knowledge to offer that sense of direction. So a lot of the work is setting up these different consulting engagements, interactions, calls, panels, or surveys depending on the needs of the clients.
Marisa: More specifically, I work with our consulting clients, and primarily within our private equity division, where the projects typically move a bit more quickly. Every week, I'm researching a completely new industry and talking to completely new people; it's very industry agnostic and involves a lot of communication. The role is also very results oriented, you're actually seeing what interactions and consults you're setting up. There's a lot of metrics involved, so you can also see how much revenue you're bringing into the firm, and how your skill sets are in terms of negotiation or recruiting new people to our network. All of those skills were on the list I made while job searching, and they’re what drew me to the role.
Ben: What’s an example of how you might offer support to a private equity company?
Marisa: So suppose that a private equity firm and the consulting clients helping them out might want to invest in a particular market or company, build it up, invest in it and then eventually sell it for a profit. For example, they might want to invest in the pre-packaged dessert market, like Krispy Kreme, Hostess, Twinkies, that type of product. They’ll call us to say ‘we want to learn more about this market,’ and then I’ll connect them with the former chief commercial officer at Hostess or the former sales director at Twinkies. Then from those conversations they can gain a better awareness of the market. So essentially we are the middleman, we work to understand their knowledge gaps and then connect them with the individuals and experts we know could fill that gap.
Ben: Great! As you were exploring career options, what were some of the resources you utilized in undergrad that you would recommend to current LSA undergrads?
Marisa: In terms of exploring, my advice to people is to go to everything. Even at Festifall, sign-up for everything, that way you can always get the emails, so even if you go to the mass meetings just once you’ll still remain in the loop. I also used to go to the Hub quite often for the Résumé Review sessions and general coaching appointments, and I explored a variety of different industries and careers, including fashion, marketing, and media. So even though those were industries I wasn’t interested in at the time, I learned more and saw what was out there.
Working with the Center for Campus Involvement, I also did a lot of work with the different student orgs on campus. I also was on the executive board for the Michigan Association of Communication Studies, through the Communications department. We brought in different speakers on various career topics and I used that for my own learning experience. The more I was learning about working outside of events, it only fueled my desire to work in events more. It helped me determine what kind of events I wanted, or how I could merge them. The more you can broaden your search, the more you can develop the niche of what you're looking for.
Ben: What do you wish you would have known to help you better navigate or continue to navigate recruiting?
Marisa: The advice I would have given myself in college is to utilize your network. In college for me, that meant instead of targeting the head of events at X company, target the associate of events at that company who is a fellow UM alum. It's great to speak to those high level people and gain that broader understanding, but you'll relate more to a more recent alum with more relevant experience. They can give you the specifics of their day to day, and that’s incredibly helpful because that's probably what you'll be doing in the next three to five years. So I wish I did that more, sometimes those high-level people are not necessarily getting back to you and may not have the insight you're looking for for an entry-level position.
Ben: How is it that you differentiated yourself as a candidate? What advice would you offer to your fellow Wolverines as they’re applying and interviewing for positions?
Marisa: Before any interview, I always did my research. I kept a notebook specifically for interviewing to take notes in. I started by going to the company website to find out what I could about the day to day of the job, researched what they were being spotlighted for in the news, organizations they were partnering with etc. That way I could enter each interview with extra golden nuggets of information to highlight. I also always came prepared with three to five questions to ask, and made sure to send a thank you note or a thank you email. Half the battle with interviews is being able to show the interviewer that you actually want the job, but most importantly, you know why you want the job, and you did the research to back that up.
Ben: What about AlphaSights makes you continue to work with and for them?
Marisa: Of all the many reasons to stay, one of the big reasons is that because I started the role with previous work experience, they put me on an accelerated track to manager, which hopefully I will be starting in January. Even without that accelerated track coming right out of undergrad, you can build yourself up at this company a lot sooner than you could at other companies—you can become a manager in two years and a VP in five, and that's very unique to be managing your own team before you're 25. That's a huge perk of wanting to stay: there's always room for growth. There is a very steep learning curve and you're getting a lot of responsibility right away.
Marisa: The role also checks a lot of the boxes of what I was looking for in a job, and I definitely enjoy the work and the day to day. But more than anything else the culture is just unmatched. Everyone is so friendly, gets along very well, and there's a ton of different social events. Everyone wants you to grow and develop into your best self, so it's very feedback oriented and very collaborative. But at the same time it's very positive, encouraging, and friendly, and has a lot of Michigan grads so it's a fun place to work.
Marisa’s guide to exploring your future career pathways:
Create a list. This list should contain the responsibilities you are looking to hold within a position. Use those keywords to guide your job search. Marisa was able to narrow her job search by searching the keywords from her list on LinkedIn.
Sign Up and Attend. Use events like Festifall and the Hub’s LSA Opportunity Network to sign up for as many organizations that resonate with you and actually attend their events to continue exploring potential career paths. By signing up for email list-serves, Marisa was able to attend events and stay in the loop on what's happening around campus.
Don't limit your classes. The college of LSA offers a wide range of courses to cater to your academic and curiosity needs. ALA 125, a course offered by the Hub, helped Marisa develop the skills she needed to find and land her dream internship with StarEvents.
Use your resources. By using the resources provided by the Hub, Marisa was able to apply for a scholarship that provided funding for her out-of-state internship.
Broaden your networking. Connecting with recent alum will offer you a more accurate perspective on what to expect for entry level positions. Marisa limited her networking abilities by reachout to more senior professionals that did not always have the perspective most helpful in her job search. LSA Connect, the college’s networking and mentoring platform, was designed specifically for that purpose.
The Hub’s Approach to Career Exploration:
Student Groups - Identify one to two student groups that relate to your identity and explore the possibility of holding a leadership position. Use Maize Pages to browse U-M 1,400+ Student led organizations.
Campus Jobs - Campus jobs allow students to gain their first professional experience and can often be used as leverage during your hiring process. Check out the Student Employment site to browse on campus offerings
Most Impactful Courses - Choose classes, like ALA125 (first-years) and ALA325 (seniors), that allow you to actively explore the connection between your LSA degree, identity, and career aspirations. Click here to explore the Hub’s Applied Liberal Arts (ALA) offerings.
Coaching - Coaching is an opportunity to receive direct feedback and support from one of the amazing Hub coaches on career development, internship searches, graduate applications etc. Click here to learn how to schedule an appointment or find out more about drop-in hours.]
Internships - An internship can help you explore career interests, build up your experience, expand your professional network, and increase your probability of finding meaningful opportunities after graduation. Explore summer internship opportunities still active on the LSA Opportunity Network.