Alumni give PR, advertising career tips
Five Media School alumni visited virtually Friday in the second installment of a yearlong series of career chats with students.
Friday’s panelists spoke in two sessions about careers in public relations and advertising.
The virtual chats replace the annual daylong Media Career Day while in-person events are suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. The next career chats, Careers in Sports Media and Careers in Entertainment, are March 5.
Careers in public relations
By Daniela Molina
Two Media School alumni gave advice about how to set yourself apart in the public relations job market, especially during a pandemic.
Anna Spitzer, BA’09, director of global communications at Maybelline, and Alicia Webb, BA’04, director of communications for Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, recalled their days at IU and thought about what advice they would give their younger college selves.
Webb’s tip: Keep an open mind. She always thought she’d be a broadcast journalist — and she was, straight out of college — but she explored her interests and wound up in health care.
“Don’t be afraid to try something different,” she said.
As a first step, though, Spitzer encouraged students to take a targeted approach to internships. Hers turned into her first job out of college during the 2009 recession.
Both women touted the importance of networking, especially in the field of public relations. Webb, who serves on the board of directors for Chicago’s chapter of the IU Alumni Association, highly encourages students to reach out to IU alumni.
Spitzer’s career revolves around connections and brand perspective, and it has changed drastically due to the rise of social media. She encouraged students to follow companies they’re interested in working for on social media.
“Use it to educate yourself,” she said. By following people on social, students can see examples of the professional execution of social media.
Social media also provides an opportunity to showcase your skills, they said. Webb encouraged students to have a professional headshot on their LinkedIn accounts. Spitzer suggested including a quick summary about who you are and what you have to offer.
“Are you a good communicator not on just paper?” Spitzer said.
But even in the digital communications era, she still encouraged students to seek out mentorship and interactions with real people.
Freelancing is not only a potential source of extra income; it’s also an opportunity build your portfolio, learn about different industries and make connections.
“Be strategic,” Webb said. “Be mindful about it.”
Careers in advertising
By Meredith Struewing
From a professional who’s spent 30 years in the advertising agency business, to a senior copywriter at one of the most well-known advertising agencies in the world, to a production head whose client list features Netflix, ESPN and Kellogg’s, the world of advertising opens countless doors for creatives.
Three alumni joined professor of practice Bill Schwab for a discussion about their advertising careers.
A top-of-mind issue was handling the benefits and challenges of working virtually since “screen-to-screen has become the new face-to-face,” Schwab said.
“For students, you always thought you had to go to New York or L.A. or Boston to get the advertising experience,” said Molly Watson, BA’86, founder and principal of Evolution Engine. “Agencies are now understanding that talent can come from anywhere even if employees are not living in the same ZIP code.”
Nik Traxler, BA’07, is partner and head of production for The Distillery Project, an independent creative ad agency. He oversees all of his clients’ production from Los Angeles.
“In the old world, productions would have physical attendance and on-set collaboration with team members and your clients,” Traxler said. “When COVID-19 hit, the production community was hit pretty hard. But they were also able to bounce back pretty quickly. The entire industry is kind of a rubber band. It’s very easy to get hit quickly, but it’s very easy to bounce back quickly.”
Job searching, let alone in a pandemic, can be difficult. For Melanie Sims, BAJ’06, a senior copywriter at Leo Burnett in Chicago, students’ ability to adapt is what makes them amazing candidates.
Panelists recommended that job seekers have a handful of relevant questions ready for interviews and think about what they have done as a student that could benefit the company.
“You want to show up where they don’t have to feel like they have to teach you everything about their business,” Watson said.
An entry-level job usually teaches someone an abundance of transferable skills, Watson said. Students should try to avoid narrowing their focus to one specific job title.
Sims interned with “MTV Cribs” before landing a job with the Associated Press, first covering national news and later the music industry. She next worked as a writer-producer for ABC before jumping into the advertising world.
“There are so many points along the path that you can pivot,” Sims said.
Traxler told students not to get discouraged when they see their friends in the business school with full-time jobs lined up six months before graduation.
“It’s very unsettling, but the media industry doesn’t work like that,” he said. “Realistically you should have the mindset of, ‘I may start here and end up on a different path.’”