A Man, A Plan, A Bold New Career
Will Melendez MBA'12
“When you’re making a major career switch, you can’t just hope for the best.”
As a staff analyst in the New York City Department of Education, Will Melendez marketed vendor services to public schools. One of his favorite aspects of the job was combing through data to uncover hidden insights into his customers’ needs. Soon, he realized this was where he wanted to focus his career. But he knew it wouldn’t be easy.
From Nonprofit to Consumer Marketing
“I came to Kelley to make a switch from the nonprofit sector into consumer marketing, and I knew I wanted to work with a company in personal care or beauty, because that was a segment that fascinated me,” Melendez says. “It’s a pretty specific goal, so I knew I would have to work hard right away.”
The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management awarded Melendez a fellowship, giving him a jumpstart on Consortium recruiting events, which begin before Kelley’s formal recruiting season. It also meant he had to begin preparing for interviews as soon as possible.
“Before I started interviewing, I created a database of company information, participated in mock interviews,” Melendez says. He also prepared CAR or Challenge/Action/Response statements—brief stories where interviewees can discuss a past work challenge, their solution, and the results. “The team at Graduate Career Services also helped me tell my story in a way that helped employers understand my career path better.”
Preparation Pays Off
Melendez’s preparation led to Unilever offering him an internship. On his first day, his Suave Professionals brand development manager told him the project he’d been assigned had come straight from the CEO. It was just the first time Melendez would be struck by how strongly the company valued every team member, and how those teams valued each other.
“My project required me to work closely with the consumer insights team, the supply chain team, finance, and research and development,” Melendez says. “One of the plant managers actually invited me down to the manufacturing facility to discuss how their operations affected our strategy.”
That sense of teamwork, Melendez found, was business as usual at Unilever.
“They have an agile work environment, where no one has an assigned desk,” he says. “One day, I might be next to another intern, and the next day, a senior vice president. I knew it was the right fit.”
When they offered him a full-time position on the Nexxus brand-building team, he accepted eagerly. With his post-MBA career plans in place, Melendez decided to spend a semester in Australia, where he got a deep education in marketing luxury goods—a new industry segment for him—at Melbourne Business School. He also went scuba diving for the first time in his life, along the Great Barrier Reef.
Make the Most of Your MBA
“I knew this was the one time where I would have the time and resources to really explore. I didn’t want to miss a single opportunity,” Melendez says. “That’s really my advice to prospective MBAs—make the most of this time, and make every decision a focused decision.”