Category Archives: college

From Lost to Found: Chapter 1 of Amanda Miller’s Career Journey in NYC

amandaBy, Amanda Miller

Hi, I’m Amanda Miller and here’s my story.

I was a Communications/Journalism major in college and had no idea what I wanted to do with myself when I graduated. I tried dabbling into finance-needless to say, that was definitely not my true calling. I quit the job 3 months after I graduated with no backup plan, had just signed a lease on a new house in Queens, and had no idea what it was I wanted to do with my life. I had to survive and pay my bills, so I started picking up odd jobs to get by while I feverishly searched for my dream career. After the horrible experience I had at my first job out of college, I swore up and down that I wasn’t going to just settle for anything. That is single handedly the best career advice I could ever give to someone just out of college. My biggest mistake was taking the first job that was offered to me, even though it wasn’t a good fit. DON’T DO IT!

I started out waiting tables at an Italian restaurant in East Hampton, which, long story short, lead to me finding a part time nanny job in the Upper West Side. This connection was probably the most powerful one I had made during my search for my new job. The mother (who also happened to be from the Midwest, like myself) was 51 years old, had dedicated her life to her career, and had just started her family. She gave me great advice and encouraged me not to settle until I felt that the job was worth it.

This woman gave me enough hours to make ends meet, set me up on play dates with mothers who were significant career women-bankers, attorneys, producers, power brokers, entrepreneurs- all with the purpose of helping me discover what direction I wanted to take for myself in the career world. I took every job interview I was offered, but if I didn’t like it, I wasn’t afraid to say no.

After 6 months of dead ends, I was getting frustrated. Nothing seemed to work for me and I couldn’t figure out how someone with a 4 year degree and all the confidence and stamina to succeed in the business world was making a living wiping noses and singing along to Nick Jr. But giving up was never an option for me. Out of the blue, I got an e-mail from a grade school friend to check out the company that she worked for in Manhattan. After reading about the job openings, I applied, figuring I had nothing to lose.

I had no idea that I was going to fall in love with everything about the job. I aced the interview, loved the casual, laid back work environment, and was so excited to grow and learn in a career that was related to my degree and the root of my passion. I had never been so sure I wanted something more and was willing to do anything to get this job. In 2007, I made the move from professional stroller pusher and Mommy & Me attendee to Media Buyer extraordinaire.

My responsibility is to negotiate advertising rates and purchase ad space for two well known consumer packaged goods companies and a global office supplier with a variety of magazines, trades and newspapers. I also help to create unique advertising campaigns and programs to help promote my brands (I currently have about 30 active at the moment) and leverage my clients’ presence on both a national and global level. Don’t let that description fool you-nothing about this job is boring (and it’s not because I work in the heart of Times Square, either). In addition to my responsibilities, I also get to attend magazine launches, parties (which are usually client sponsored), mingle with some of the industry’s top marketing and publishing executives in the world, get on site continuing education through a media school program and have met some of the most inspiring women in the industry.

Advertising is so much more than an ad in a magazine or a billboard in Times Square-there is research, calculation, planning and loads of intelligent people behind each and every one. There is a job for every single aspect for an advertisement-buying, planning, creative development and implementation…I could go on and on. Despite the recession, two of my clients are planning new product launches, re-introducing brands that had been hibernating. Clients are still spending money and agencies like mine still need people-one media career site posted 2,000 new jobs in the past month!

If I could say anything about the road to finding my true calling in the career world, it is to seek the advice from women who have had years of professional experience. I came from a small town in Wisconsin, had no professional female role models, no contacts at all when I first came to New York. Without the advice and guidance from the woman I nannied for, the women I have met while job searching, and the professional women I am still meeting and engaging with on a daily basis, I would have never made it to this point.

