Alumni Spotlight: Check out Melanie Gulbas’20, Post Production Coordinator for Blue Bloods; Reporter, Writer, Editor, Social Media Manager for Newsday

It gives me great pleasure to introduce Melanie Gulbas! I had the pleasure of crossing paths with Melanie during her time as a Marketing Communications Specialist at the Fleishman Career Center. Melanie brought her exceptional social media skills to the table, resulting in a remarkable 138% growth in our Instagram followers and an outstanding 650% boost in our social media engagement. Melanie has continued on her path to achieve remarkable things, and I am truly grateful for the valuable career wisdom she is about to share below.

Melanie Gulbas’20, Post Production Coordinator for Blue Bloods; Reporter, Writer, Editor, Social Media Manager for Newsday

Major(s) at Binghamton University: English Literature and Psychology | Minor(s): Rhetoric

Career Cluster(s): Arts and Communication | Affinity Group(s): Woman & Transfer/Non-Traditional

What activities and clubs/organizations did you participate in during your time at Binghamton University? This could include on-campus employment, research, volunteering, study abroad, student organizations, etc..

Being part of so many wonderful clubs and organizations at Binghamton University was truly the highlight of my time in college. I was a writer for BU’s newspaper, Pipe Dream, in their News section and their Arts and Culture section. I wrote close to 100 articles for them. I loved covering the BU community, and connecting with students, staff, and Binghamton residents. I was a radio host and member of WHRW throughout my time at BU. I held my own radio show over the years called The Twilight Zone. I typically played classic rock and alternative music. Once my brother, Josh, became a student at BU, he became a co-host. I was part of Phi Sigma Sigma, and helped coordinate formal events, community service events, and created apparel for the organization. I was also part of the amazing Fleishman Center!! I was on the marketing team and helped promote all of their activities and resources. I also volunteered through the Debate Team and participated in a nation-wide tournament. Off-campus, I interned at WBNG News Station in Johnson City as a Multimedia Journalist/On-Air Reporter.

Please include where you interned and any relevant details about the position or the skills you gained.

My first internship was in the summer of 2018 and it was with Long Island Pulse Magazine. It shifted into a writing position with Newsday, and I have continued to work with Newsday as a Freelance Reporter, Writer, Editor, and Social Media Mananger since then! The next summer, I had an internship with CBS Television Network in the Publicity Department in NYC. It taught me imperative communication skills as I worked with publicists, agents, and other CBS employees. I was very fortunate to have an amazing team and they taught me so much about the television industry. During my senior year of college, I took on an internship at a local news station, WBNG. I was a Multimedia Journalist/Reporter and reported live on the field and in studio, providing coverage for both feature stories and breaking news. On a daily basis, I interviewed community members, filmed footage, wrote scripts, and edited the stories for air. It was an incredible experience and I still remember everyone cheering the first time I saw myself on television for the first time. That internship taught me an immense amount about myself, including that my public speaking fear tended to dissipate in front of a camera as compared to a classroom of students (funny how that works itself out). It also taught me how helpful colleagues could be, and how amazing Binghamton is as a community and town. The news industry is definitely challenging when you hear about horrible stories happening in your community, but seeing people come together to help each other is amazing. I gained courage and confidence during that position, not only about what I could achieve in the news industry, but also that I was able to balance school and work. I would run from work straight to class and still managed to graduate Summa Cum Laude. It was a challenge, but I honestly tend to work very well under pressure and with deadlines, which is why the news industry always intrigued me. Since working there, I haven’t been on camera, but I still have ties with the news industry with my freelance writer position.

Why did you select your major at Binghamton University? What experiences or factors influenced your decision?

I chose English and psychology as my majors. I had a great psychology course in high school that really influenced me and I had always been intrigued by social psychology. For English, I always knew I wanted to do something with literature and writing. I chose my concentration in rhetoric because I wanted to pursue journalism. I ended up taking just as many creative writing courses as I did journalism courses because I was so passionate about writing.

What advice would you give to a student who is exploring different major options?

I wrote an article for Pipe Dream a few years ago (which I’ll touch on again further down in this blog), and the message is perfect for any student who is still trying to figure it out. I was definitely that student. I took extra courses that weren’t even fulfilling any of the major requirements because I was passionate about various subjects, and I am so thankful I did. Without exploring different paths, courses, or majors, I wouldn’t have the experiences or knowledge that I have today.

From my article:

To BU students, and all students, you aren’t trapped in one path or profession. If you want to put all sense of the future aside for a night or two, then do it and focus on right now. Put yourself in the present instead of five years from now. So, if you’re struggling and feeling the pressure of picking a major, an internship, a job — anything at all — just know, none of it really matters to anyone besides yourself. If it makes you happy to take an internship completely outside your major or a job that has nothing to do with your original career path, then do it. Make your path as you go, instead of planning every step of the way.

The only person you’ve got to make proud of in your life is truly yourself, because in the end, you’re all you’ve got.

It’s okay to break the norm and not know for once in our lives. With so much uncertainty, why are we still being programmed to “know?” The question we should’ve been asking all along should never have been, “What do you want to be?” but rather, “Who do you want to be?”

How did your coursework at Binghamton prepare you for your current role?

All of the Victorian courses that I took, including Jack Shear and Jessie Reeder’s courses, were incredibly influential. They introduced me to a wide range of literature and Victorian culture. My goal is to be a writer of some format, whether as a novelist or TV writer, and their courses helped me realize I could combine my passion for writing and 19th century literature and film. There is a part of me that would still like to continue my studies in Victorian literature, and if I do attend postgraduate school, it will be all due to their influence. One other course would be Alexi Zentner’s Fiction Workshop. Aside from creative writing courses being imperative to my field, he has been an amazing mentor even after graduating. Sometimes a course can be influential because of the materials, and other times, it’s because of the professor teaching it. All three of the professors I have mentioned have been influential throughout my studies and in my life.

