Student Success Story: Jenifer Gaitan

Jenifer Gaitan attended the UConn Stamford campus and earned a Bachelor’s degree in History with a minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in May 2021. Upon graduation, Jenifer landed a position as an Associate for Media and Content at Kantar, an innovative, world-leading data, insights, and consulting company. Read Jenifer’s story and her advice for current UConn students.

Tara Malone: How did you choose your major and area of academic interest?

Jenifer Gaitan: I majored in History and minored in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and focused my research on first-generation Latinx college students. This was an area of interest for me as a first-generation student myself. I sought to more deeply understand the world around me, including inequalities and the history of diverse people. It was an empowering experience to learn new perspectives compared to the often one-dimensional history I learned before undergrad.

TM: How did your interests evolve into your current career path?

JG: I wanted to continue in research. After looking into different industries I thought the corporate sector offered more opportunities and potential for growth. I was able to market my academic research skills as well as my strong communication skills to present myself as a candidate willing to learn and grow, which is essential for any entry-level role. Taking Business courses also helped demonstrate this and illustrated my ability to handle complex projects and collaborate well with others.

TM: How did you go about conducting your search and how did you find out about your current position?

JG: I searched for entry-level roles within businesses that were looking to hire recent grads with a liberal arts background. Also, I looked for roles where my skills gained through academic research could be applied. Networking was key. I attended a career event, and later connected with one of the speakers who was a UConn alum. We spoke about my career goals and they suggested I apply to several companies, and one of the companies, Kantar, had a role I thought I was a good match for. I applied and heard back the next day. I had three interviews the following week and was offered the position.

TM: What groups, organizations, and resources at UConn do you feel helped to contribute to your success?

JG: As the former President of Husky Outreach for Minority Education (HOME), I felt that the leadership skills I gained in that role helped me feel more confident in myself. I learned to view ambitious tasks as an opportunity to grow. The partnership that we formed with the Center for Career Development personally helped me learn professional success strategies, and the knowledge they shared was applicable throughout my job search process.

TM: What academic or career job search obstacles did you feel like you needed to overcome and how did you do that?

JG: I didn’t have many technical skills and didn’t have any corporate work experience, such as internships. I thought both would have been great advantages in the job search, but I was able to use my additional coursework and my research experience as transferable skills/knowledge.

I also had to be my own biggest advocate. I had to find new opportunities, resources, and support from staff, faculty, and peers. This taught me that it was important to apply for everything–scholarships, grants, awards–even if I didn’t always think I was qualified because, oftentimes, I was!

TM: What do you feel are some skills or competencies that are essential for success in your fields?

JG: Strong communication skills, such as storytelling, are essential for conveying data or other important information in a way that can be easily and quickly understood. Research experience and experience working with stakeholders are also beneficial.

TM: Particularly as a student of color, what advice would you have for other students from diverse backgrounds at UConn?

JG: Seek guidance and mentorship. Dr. Ingrid Semaan, Dr. Laura Bunyan, and Dr. Joel Blatt opened up their office hours to me for help with coursework, research, job searching, and much more and it positively changed the course of my undergraduate education. It was also very helpful to connect with peers in my major and minor as we worked together to understand the material and prepare for big assignments and tests.

TM: What advice would you give to current UConn students who are looking to follow the same career path?

JG: Try to get experience in your field of interest, whether that is through independent research, part-time work, or internships. Network! Attend panels and other career talks where people discuss what the role or industry is like to get a better understanding of a career path you would like to explore further.

By Tara Malone
Tara Malone Interim Associate Director, Regional Campuses Tara Malone