Student Success Story: Ashley Gittens

Ashley Gittens attended the UConn Stamford campus and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychological Sciences in May 2020. After graduation, Ashley landed a Corporate Recruiter, Talent Acquisition position at HPOne, one of the leading sales and marketing companies in the rapidly expanding health and Medicare insurance marketplace. Read Ashley’s story and her advice for current UConn students.

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

Ashley Gittens: Choosing my major was one of the most difficult yet rewarding decisions of my academic career. I switched my major a few times before I landed on Psychology, but the process to get there is one I wouldn’t change. Trying out other majors made me realize my strengths and weaknesses, and Psychology encompassed everything I wanted in a major. It had aspects of history, science, and art and allowed for abstract thinking.

TM: How did you find out about your current position?

AG: Linkedin, Linkedin, Linkedin! I can’t stress enough how important Linkedin has been in my job search and through this site, I was able to land my current job.

TM: How did you go about conducting your search?

AG: Initially, I combed through Linkedin and Indeed applying to all entry-level HR positions within a 25-mile radius of me, but then I realized I needed to change my strategy. I began contacting Human Resources professionals in my area on Linkedin and asked for advice. I explained my educational background and future career goals, then asked them what skills they think I should work on. Networking with professionals who were willing to help really kept my spirits up during the tough 2020 job market.

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

AG: The Center of Career Development has played a vital role in contributing to my professional success. I received mentorship that has still continued even after graduation. I also took advantage of the various professional development events, which opened my eyes to the corporate world and made me discover my passion for Human Resources. I feel that this department truly prepared me for life after college and provided me tools for professional success.

TM: What experiences during your time at UConn contribute to your success?

AG: The annual Career Fairs played a major role in my success. Networking at these events helped increase my confidence level, and by my second career fair I felt like a pro. I was confidently pitching myself to multiple employers and I learned how to ask thoughtful career questions. Even though a majority of my job interviews were through Zoom, I was still able to apply the networking skills I learned at UConn’s Career Fairs.

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

AG: I mainly needed to overcome the fear of rejection. It was tough at first to stay positive even after getting so many job rejections, but with patience, I was able to push through. Sometimes I felt like a robot just submitting my application to whatever job I could find, just to get a rejection email or hear nothing back from the company at all.  At one point, I had to take a break from applying to jobs and regroup. This break allowed me to truly think about what I want in a job and the kind of culture I want to work in. After this, I applied to fewer jobs but ones that fully aligned with what I wanted to do. Eventually, I landed a job that matched all my interests and it was worth the wait.

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

AG: Strong verbal communication skills. Majority of what I do is connecting with potential candidates and conducting phone screens, so being comfortable talking to people is essential. Creativity is another important skill. I constantly have to come up with new ways to get the information I need out of candidates. I work with several different personality types and people respond to different forms of communication, so I have to adjust to meet their needs and mine. Overall, patience and a positive attitude will get one far in this field. The world of Human Resources and recruiting will always throw curveballs one’s way, so keeping your head up and not taking things personally will set you up for success!

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

AG: Make it a priority to find a mentor that shares a similar background to you or someone who is in your desired field. This relationship will be one of the most important professional relationships you could have. Talking to someone who could give you advice and cares about what you are going through, will be beneficial in helping you overcome various obstacles. Also, network with your peers and join LinkedIn or Facebook groups with people who share similar experiences to you. Having a community to discuss your experiences with is a great outlet to vent and gain useful advice.

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

AG: Be open to working in all industries and be flexible with your job search. The more options you give yourself the better. Also, and I can’t stress this enough– network!! Networking is key in finding work and keeping up-to-date with trends in the HR world.

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