What would you say is the most important skill in your field and how do you use it in your current position?

Although I currently have a few positions, the one skill that has remained essential has been my communication skills. Being able to properly communicate effectively and efficiently with colleagues, new employees, superiors, and those in different departments, is imperative to any job. On a daily basis, I send out and respond to dozens of emails and phone calls, as well as attend multiple meetings. You may have to quickly walk a producer through troubleshooting a technology problem, or coordinate travel for talent, or help a community member feel comfortable enough to share their story. Without communication skills, it would be difficult to navigate most workplace environments.

How can Binghamton University students develop this skill while in college?

Fortunately, communication skills can be strengthened overtime outside of internships and jobs, such as with group projects, presentations, club/organization meetings, chatting with peers, and even placing take-out food orders. The Fleishman Center has resources to practice interview skills, too.

What tools and resources were most helpful to you during your job search?

LinkedIn!! Without LinkedIn, I would not have a job in the entertainment television industry. I spent hours each day researching and reaching out to people for informational interviews. Not only did these informationals build connections, but they also helped me learn more about different positions in the industry, some of which I hadn’t heard of before. Twitter is also a great social platform to connect with peers or people you may look up to. I have reached out to my fair share of TV writers and received such great advice over the years. With all of this, don’t forget that your peers are in the same position as you so chat with them about their job search, too! If they jump ahead, they can always bring your name up, and vice versa.

What is your advice for writing a strong resume/cover letter for a position in your field?

Get your resume and cover letter edited! Whether it’s through the Fleishman Center, from a friend, or relative, make sure it gets checked by someone else other than you. When you’ve stared at the same document for hours on end, it’s going to be hard for you to catch a spelling mistake or format error. Also, throw in statistics and quantifying duties as much as possible. Although we all dislike cover letters, they really are important! They can help you stand out, especially if it’s down to you and one other candidate. Read your cover letter thoroughly and if you’re re-using your template for multiple jobs, remember to change the title and company name throughout– trust me, I’ve seen mistakes happen that have cost people the role. Gear the cover letter towards each role, even if it’s just an extra sentence or two that you have to keep changing when re-using the template.

What is your advice for interviewing for positions within your field? How can recent graduates stand out?

Unfortunately, the entertainment television industry is notorious for not having interviews, and instead it being on a networking-basis. With that being said, whenever I chat with someone in the industry, they always express how impressive my resume and website are, and how unique all of my past experiences and positions are (since I have quite a diverse job history). Make sure your resume is always ready to be sent out because you never know when someone will ask for it. Also, I was once told to have an elevator pitch ready, but instead of focusing on what my past experiences were, to focus on who I am and what I want to achieve. They wanted to know who I was, not what I had done professionally. I had never been asked that before, but you bet I now have that prepared. With the news industry, be confident and prepared! Make sure to research the company beforehand and come prepared for the interview with story pitches about the community and recent events.

What is one thing you would suggest students do before graduation to be more prepared for the job search?

Two things– first, try to intern, work, or just chat with someone in your desired field. I had multiple internships and jobs during college that helped me sort of figure out what I wanted to do. To be honest, I currently work in 3 different industries so I haven’t quite narrowed it down all the way, and that’s okay to not know, and it’s okay to want more than one career, but having those previous internships allowed me to cross off the careers I did not want.

Second– become a LinkedIn sleuth! I can’t speak on other industries, but for the entertainment television industry, it is truly based on who you know, which doesn’t sound too bad until you are in the position of searching for a job. I thought this would be my crux, and that I would never get a job in television, but after what seemed like 100s of LinkedIn messages and dozens and dozens of virtual informational interviews, I was asked to work for the show Blue Bloods. I wish I started this process pre-graduation, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet, so I wasn’t able to start the LinkedIn sleuthing and researching until after graduating. I spent my days researching people in my desired industry and in the positions I would like. I would message them asking for any insight and if they had time for a quick virtual chat. I made sure we had some form of a connection, whether it be that we were both BU alumni, from the same hometown, or mutual aquantiances. If you don’t know anyone in your desired field, or haven’t made any connections yet, like I didn’t back in college, don’t panic– you have networking at your fingertips.

What is the best piece of career advice you have received?

To combine my passions into a job, and I’ll find happiness. I’m still working on my career path, but I had a meeting with a career coach and as I was explaining my current role at the time, she said I didn’t sound happy. She asked what makes me happy and I replied “reading, writing, television shows,” and that’s when she said I lit up. Unfortunately, we may all have to take positions we don’t want to in order to pay bills, but if we can find a job that encompasses some of our passions and hobbies, then (hopefully) it won’t feel as much like a job.

Is there any additional knowledge or advice you would like to share?

This article that I wrote two years ago as a Pipe Dream alumnus still holds true and is still dear to my heart. I strongly believe that during college and even after, we don’t need to know what we want to do or be in our life, as far as career-wise goes. I currently have three positions in very different fields, and in the past 5 years, I have held such a range of positions. I have always wanted to be a writer and that has stayed a constant throughout my life, but I’ve been drawn to exploring other paths as well. I am fortunate that I have been able to work in various industries, even for a short while, and I don’t see myself ever staying in just one particular role or industry for the rest of my life.

It’s so special that humans have unique personalities and different interests that it truly should be encouraged to explore and pursue those various paths. Unfortunately, we don’t all get the opportunity to have multiple career paths in life, but BU offers so many internships, positions, and networking opportunities where students can try and explore their different interests and paths as much as possible. Ultimately, life is about exploring hobbies, interests, career paths, and connecting with others. Figure out where your passions connect and that will guide you in the right direction(s).

By Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith Senior Career Consultant