No question about it

No question about it

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Wayne Sellers used leadership positions—and old-fashioned gumption—to land in HR at Goldman Sachs

The statistics weren’t on his side.

Fortune magazine says it’s harder to get into Goldman Sachs than Harvard,” Wayne Sellers says with a grin.

Indeed, according to Fortune, fewer than 3 percent of the job applicants to Goldman Sachs, a leading global investment bank, get hired.

So how did Sellers join that 3 percent?

How did he go from being a freshman in Exploratory Studies to a student leader in the Human Resource Management program?

How is it that, just two months removed from earning his bachelor’s degree from Rowan University’s William G. Rohrer College of Business (RCB) on Tuesday, May 9, Sellers will begin a position on July 10 as an analyst in the Human Capital Management Division of Goldman Sachs in Salt Lake City?

Sellers attributes his success to his Rowan coursework, the opportunities he seized, the mentors he found, the leadership positions he landed, the relationships he formed, and a whole lot of old-fashioned, let’s-give-it-a-try gumption.

Inaugural class of Rowan Select

Admitted to Rowan in the inaugural class of students in Rowan Select (formerly Select Start), a program that provides supports and guidance to students in an alternate admissions pathway, Sellers quickly acclimated to campus, fulfilling program requirements and finding an academic home as a matriculated RCB student.

Rowan—and a major in Human Resource Management—were natural fits, says the talkative, outgoing Somerset resident.

“I love that Rowan isn’t too small, but also isn’t too large. I couldn’t be with 500 people in a lecture hall. I ask too many questions for that. I’ve always been able to participate in class, to ask questions in class,” says Sellers.

A question Sellers posed to an Amazon.com recruiter helped him secure a coveted summer internship with the company—a resume builder that played a big role in him landing his Goldman Sachs position.

Sellers knew the Amazon recruiter had emailed RCB Assistant Dean Margaret Van Brunt seeking operations interns. Yet, he got in touch with the recruiter, posing a simple question.

“I said, ‘Hi. My name is Wayne. Do you have HR opportunities?’ I just kind of went for it,” says Sellers,

The response was quick and definitive: “Yes. We do.”

Internship with Amazon.com

With that—and with a few interviews in between—Sellers secured a two-month summer internship at Amazon last year in Coppell, Texas. He lived with other interns working at various companies in the area.

“It was the greatest two months of my life,” says Sellers, who worked as a human resources assistant intern.

As part of his Amazon work, Sellers sat in on classes, gave presentations, and created a Qualtrics survey on how a training class for new hires was perceived by employees. He presented the results to senior management. Additionally, he participated in situational role-playing training that posed a bevy of HR situations facing employees.

“It was cool to go through that, to see it up front and to act it out. It gave me experience on how to handle situations,” Sellers says.

It also helped him to think more deeply about his chosen career.

“What I love about HR is the ability to bring opportunities to people,” he says. “It’s very fulfilling to say that I was part of the reason that a person got hired. And then I’m able to help develop a plan to get them where they want to be professionally. I also love being able to see someone in a spot where they might need development and work with them.  I take pride in helping people take themselves to the next level. I enjoy finding ways for employees to be more efficient, productive and collaborative.

“I thrive on interpersonal communication and on working together. I want to be the person who says, ‘What can we do to help you?’’’ he continues. “HR plays a lot of different roles in companies that people don’t always appreciate or understand.”

Sellers saw that firsthand during his first summer internship at Novo Nordisk, Inc. in 2015. He was a talent acquisition intern for the global health care company, which specializes in diabetes care. His superiors gave him the opportunity to do pipeline recruiting, to review resumes and to actively participate in candidate interviews and candidate review meetings with hiring teams.

‘I found that people are usually very receptive to students who want to learn’

That happened, he says, because he asked for the opportunity.

“In some cases I was the first interaction a person had with the company—and I was a 20-year-old intern. I had a big role in the first interview process and that happened just because I asked about doing it,” says Sellers.

He went further, requesting short chats with managers in different divisions of the company.

“They were people who had been working, 10, 15, or 20 years. I found that people are usually very receptive to students who want to learn. And when you have more knowledge, you’re in a better position to make wise decisions.”

When Sellers became president of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), he coordinated on a day-long trip to take 20 students to Novo Nordisk. There, they were exposed to areas of HR—talent acquisition, employee investigations, benefits—in presentations by company professionals. The company even paid for the bus ride and lunch for the students.

