Works and Days

Interview with Jessica L. Benjamin

Nathan Martin '16, Assistant Editor at Works & Days, interviewed Jessica L. Benjamin '93, Senior Account Manager at Monster Worldwide.

How would you describe your career path? Do you feel it's been fairly straightforward, or more winding?

It's been fairly straightforward in that when I was entering college, I wanted to be a journalist, or a writer,  then I found out how much journalists made, and that there was another career path for me. I was a Quest editor, which is how I got almost all the experience I used to get my first couple of jobs, and then I've worked in media, one type or another pretty much the entire time. Even when I was in law school, it was part-time, and I was working in media part-time to make money, and so it seems fairly straightforward. What's happened along the way is that newsprint is not a way for someone like me to make money anymore and so I made the switch over to doing digital media. Then I discovered recruitment advertising online, which is one of the areas where there is money to be made. So I was doing it before in the sciences, and then when the NIH cuts came, and there was much less funding in the sciences, then I went to go work for Monster.

What does your work at Monster look like?

At Monster I sell software and advertising to companies. A company will come to me and want access to our resume database—they'll want job postings. We've got Twitter cards we sell so that every time they do an ad they can have it in their Twitter feed, a nice looking card. We sell ATS (an applicant tracking system) to people, so they can keep track of who they're hiring, and who they're recruiting, and keep it all in one place and message those people. And then they can do searches when they have new jobs with everyone they've ever interacted with to find out who's a good mix. So when you're throwing your resume at a company, it usually goes into a system like that and then they do really keep it, and if it ever is a good match for some things they have, they might come back and call you. It just kind of depends on how they work.

Before speaking with you, I hadn't realized that there were careers in selling recruitment advertising.

Yeah, when I do come to a career day I usually get a couple people who are interested in advertising sales. I really do recommend it as a career. It's extremely flexible. I've moved a lot, and it's never taken me more than two months to get a job because it's something that not very many people want to do. I really enjoy it, you know—I'd do something else if I didn't really enjoy it. That's why I've been doing it for almost twenty years. It's a skill that's very transferable, from Willamette Week, which was my first job selling ads to bars and restaurants around Portland, to now, selling recruitment advertising. It's not really very different.

What do you like the most about it?

Every day is different. You never know what people are going to need, what problems they might have, what you need to train them how to do. I like it when I have clients that are really comfortable with me and they have complex needs, just figuring out what products make the most sense for them to be using, and how to use them to basically lower their cost per hire.

In one of your blogs you write about how you were using Jigsaw (also known as Connect), to find contact information.

Pretty much one of the top skills is being able to find people and being able to get them to talk to you, to do this kind of work, and so a lot of it is just using different computer programs to find people, or just having a lot of patience. Sometimes I'll sit and read someone's Twitter feed going back a few months until they mention something that's a clue to who I really want to be talking to. I think those are the things that I've found really helpful in how I work.

Do you have an ideal client?

At my last job I did a lot of work with pharma clients and a lot of work with ad agencies, and I really enjoyed that. Now I'm dealing with totally new clients. My territory is New York and New Jersey, and it's mostly IT companies. And for most of them, part of the company is in India, so it's been extremely challenging to engage with these somewhat traditional guys sometimes in India, and get them to want to work with a woman. I'm selling them a product called TalentBin that's a sourcing product. Basically, TalentBin builds profiles by scraping the web. So it's like a LinkedIn profile that you haven't done yourself. They build these sort of ghost resumes, and so you have to be kind of a hot recruiter to reach out to somebody who hasn't applied for a job, and tell them about your job, and get them interested in applying for it. So it's kind of a non-tangible product. I've been doing a lot of demos online with people in India and people in the US and being able to understand their questions and communicate with them is pretty challenging. I just started working at Monster about three months ago, and I've made the most sales in my group, so it's something that I'm really getting into. It's kind of a challenge and that's one thing I like about coming here, is it's a huge challenge after my last job.

You were an English major at Reed, and you said that your work at the Quest helped you a lot. Is there anything else that you've taken away from Reed that you feel has helped you in your career path?

Yeah, I think taking Hum 110 with Peter Steinberger was really helpful, in my writing ability, being an English major. Actually, to get this job I had to do a little written exam, and I think the writing skills that I learned at Reed were very helpful, and you do a lot of writing presentations and sort of persuasive writing when you're selling advertising, so that's all been very helpful.

What was the most difficult part of Reed in your experience?

I think, just kind of a general impostor syndrome that a lot of people have. I came to Reed as a philosophy major. I was a philosophy major at Penn State, and I transferred to Reed, and there wasn't a big focus on continental philosophy at Reed at the time that I attended, so I didn't really understand the classes that were being taught. I ended up just bailing out of the philosophy program and becoming an English major because I thought it was incredibly easy. My mom and a few other people there told me that it's not easy for everybody to be an English major and crank out a few forty page papers, you know, for fun on the weekends. At the time it felt like a cop-out, switching from philosophy to English, but it just came so much more naturally to me, that that's what I ended up doing.

Do you have any advice to pass on to current Reedies?

I think doing extracurricular activities is really important because that can be where you pick up the skills you end up using to get your first job. That's my advice, take what you enjoy and do extracurricular things that you enjoy, and you'll be able to take little bits out of that. Also, I think being a development volunteer, I don't know what they call it, just like the phonathons and stuff like that. That looks great on a resume when you're looking for your first job. Anyone who can help raise money and do development work and do grant writing and that kind of stuff, it's great stuff to have on your resume right out of college.

Tags: alumni, interviews, advertising sales