No matter what the circumstance is, NEVER SETTLE and NEVER GIVE UP! Do not make excuses for yourself-whether you want to blame the struggling economy, the fact that you can’t find anything that doesn’t feel right, that the perfect job does not exist, whatever! Set the bar high and make goals for yourself. You are the only person that can make yourself happy and successful, so whatever you need to do to get to that point, make like Nike and just do it.

Talk to other professionals, network, be willing to try new things and do the unexpected. We all have it in us to succeed, we just need to have the courage to act on the unknown, conquer our fears and not be afraid to lean on others to propel us forward.

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How Do You Stay Organized?

 By, Jessica Lawlor

As a student and future career woman, it’s extremely important to learn the fine art of organization.

Here are the three main ways I stay organized:

1. Planner– I write down everything in my planner: school assignments, meetings, appointments, weekend plans. I check each item off as I complete them. My planner is weekly, so I am able to look at the entire week ahead. I use my planner as an overview of everything I need to accomplish in a week.

2. “Everything” notebook- I have a medium sized notebook that I carry everywhere with me that I have fondly named, “my everything notebook.” Each week, I create a detailed to-do list with absolutely everything that needs to be accomplished before the week ends. I love the sense of accomplishment when I cross an item off the list. My to-do list differs from my planner in the fact that my list is more specific. I also write down possible blog ideas, story ideas, and general notes to myself in the notebook.

3. Google- I can’t even express how much Google has simplified my life. I am obsessed with my Gmail account, and use it to keep my e-mail organized. Gmail allows users to create labels for different activities or tasks. For instance, I have a label for homework, PRSSA, PRowl Public Relations, internship, and sorority. When an e-mail comes in, I tag it with a label, and if I ever need to find that e-mail again, I know exactly where to look.

I also love the ‘archive’ feature. I leave everything in my inbox, until I’ve replied or done whatever the email is asking, and once I’m finished with it I archive it. If there is something in my inbox, it means its unfinished business or I need to reply.

Also, the Google calendar feature is a heavenly application that allows you to color code activities, meetings, or events and place them on a calendar.

These are only three small methods I use to stay organized, so I took to my Twitter account to find out how some of my followers keep their lives together.

@daydreamwriter says, “A planner and a desk calendar.”

@mattsnod says, “My life exists on my iPhone. I’m so forgetful, I’d be lost without my iPhone synching my life.”

@jamielovely says, “Color coded tags in Gmail saved my life! It’s the only way my inbox stays somewhat organized.”

@courtney903 says, “There is ALWAYS a to-do list on a dry erase board in the house. That way I can erase and add and it never looks overwhelming.”

@jennips says, “I started using a DayTimer planner last year. I’ve been using it & it helps me keep track of things better so I get less sidetracked.”

@tomokeefe1 says, “Calendar, stickies, bookmarking, writing things down, and periodically cleaning everything up! Oh, and having a good memory.”

@heatherhuhman says, “Organization is all about knowing what you have to get done and by when – prioritizing is key.”

@kpricester says, “I keep a constantly updated calendar on iCal that I keep synced with my smartphone. And I plan every minute of my day, including TV.”

@jesshatchigan says, “I use Excel to track progress/action on multiple ongoing projects, and make daily to-do lists.”

What are the ways that you stay organized?

Jessica Lawlor is a public relations student at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. She is currently the Director of Public Relations for PRowl Public Relations, Temple University’s first and only student-run PR firm, and serves on the executive board of Temple’s PRSSA chapter.

Follow her on Twitter: @jesslaw
Check out her blog: PRowl Public Relations blog

Raise Your Hand!

479567869_1175a2d9ef_mMy friend Allie and I went to coffee the other day and she casually mentioned that she spoke at her college graduation ceremony. I’m not talking small tiny college here: she spoke at Michigan State’s commencement- WOW! So I immediately interrupted her story and asked HOW she was able to partake in such a great honor. I assumed she must have been valedictorian or student body president but she wasn’t. She simply said, “I just raised my hand.”

Apparently she found out about the opportunity and volunteered. Perhaps no one else had the guts to represent but either way she had the great honor of representing her class.