“Students were able to see what HR can do,” says Sellers. “I did most of the planning from the ground up.”

Oodles of research

As his senior year approached, Sellers set a goal to have a job by the end of the fall semester. Though he had been offered a full-time position at Amazon, he didn’t feel the job was right for him. So he began researching companies and applied to Goldman Sachs mostly because of its name and cachet. The company got in touch, offering a video interview in which he spoke to a blank computer screen, addressing questions.

Buoyed by the same experience in his first interview with Amazon and yet keenly aware of the low hiring rate at Goldman Sachs, Sellers was at ease with the process.

Moreover, he had done his homework—oodles of it. He prepared a comprehensive, five-page research document and study guide for himself covering everything from the company’s history to key leaders to employee metrics to its philanthropic and community involvement. The document included carefully prepared “talking points” for Sellers that outlined his experience, love of HR, and his qualifications and leadership skills.

“I knew everything about the skills they wanted. I researched the company. I researched the culture. In video interviews, you have only 30 seconds to pause and prepare. They want to see your thought process—and how you get to different conclusions,” says Sellers, who had similar interviews with Travelers, Capital One and Texas Instruments. One week, he had two interviews with two separate companies in two states.

“I was at Travelers on Tuesday in Connecticut and at Capital One on Thursday in Richmond…four flights in four days,” he recalls. “I invested a lot of time in my job search.”

A week after his Goldman Sachs online interview, the company scheduled him for a series of on-site interviews in Salt Lake City.

“By the time I got there, I was ready to go. I did a crazy amount of research. I was never more prepared for my interviews than I was for Goldman Sachs,” Sellers says. “At one point, an interviewer said, ‘Wow. You know more about Goldman Sachs than I do.’”

Back at Rowan, right before Thanksgiving, Sellers’ cell phone rang in the middle of Professor Kimble Byrd’s “Legal Aspects of Human Resource Management” course. He excused himself when he saw the 917 area code, hoping Goldman Sachs was calling.

Erika Coleman, vice president of talent acquisition at Goldman Sachs, was on the other end.

“I knew in the next 30 seconds I was either going to be very ecstatic or very upset,” Sellers recalls. “Erika got right to the point and offered me the job.

“I felt a huge relief knowing that I have a great opportunity lined up for me after I graduate. While Erika was going over general details, I began to look back at freshman year when my major was undeclared. I didn’t foresee a moment like that.”

‘You have to go out of your way for those great opportunities’

Others at Rowan, however, aren’t surprised by Sellers’ achievements.

“The more Wayne got comfortable at Rowan, the more he took it and ran,” says Director of the Office of Career Advancement Bob Bullard, who advised Sellers when he was in the Rowan Select program and saw his potential to be successful in the HR field.

“He took advantage of everything Rowan has to offer. He’s a self-starter who found more than a job. He found ‘soul money’—a career and a passion.”

“Wayne excelled in his leadership position as president of SHRM,” adds Management and Entrepreneurship Professor Camron Casper. “He has strong communication skills and a great work ethic. He leveraged his leadership abilities and his HR skills, fine-tuned by his high-profile internships, to get the Goldman Sachs position.  He has the potential to be a real star there.”

Early in his Rowan career, Sellers was treasurer of Student University Programmers, maintaining a $325,000 budget. The accounting experience will be helpful in his HR career, he says.

“There’s a stigma that HR majors aren’t good with money,” he says. “With that position, I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone. At some point in my career, I will have to manage a budget.”

Since September, Sellers has worked 20 hours a week as the recruitment and development intern for RCB’s Center for Professional Development. There, he provides peers with career guidance, including helping with job and internship seeking and resume critiques. He successfully recruits employers for the college’s Employers in Residence program. Employers are on site weekly to meet with potential student hires in Business Hall.

“Wayne has a terrific rapport with students. He offers them great insights and pushes them forward,” says Amie Ryno, manager of the Center for Professional Development. “He’s really good at pivoting from working with students to working with employers. I can rely on him as I would a full-time employee.”

Recipient of RCB’s Tevis M. Goldhaft Leadership in Business Medallion Award, presented to a business major in recognition of exemplary leadership, Sellers clearly relishes sharing his job-search knowledge with his peers.

“Simply applying for a job isn’t the end of it,” Sellers tells his fellow students. “You have to go out of your way for those great opportunities.  You’re going to have to compete.

“I’m not one to sit back and have something fall in my lap. I’m the one to go out and get it on my own. You’ve got to go above and beyond to land jobs these days.”