Jamie Sztoser works alongside her sister and father as the Vice President of the Fashion/Media division of Choice Associates, a boutique family-owned recruitment firm in New York City. A 2003 Communication Studies alumna, Sztoser has been in recruiting and human resources for over 10 years and has previously worked in public relations and events.
1. Tell us a bit about the path you took to get where you are today professionally.
My path started like most U-M Communication Studies grads back in 2003 moving to NYC to pursue a career in PR. I always thought that’s what I wanted to do; my internships were all in PR and, from what I learned at school, my skill set would be best used to help promote a product. I knew this could mean marketing or advertising as well so I applied to literally EVERY role I could find. “Back in the day” I was doing this via hard copy — I sent my physical resume in the mail (THE MAIL!) to these companies. You kids today don’t even know how lucky you are to be able to access this information at your fingertips…and LinkedIn! I WISH I had LinkedIn!
Anyway, it was a very tumultuous time to be looking for work and beggars could not be choosers. The summer came and went and once September hit, I was starting to feel down on myself. Something finally stuck a few weeks later and I got a post-grad internship in PR at a very prestigious firm called Marina Maher Communications. I was working on the CoverGirl account and was THRILLED — my dreams had come true! I spent 4 months on the team and it was SO cool. I worked events, had lunches with editors, and watched as the samples I sent out were placed in my favorite magazines. At the end of my internship, the only permanent position available was in healthcare — not something I ever thought I would do, but who was I to be picky?
I took a role working on a migraine medication called Relpax and a black-boxed contraceptive called Depo Provera. Even though it wasn’t glamorous, I learned a ton and the cerebral piece to the work ended up really appealing to me. I ended up working most of my tenure there in consumer health, combining my scientific and analytical background from my days in healthcare with my passion for beauty. My biggest account was Secret Deodorant and my biggest accomplishment was organizing a booth at the Indy 500 with our spokesperson at the time, Danica Patrick!
Fast forward a few months and I ended up getting a boss I could just not see eye-to-eye with. It was horrible. I had heard stories that you never leave a job, but you leave a boss and finally understood what that meant. So I went to HR, the best resource to someone having trouble at work. I told her my woes and she challenged me with a question I will never forget — can you tell me the 3 things you like best about your job?
I thought about it overnight and came back to her the next day, proud of my answers. I told her the internship program, the newsletter, and the bulletin board were my favorite things to do. She said (and I quote), “You realize none of those things have ANYTHING to do with your job, right?!”
I had never thought about it before. What DID I love about my job? It wasn’t the work, but it was the agency. It was the people.
So she showed me a job description and asked, “Have you ever thought about doing what I do?” My dad owns a staffing firm so I was always surrounded by HR and recruiting, but no, I never had. She explained it to me and we talked for hours, days, weeks about me making a career shift. The more I learned, the more I realized that HR and recruitment is very similar to PR, but instead of a product, you are promoting a candidate or a company. I loved the idea and made the move.
After about a year of learning everything and anything I could from her, I had the opportunity to interview at Turner Broadcasting, part of Time Warner, one of the best media companies in the world. I obviously went, and I got the job!
I spent 4 years there and loved every second. I supported the ad sales and marketing teams, so I was still surrounded by what I went to school for, but instead of promoting deodorant, I was helping people. I felt so much more fulfilled and proud every day. I then took a small break from corporate America to run the Hoboken location of Kidville, a children’s enrichment facility close to my house. I wanted to work with kids and still use my skills in PR, HR, and administration in a way that would prepare me to be a mom.
Once I got pregnant with my first, I was at another crossroads. My sister, who had been working for my father’s staffing firm for some time by then, asked me to come cover her desk while she was on maternity leave while I decided what I was going to do next. She was due 4 months before me and it would give me a bit of time to decide what I was going to do once the baby came. I worked both jobs for awhile, thinking I would just do it to help her out. Needless to say, here I am 5 years later. I think I truly needed my path in order to realize this is where I was meant to be all along. Now I recruit for fashion, media, advertising, PR, and marketing positions everyday! So really, it’s not much different – it just took me a few years to figure it out.
2. What U-M classes or extracurricular activities did you find particularly helpful in your job field?
I was new member educator of my sorority and this definitely helped prepare me for my job. I helped new members navigate the waters of our sorority, meet friends, and figure out their place. As a recruiter/HR professional, I do the same for grown-ups!
3. Describe a day-in-the-life at work.
Everyday is different. I would say my job is about half sales (trying to get new business) and half recruitment (finding candidates for open jobs). I spend lots of time counseling people on their resumes and preparing them for interviews, but I am also canvassing job boards and LinkedIn to figure out places I can tackle next!
4. What is your favorite aspect of your current job?
Simply said, I LOVE helping people. My favorite thing to do is watch someone’s eyes light up when I explain how their resume could look better, or when I give someone a piece of advice before an interview that helps them get a job. Changing people’s lives is a gift, and I get to do it every single day.
5. How has a degree in Communication Studies from U-M benefited your career?
I learned so much in the Communication Studies program. From the history of media, to statistics, to PR, to what I imagine now includes social media, I think I have a better grasp on the industries I service and how to best communicate my needs. I learned how to multitask, speak publically, and think strategically at U-M and I wouldn’t trade my education for anything! I think my degree prepared me for anything and everything I tackled in my career. The Comm Studies major is a great place for someone to start who might not exactly what they want to do, but knows wholeheartedly they are a good communicator and a strategic thinker!
6. What is your favorite U-M memory?
Painting the rock!
7. What is one piece of advice you would give to students looking to pursue a career in your field?
Go on EVERY interview you get. You never ever know what will happen. Also, believe in things happening for a reason. If you are meant to work somewhere, you will. But you have to go after it. And my favorite — network most when you need it least! Start NOW!