Esther Lee Cruz

Graduation Year: 2006

Major: Double major in Math and Sociology.

Why did you choose Sociology? 

My roommate took Intro to Sociology with  Dr. Allen her freshman year and raved about it. So I took her advice and registered for it the fall of my sophomore year. I fell in love with the subject immediately. It explained a lot of questions I had about the world, people, and even my faith.

However, my father was against me majoring in sociology because he didn’t think I could get a job with it. This frustrated me because I was passionate about it. I thought it would be easy to find meaningful work with a soc degree. Our relationship because quite tense my junior year. My dad threatened not to pay for college if I majored in sociology. I was so exasperated that Dr. Allen offered to pray for me, my father, and my decision.

Finally, my dad and I came to a compromise. We agreed that I could double major in sociology and math, and that he’d still pay for college. This way I’d have a “practical” degree to fall back on in case I couldn’t find work.

I’m now grateful for my dad’s foresight. I got my first job out of college because of my math degree. I’ve since switched into marketing and have been able to infuse my sociological knowledge and imagination into the way I communicate and persuade groups of people. I’m relieved that I had the courage to major in sociology -- something that I love, but also the perseverance to study something “practical” that would help me stay employable.

Which courses made the most impression on you? How did that affect your career choice?

Sociology of the Civil Rights Movement has forever changed my life and my thinking. I was inspired to learn how the church and Martin Luther King transformed the pervading laws, culture, and even theology of the 50’s and 60’s. I learned how social movements in general ignite and change the world. When I’m doing marketing at LinkedIn >>, I often think back to Civil Rights Movement stories, lessons, and concepts. How can I convince companies that there’s a better way to recruit employees? How can I convince the leaders at a company to influence change throughout their organizations?

Which professors impacted you?

I took 4 courses from Dr. Allen, so clearly I am a fan. Why?

  • He blended sociology with faith, bringing Bible stories to life by unveiling hidden layers you can only see from a sociological lens
  • His passion, imagination, and charisma, which bled into his teaching and ignited my own passion
  • His impossibly high standards for students, which challenged me to rise to the occasion and take both my thinking and faith to new levels
  • His case study method of teaching and testing, which helped the lessons stick, and helped me apply the lessons I learned.

 

How and why did you choose to follow your path beyond graduation?

I had no idea what I wanted to do after college. I tried a bunch of things during my college summers, none of which worked out. I taught middle school math, did social work at an AIDS clinic in Zambia, Africa, worked as a paralegal at a small law firm, and completed a pre-graduate-school biostatistics program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Not to mention my 1 year stint doing pre-med courses at Wheaton, which bored me to tears. Since I hated teaching, social work, law, and academic research, I knew I needed to try something totally different. Business was the one area I hadn’t explored.

The summer after graduation, I applied to over 100 business-related jobs and didn’t hear back. As I was stressing out about not having a job after college, I finally lucked out and got an offer to join a small financial services consulting firm founded by a Wheaton grad. Even though I wasn’t truly passionate about finance, I ended up staying for 4 years because I was learning a ton of business skills and liked my teammates. But I knew I’d eventually need to leave and find what I was genuinely interested in and good at.

So I applied and got in to business school to figure out what I wanted to do. In b-school, I thought I wanted to go into consulting because everyone else was doing it and it seemed like a good career move. After applying to 10+ consulting firms, I got rejected from every one of them in a single weekend. It was devastating. After a few months of depression and desperately asking God what he wanted me to do, I found my way into a field I love -- marketing. And I haven’t looked back since.

You can read the full story in my blog post about how to change jobs. >>  If you’re curious whether business school is right for you, check out my posts on reasons to go to business school >> or how to get into a top business school. >>

What are you doing now?

I feel blessed to be a content marketing manager at LinkedIn, a social professional network located in the heart of Silicon Valley, CA. Everyday I’m energized by our mission to provide economic opportunity to the world’s professionals.

My job is to convince companies to buy our recruiting products so they can find great employees and build great companies. I do this by creating educational reports, videos, e-books, blog posts, inforaphics, tip sheets, websites, webcasts, and social media posts. I promote this content through a bunch of different channels globally, with the end goal of creating awareness and sales of LinkedIn’s recruiting products.

Marketing is a great field for sociology majors because it requires the ability to think about group psychology and how to change people’s behavior as well as the broader culture. Tech is a great industry to check out because it encourages sociological imagination and is all about creating social change through technological advancements.

If you want to learn more about what it takes to break into marketing or tech, check out my post: A Day In The Life of A B2B Content Marketing At LinkedIn >>.

What advice could you give a potential major?

  • Major in something you’re truly passionate about so you don’t get bored, but don’t be afraid to combine it with something practical. After 4 years and $100K+ of college, you’ll need to somehow connect your majors, internships, and skills with a real world job. While liberal arts degrees, including sociology majors, are nice for critical thinking and communication, they won’t guarantee you a job you’re interested in. No matter how good your credentials are, the job market is tough so be intentional about what internships and extracurriculars you join and how you’ll pitch your story to your future employers.
  • Do an internship every single summer to try out different jobs. Figure out what you like and don’t like. Your future employer will care as much or more about your internships as your major and GPA, because they show what you’re interested in and good at. They also prove that you can hit the ground running if they hire you, and you won’t just be a clueless college grad.
  • Start looking at job descriptions and creating job alerts to see what lights you up vs what bores you to tears. If you don’t know what something means, do some research online. Don’t be afraid to use LinkedIn to reach out to Wheaton alumni who have worked in those fields for advice. Learn how to research companies and industries, network with alumni, and build your professional brand. These are skills that will help you for the rest of your career.
  • If you discover a gap in your skills vs what your dream job requires, fill those gaps at Wheaton or even outside of Wheaton. Maybe you want to be in marketing but most jobs require knowledge of Microsoft Excel or SQL programming, and you don’t know them. Today there are lots of free online courses (Coursera, Udacity, EdX) and some great paid ones too (General Assembly, Lynda.com) where you can learn any skill you need. Get ahead by learning what skills your dream jobs require and then getting those skills in college if you don’t have them.