Name: Jessica Afra
Position: Financial Analyst
Company: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Degree: B.S. Business Administration, Double Emphasis in Finance and Marketing and Minor in Sociology ‘19
Why did you choose this industry/field?
I really wanted to pursue a career in finance at a company that I was interested in. I had done internships at Morgan Stanley and RE/MAX Real Estate, and although I learned a lot, I didn’t feel interested nor excited about the company’s goals and missions. I did some self-reflecting and knew I had a personal interest in film and even took a few classes in Dodge College with Professor Cheney and other great professors. I realized that I could have a combination of finance and film within my career. I am originally from Los Angeles and there is a lot of opportunity with the film studios. I landed my first job out of college with NBC Universal through a Chapman Alumni. I worked in production accounting and loved the balance of working on budgets and financial planning while working on a set with actors and crew. Personally, I think the ideal situation is to make a career out of something you’re genuinely passionate about.
How did you strategize to get your career to where it is today?
As cliché as it sounds, I kept pushing myself. When I was at Chapman, I worked in the Provost Office during the school year and had internships every summer. When I wasn’t in class, I would attend networking events that the Argyros Career Center would organize. Personally, I really loved the Summit Careers Program hosted by the Career Professional Development center. The Summit Career Program gave a great perspective and knowledge as to what hiring managers are looking for and how to best carry yourself in a professional setting. Additionally, I would routinely go into the Argyros Career Services office and speak to Stacey Moynahan who really helped me in finding opportunities that best suited my goals. Also, I had the best experience with Walk Down Wall Street with one of my favorite professors, Dr. Burnham, in which we met many Chapman alums in New York that worked at firms such as NASDAQ, JetBlue, and BlackRock. Thus, I strategized by taking advantage of all the sources that Chapman provided and even went out of my way to find my own.
Any career advice for current students entering the industry in this job market?
The biggest thing, as you probably know, is to build connections. I know it seems like that is said over and over again but it is repeated only because it works. In the entertainment industry, it is difficult to get your foot in the door if you don’t have any prior experience on your resume. I knew that going in but still applied with my fingers crossed and yet again was not hearing back and became frustrated. Then I took the recommendation of my advisor and reached out to a Chapman alum who I knew through my sorority that worked at NBC Universal. Luckily, I reached out to her at the perfect time and she knew of a role that I qualified for and sent my resume to the hiring manager. About a week later, I had my interview process and started my job right away. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if I didn’t reach out and connect. The entertainment industry is all about who you know and really putting yourself out there so be bold and confident.
Moreover, I would say the most crucial advice I can give you is to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Be curious. Take opportunities that scare you a bit.
How did getting your degree from Chapman set you up for success on your career path?
My degree really helped me get a full understanding and scope of a business from accounting, marketing, economics, and management perspectives. Now, working for a big corporation, I am applying what I’ve learned to different departments such as Procurement, Diversity and Inclusion, and Finance Operations. Apart from my degree, the connections with my professors, advisors, and colleagues that I’ve gained from Chapman University have taught me to always be networking and always looking for the next step up the ladder. Also, many entertainment companies are looking to hire Chapman graduates so it’s a huge help to have Chapman on my resume.
Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn if you’d like to speak or have any questions.