So we got on the topic of how important it is to raise your hand in life. We agreed that it is especially important when first starting out.

Allie told me another story about someone she knows who randomly decided to email the President of a large, well respected international company when she was in college. The email suggested that they should go to lunch when the president was in town presenting to her college. They went to lunch and the person has been employed with the company ever since.

The moral of the story here is, don’t be afraid to take on a new challenge. Raise your hand for a new project. Volunteer for the opportunity to present to new clients or your company’s executive board (even if you are terrified). Send an email to someone you dream of working for. Ask someone you admire to lunch. Reach out to those who intimidate you because most others won’t. The simple action of raising your hand can lead to many exciting new partnerships, adventures and opportunities.

Setting Yourself Apart in College

By, Jessica Lawlor

twitter2_biggerAs a college student, it’s always nerve-wracking to think about the future. Finding a job is one of the major worries that a person nearing graduation experiences. However, there are many ways to set yourself apart as a student that just might help you to land your dream job after graduation.

Social networking:
You’ve probably heard it before, but social networking is becoming increasingly important in the business world, and therefore should become increasingly important for you! You probably already have a Facebook page, but have you created a Twitter page, yet? What about a LinkedIn profile? Joining these sites and getting your name out there will help to raise your profile. Twitter allows you to “follow” people and engage in conversations with them in 140 characters or less. LinkedIn is a fabulous resource because it allows you to create a resume for yourself, and then “connect” with other students and professionals.

Interact: So, now that you’ve created a profile for yourself on different social networking sites, what do2803817519_7374c5d67e_m you do? Interact. It’s all about the conversation. When I signed up for Twitter, I went to Twitter’s search page and typed in key words of the type of people I wanted to follow. For instance, I used search terms such as public relations, freelance writing, creative writing, and journalism. Within seconds, thousands of entries of other people on Twitter talking about these subjects popped up. I browsed through profiles and decided who I wanted to follow. To get a conversation started, post a link to an interesting article or pose a question that your followers could answer. Don’t be afraid to talk to professionals in the field your studying; they will most likely be flattered that you want their advice.

Create a blog: I’ve been told that there is no better way to set yourself apart than by creating and maintaining your own blog. Writing in a blog shows a potential employer that you’re constantly brainstorming ideas and practicing your writing skills each day. Along with writing in your own blog, read and comment on other blogs that are specific to the topic you write about. A great way to gain credibility for yourself is to show other bloggers that you’re interested in what they have to say. If you think another blogger has said something interesting, link back to them in your post.

Start a student organization:
Last spring, I co-founded the student-run PR firm, PRowl Public Relations at Temple University. A member of our PRSSA chapter realized that there was a need for students to gain experience in the PR field and recruited other students to help create a firm. A year later, our firm has had seven clients, and many students have gained the experience of working at a PR agency. Take initiative and start your own organization. I truly believe that everyone has an entrepreneurial spirit somewhere inside of them. Dig deep and think about what interests you. The organization certainly doesn’t have to pertain to your major; it could simply be a club for an interest you have.

Get Involved: While it looks great to have several internships on your resume, I believe that it’s also important to be involved in extracurricular activities. I’m very proud of my experiences as a student in PR, but I also take pride in the activities I participate in that have absolutely nothing to do with public relations. For instance, I am a sister of Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority. I also write for The Temple News. These activities don’t directly relate to my major, but they show that I have interests outside of what I hope to do when I grow up. It’s all about being well-rounded.

Learn a language: I’m currently learning Italian and loving it. Why am I learning Italian? No real reason. I’m not sure if I’ll ever need to use Italian in my career, but if an employer has a need for a candidate with skills in a language, knowing Italian might boost my resume to the top of the pile.

Study abroad: Gaining experience in another country and understanding another culture truly can set a candidate apart. I haven’t been abroad yet, (I’ll be studying in Rome this summer!) but I’ve heard that the perspective you gain about life, after living in a different country is incredible. I think that studying abroad shows that a candidate is mature and willing to absorb themselves in any experience that comes their way.

