The following was written by Jasmin Suknanan ’18, alumnus of the Stony Brook School of Communication and Journalism, Assistant Financial Editor at BuzzFeed.
If you knew me from 2015 to 2018 when I was a journalism student, you probably remember my incessant discussions about food, travel, and social media. Or maybe you remember a few glimpses of me sitting in the Melville Library Starbucks – caramel macchiato by my side – working on a new advice post for my blog. I was working toward a career as a lifestyle writer, and my past internship experiences on beauty, fashion, food, and pop culture websites solidified me as a strong candidate for the post after graduation. graduation. That was in 2018. But in 2020, the pandemic changed the trajectory of my career in ways that I never saw coming.
Two weeks after graduating from Stony Brook University, I started a fellowship as a food video producer at INSIDER, one of my dream companies. I’ve starred in videos highlighting New York City restaurants, interviewed chefs around the world, produced more content than anyone on the video side, and undertaken ambitious field shoots that challenged the status quo of my team’s content (and it all paid off tenfold). So it was a total shock when I wasn’t promoted to associate producer after my scholarship ended.
I was distraught, unemployed and faced with student loan repayments. Over 90 applications later, I landed another scholarship on the editorial team of BuzzFeed, another dream company. I had applied to BuzzFeed every year since my sophomore year of college and now, finally, the hiring manager was on the other line offering me the job. I started working on it in March 2019 covering, well, pretty much everything you see on the BuzzFeed website – recipes, Twitter and Reddit threads, celebrity trends, travel, millennial culture and (well sure) quizzes.
While I enjoyed the role, I learned from the hiring manager that once our scholarship program ended in March 2020, there would be no guarantee that we would be converted to permanent writers; internships in the media industry were no longer a pipeline to hire. Having already had this experience at INSIDER, I took it to heart. I was determined to stay employed at BuzzFeed, which meant I had to be ready to take the plunge at the first opportunity to grow. So when I saw that the Marketplace team was hiring a junior writer to cover lifestyle products, I threw my hat in the ring for the role.
By that time, I had only gone through about four months of my one-year scholarship. I knew I had all the skills for the job in the market, but it seemed a bit too early to just give up the role of a fellow. At the same time, I knew that hesitating could cost me an opportunity – besides, trying and not succeeding was better than not trying at all. My scholarship hiring manager helped me secure an internal interview with the deputy editor of the market team. And my editor at the time put in a good word because I had a knack for writing about lifestyle in a powerful way. I ended up getting the job. Our team has experienced massive growth since 2019 as we have brilliantly exceeded our goals. And when the pandemic hit in 2020, we turned out to be a huge asset to the company.
The pandemic has been a learning experience for everyone. As its financial impact on ordinary people became more evident, I felt lucky to still have an income and to have saved quite a bit over the years. But I quickly realized that I had done the bare minimum when it came to my finances. And as the first member of my family to attend college and become a corporate employee, I felt that the bare minimum was not enough. I thought about other people in my position whose financial literacy has also stopped just paying off debt and putting money aside here and there. We only followed the steps we knew, what our families knew enough to teach us.
I explored other ways to improve my finances and build a stronger nest egg with long term goals in mind. I listened to financial podcasts while I worked, read books focused on personal finance, and spent my evenings researching even more of the financial topics I still had questions about. I spent almost every hour consuming financial content and the more I learned, the more I liked it.
I came to understand the importance of building generational wealth, especially for a first generation American in the workforce like me. And it seemed like others were also interested in knowing more about the steps they needed to take to improve their financial lives. I started to want to teach others that everything I learned about money could be more important than anything I did in the larger BuzzFeed editorial team. Unfortunately, BuzzFeed did not have a personal finance team at the time.
And then, as if the universe had read my heart and knew what I wanted, our site manager announced that he was looking for someone to write personal finance articles and create a vertical for BuzzFeed. I couldn’t have emailed her faster to let her know I’m interested. Again, I jumped at the chance and gave myself to the process, and it paid off in the end.
Without a doubt, my work as BuzzFeed’s first associate personal finance editor has given me the unique opportunity to create content at a very early stage in my career while digging deeper into a topic that has become very important to me. Since creating personal finance content, I’ve gotten insight into billionaire wealth managers, women of color make waves in investing, and Everyday Millennials work to finance their future.
I’m grateful for all of my experiences – blogging, paid and unpaid internships, the scholarship that ended in heartbreak, the scholarship that ended with a job offer, and my current role. If I could give advice to current students and recent graduates it would be something like this:
- Be flexible with the verticals you are willing to cover. Don’t hit it until you’ve tried it – you might discover an affinity for reporting on something you never thought you could enjoy. And, that coverage could be a huge asset when it comes to finding your next opportunity.
- It’s easy to think that you no longer have to attend (virtually) networking events or pay attention to job postings once you have a role. But you should dig your well before you’re thirsty. Never stop learning and never stop improving yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to tell people what interests you. When an opportunity presents itself, you will be at the forefront of their minds because they know where your passions lie. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.