Owning Your Career In College with Alyssa Fiorentino of Delish.com
Let's be honest: we've all had that person in our lives that we look at with major admiration. We've caught ourselves saying, "I want to be her" or "When I grow up, I want to be just like her." Who that person is and what makes that person so inspiring is different for every person, but there is one commonality. In one way or another they are extraordinary. And they make you want to be extraordinary. What makes Alyssa Fiorentino so extraordinary is that in many ways, she is ordinary. She went to college. Studied communication and media. Got involved on campus. Scored a number of internships. Landed a job in social media in New York City. What makes Alyssa remarkable is in the details.
She didn't just go to college. She graduated summa cum laude. She didn't just study communication and media. She was published on top media websites. She didn't just get involved on campus. She led an entire school publication. She didn't just get internships. She scored internships at some of the world's top media companies. And she didn't just land a job in social media. She landed a job as a Social Media Editor. Oh, and did we mention she did that while she was still a student? Read on to learn how Alyssa owned her career in college.
Name: Alyssa Fiorentino
Location: New York, NY
Education: Fordham University
Current job: Social Media Editor, Delish.com
What is your passion?
I don't feel like I have one passion, but rather a lot of things that I'm passionate about. My number one right now would definitely be my job. Our site was relaunched in the spring, so we've been building everything from the ground up. I love that every day we can turn another new person on to site and the brand. Seeing someone on my Facebook feed sharing a Delish video is so satisfying. I'm so proud of what we've done so far, and really excited about the possibilities of what's to come.
How did you start pursuing your career in social media?
Long story short: I realized I only needed to take two classes my last semester in order to graduate. As soon as the idea of taking those two classes at night popped into my head, I couldn't get it out. I got permission from my dean, freed up my entire week, and then I started looking for paid internships and full-time freelance jobs because I really felt that I was ready to take the next step up from interning. When I saw the listing for my previous role as the Social Media Editor at WomansDay.com, I knew it was the one. I hadn't always had social media in mind, but as I set out to start my career I really felt that social was the right move for me. It's something that I love doing and it creates a wide range of opportunities for my next career move in the future.
"I think the biggest thing I learned was actually something really small, which is the importance of coming into work every day and saying hello with a smile on your face."
You have some pretty incredible names on your resume. How did you score such impressive internships?
Personally I don't think I would have ever had those internships if I didn't go to school in New York. I knew I wouldn't be able to give up my summers at home to intern in New York City, so being able to intern during the semester was so vital for me. The other thing that really helped was emailing my applicant materials directly to the editors. If you send your resume and cover letter to those generic "firstname.lastname@example.org," they're more than likely getting lost in a pile. That, and a lot of determination.
What were the biggest lessons you learned during your internships that helped you land your job at Delish.com?
I think the biggest thing I learned was actually something really small, which is the importance of coming into work every day and saying hello with a smile on your face. Impressions are everything, and a good attitude and positive energy are a lot more powerful than you think.
While in college, you had fantastic internships, led an on-campus publication, contributed to a number of websites (including Spire & Co!), and you graduated with an incredible GPA. Quite simply, how did you make it all happen?
It definitely wasn't easy. There were a lot of long nights and tons of Pugsley's pizza. But I think having defined goals, and knowing where I wanted to end up, really helped me pull through. I had a path from day one; not everyone has that. I was able to hit the ground running as soon as I got to college and start doing the things I thought were the right steps towards my dream internships and my goal GPA. Also, the thought of not getting a job and having to leave New York after those four years was a lot scarier than the thought of not getting eight hours of sleep each night.
During your senior year, you were the Social Media Editor for Women's Day. What is your advice for pursuing your career in college?
I knew that I was ready to take the next step towards my career. I knew that I wanted to put more time towards finding a job, which to me meant interning as much as possible or even stepping into a full-time role. But it's a huge, huge responsibility, so I would definitely advise thinking it over fully before going for it. You have to really know yourself, and know what you are capable of in order to decide if working full-time while still in school is right for you. If you don't trust yourself to get to work on time every morning and make it to class on time every night with your assignments ready to hand in, don't do it. You will still get an amazing job, it will just be on a different path.
Now you are the Social Media Editor for Delish.com. What made you decide Delish was the right place for you? What are your main responsibilities?