What are you doing as a student that sets you apart? Employers, what else can students do to set themselves apart in your eyes?

Jessica Lawlor is a public relations student at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. She is currently the Director of Public Relations for PRowl Public Relations, Temple University’s first and only student-run PR firm, and serves on the executive board of Temple’s PRSSA chapter.

Follow her on Twitter: @jesslaw
Check out her blog: PRowl Public Relations blog

Dad’s Career Advice From the Trenches

I just got back from a great family vacation to Florida where I shared many laughs with my amazing family. Getting the five of us together for a week is a hoot: we are all very hardworking, loud, opinionated and ambitious. We think it’s totally normal to be this way.

While we were at the pool one day, I asked my Dad to help me come up with some topics to write about. Our conversation offered some great career advice.

My Dad came from humble beginnings. He was one of six children and had been working since he was 9 years old. His summers consisted of getting woken up at 4am to go shovel concrete with his Father without pay, no questions asked, no complaining allowed. He was very shy and struggled academically throughout his childhood, opting for a work-study high school program. In High School he was already working so many hours that he out earned his teachers and therefore couldn’t take high school seriously.
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Perhaps my Dad’s story isn’t glamorous, but it sure is entertaining. My Dad was the guy who rode his dirt bike illegally on the streets-sometimes dodging the cops- to see my Mom as a teenager, he got fired for lying about his age so he could work as a dish washer at 13, he put Corvette engines in old cars and sold them for a profit, he jumped rows of garbage cans on his BMX bike, he punched his principal to stick up for a friend, he ran a gas station, and spent many years as a manual laborer. Who knew he would end up where he is today, and have three daughters who are so thirsty for success and education.

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My Dad admitted to me that until the last 2 years, he always felt disappointed with what he did for a living. He is the only one in our neighborhood full of accomplished doctors and lawyers who doesn’t have a college degree, and he is the only one that drives a pickup truck, which is parked in the driveway.

He said that he finally realized that you can still make it if you aren’t a doctor or a lawyer, and that it’s not your title or what you do for your money that makes you successful. I asked him what advice he would give to people just starting out in their careers. Here are some of his answers:

• Your twenties are all about learning lessons. In order to learn the lessons, you have to pay attention and watch for them every day.
• Be patient and it will come. Don’t waste time being disappointed with where you are right now: keep working and keep looking ahead.
• Remember that we all have the same amount of time given to us, but it is what we do with our time that will set us apart in the end. Use your time wisely and make the most of it.
• Little things become big things in your job. Although not calling someone back, not being prepared, or forgetting your client’s request may seem small, it could be a huge impact on you and your career down the road.
• Don’t blow your money. You will have nothing to show for all of your hard work and the years will pass you by.

I think my Dad’s career advice is very wise and very applicable to all of us. My Dad earned his education through long hours of hard work. In my opinion, he was very lucky. He was lucky that he was smart enough to see the lessons that most others did not. He knew he would make it somehow, and he took advantage of opportunities that were given to him even if they required more energy, time and sacrifice.

img_0454My parents now run a successful drilling equipment business, Rig Source, together which serves a niche market to customers all over the world. If it weren’t his days of coming home with burnt hands from welding or frostbitten feet from drilling in the middle of a cornfield for 16 hours on a January day, I’m not sure he would be where he is today. He is an example of someone who always saw the glass half full, who kept on plugging away, and set his eyes on his goals. Perhaps he is a real life example of “the survival of the fittest.” I’m pretty sure most of us today could not survive working conditions like his and come out on top.

Thanks Dad, for your example of the strongest work ethic I’ve ever seen and for doing what ever you had to do to send us to our college of choice. Thank you for leaving a legacy for our family and for everyone around you to see. You are one in a million and I am so lucky to call you my Dad.