My boss was actually the one who sold me on Delish. When I first heard of the position I wasn’t sure that it was for me; I can’t cook and I’m a picky eater, so I didn’t immediately feel that I was qualified to do social for a food site. But when we sat down to talk about the role she told me all about her vision for the new Delish (which relaunched last March) and everything she said sounded like something I wanted to be a part of. I knew after that conversation that I really, really wanted the job. Now I manage the Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest pages, and co-manage the Instagram account. I'm also running the Snapchat, which is a lot of fun. It's my job to promote our content and get it to the eyes of our audience on social. I'm also actively working to grow that audience.
Does your college education help you with your role at Delish? If so, what classes or other college experiences have been the most beneficial?
Definitely. I took some great writing courses as part of my communications major that really prepared me for writing news stories everyday at Woman's Day. Also, the lesson on memes from my social media class has seriously stuck with me since then. It was one of the first things I wanted to do when stepping up to the plate on the Delish Instagram account and now memes are a huge part of our Insta-strategy.
What have you learned about yourself through your career so far?
This isn't necessarily something about myself but more about life in general–hard work pays off. You hear it all the time, but it's not just a cliché. I realized that when I was offered my position at Delish two weeks before graduation.
You are the voice of social media at Delish and you have a great personal social media presence. How do you determine what a social media voice should sound like? How do you make it original?
I try to treat it like I'm talking to my friends, to an extent at least. A lot of brands have a service vibe or just seem unreachable. I always want Delish to sound like something your friend would say to you. Keeping things relevant and light are both really important too. Any time you can use a Drake lyric to caption an Instagram is a win in my opinion.
What is the most common misconception about working in digital media?
Maybe this isn't so much digital media as it is my focus in social media, but a lot of people think my job is just to take pictures of food all day. It's not, and even if it were, getting the right lighting to make a sandwich look good is a lot harder than you'd think.
What advice would you give to other girls who want to pursue a career in digital media?
Start right now. The beauty of digital is that everyone can do it. You don't necessarily have to start your own blog, but you should definitely contribute your writing somewhere online before you even apply for internships. If you're actively writing, blogging, tweeting and putting yourself to work online, you'll already know the basics of most internships or positions in digital media.
What advice would you give to your college freshman self?
I think I'd want to give myself a pep talk. I'd say, "You know what you're doing, you wouldn't be here if you didn't, and you're gonna do great."
Behind the Scenes
What does your typical day look like?
After I wake up I shower and get ready, then head to my office. When I get in I check Facebook, scan through what's trending, look at how posts from the day and night before preformed, and then I start scheduling for that day. I'll also try to plan out what images we'll be posting to Instagram throughout the day and night. Some days are easier to plan than others. A regular day at Delish also usually involves at least one addicting dessert to Snapchat and then try. There are very few days when I'm not in the test kitchen volunteering to hand model and eating all the things. By the end of the day I'm plotting out our social posts for the night and next morning. Then I go home and dive into my bed full of pillows and watch Netflix on my phone.
What do you need on your desk at Delish to be productive?
Headphones and my phone. If I really need to power through a bunch of Facebook posts I'll put my headphones in and listen to One Direction or Justin Bieber on Spotify. But I'd be completely lost without my phone.
Who are your favorite social media accounts?
What are your favorite websites, blogs, or magazines to read?
Delish.com, of course (did I mention where I work?) All of the Hearst brands do such amazing work, so I'm always poking around our sister sites. But I would say I spend the most time on Keep.com, which I should confess is a shopping site. I can't go a day without scrolling through my Keep app to see what's new. I'll look in the morning or at night when I'm in bed. I'll look when I'm on the stairmaster at the gym. I'm okay with admitting that I have a shopping problem.
Who was your first girl crush? Who is your current girl crush? Why?
I guess my first girl crush was Britney Spears. When I was little I really wanted to be her (which I now believe is the root of my deep-seeded crop top obsession). My current girl crush is Gigi Hadid. She's really having a moment, but beyond that I'm obsessed with her style and her figure. She might have a thigh gap, but at least she has thighs.
What do you do with your time out of the office?
Sleep. And I'm rewatching Gilmore Girls on Netflix. Most importantly—and I'll admit this is cliche—spending time with my friends has been my favorite thing to do outside of work. We're all finding our footing in this next stage in our lives and it's so fun to be doing it together.