As a recent college graduate, here’s how a typical conversation goes upon just being introduced to someone new:
“Ah, Communication Studies. So, what do you plan to do with that degree, actually?”
“In a nutshell, I hope to go into social media, marketing, advertising, digital media, editorial content….”
“That’s a little ambitious, don’t you think?”
And you know what- no, I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘too ambitious.’ My four years in college taught me that lesson. Well, maybe not the first two years, but once that switch flipped my junior year, I knew that I was starting to figure it out. Figuring what out, exactly, I wasn’t too sure of then. Fortunately, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of what direction I’m headed in these days. All this being said, my brain rarely ever stops being in overdrive (with the exception to two occasions: driving with the windows down, and being near any large body of water), and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I grew up thinking I wanted to write for a magazine. I imagined that I would be the next editor-in-chief of my own fashion magazine, and it would be just like the movies. There was one problem with this scenario: I am completely blind when it comes to fashion. No, seriously, I can barely dress myself. I am fortunate to be friends with two of the most fashionable people I have ever met: Lauren, my roommate of two years (THANK GOD), and Laura, my future roommate (!!!). They are the only reason I look even halfway decent when I walk out the door. So, my dreams of working in the fashion industry quickly faded, but my love of writing held steadfast.
Fast-forward to college. I knew that since writing was very much a part of who I was, I needed to continue my education in the field. English major? Nah, I don’t really see myself becoming the next J.K. Rowling (not that I’ve thrown that out the window completely…). Ideally, I would have majored in journalism, but, unfortunately, Clemson did not have that as an option. Even as I sit here and write this, I am so thankful that Clemson didn’t have a journalism degree, because, if they had, I would not have discovered my love for my field: communications. I decided to major in communication studies because I knew that writing was a part of the curriculum, but I really wasn’t sure what else the program would offer me.
After my first two years of general education classes, figuring out who I was, yada yada yada, I started to get bored. Don’t get me wrong, I was having a blast. I was probably having too much fun, actually. But professionally and mentally, I just wasn’t satisfied. I needed experience, so I went and got some. I started writing for The Black Sheep, a national and local college newspaper that focused on things that they believed college students to be interested in: mainly alcohol and food. I wrote about flasks, fast food, and being a fiscal college student, all with a dash of sarcasm and witty humor. I loved it, but it was easy. So, I began to write for The Tiger, Clemson’s student newspaper. Again, I wasn’t writing the hard-hitting news stories, but I didn’t want to. I stuck to what I was good at: Super Bowl commercials and Saturday Night Live sketches. It was safe to say that I wasn’t bored anymore, but I had been bitten by the bug of wanting more.
Remember that farfetched dream I had of being the editor-in-chief of a magazine? Yeah, well that’s what I did next. I founded and ran Clemson’s chapter of Her Campus, the nation-wide online magazine for collegiate women. I am absolutely so proud of the work I did with Her Campus Clemson; creating something from nothing, recruiting and managing a team of writers, running all social media accounts, and working with other organizations and businesses to create promotions and spread the word about HC Clemson. This experience was one of the most rewarding things for me because it was the first time I took matters into my own hands and didn’t really accept no for an answer. After being turned away from so many other opportunities to get involved on Clemson’s campus, I used the rejection I received as fuel for my fire. The year that I spent as Editor-In-Chief of HC Clemson, it was the only thing I could talk about. I lived and breathed HC Clemson because I wanted everyone else to be just as passionate about it as I was. Whether it was pushing out content via any and all social media accounts, speaking at club meetings across campus, or skipping my tailgating time to host gameday giveaways, I was bringing the voice of Her Campus Clemson to the masses, and I wouldn’t have traded this experience for the world.
In the summer of 2012, I was also fortunate enough to have two incredible internships, both in fields I was really excited to explore. Again, at this point in my life, I was still trying to figure out what direction I was headed in; I knew it was communications, but what facet? Where was my niche? Would I ever truly find out where I was headed? [cue dramatic music] First, I interned as a hospitality intern for The Memorial Tournament, and you can learn all about my experience in this blog post. In addition to everything stated in that blog post, I truly learned so much about hospitality, customer satisfaction, and working with a team to create a seamless and smooth experience for the tournament patrons. My second internship was with the advertising agency White+Partners, where I served as the Media and Account Management intern. Prior to this internship, I knew that I had an interest in advertising (see previous blog post), but I wasn’t sure of how much I would enjoy it from the other side of the curtain. As the Media Intern, I was able to learn the nitty gritty details of what went into advertising and the process of working with various media outlets, whether it be radio, digital, print, or television. I was also introduced to the Account Management side, which involved working directly with clients and serving as the liaison between clients and the rest of the agency. I was just so excited to dive in and experience all facets of the advertising industry; I never turned down an opportunity to get more involved with the agency and I ended up coming away with invaluable experience and knowledge. I am truly grateful for these two summer internship opportunities.
Throughout all of these experiences, I was (not-so-secretly) having a love affair with social media. Something about social media is just so glamorous to me, and I hope that never fades. To me, social media is just so incredible not because it introduces an entirely different angle of marketing and reaching the consumer; social media humanizes corporations and turns consumers into brand ambassadors. In short, no company today will be reaching its full potential without a social strategy, or at least online presence. Once I started to feel as though I was an expert on social media from the consumer standpoint, I wanted to try my hand at the other side of the curtain. I created the Twitter account @ClemsonGirlProb back in October of 2011, and have now garnered close to 5,000 followers. The purpose of this Twitter handle was initially for me to further my obsession with social media, but it quickly turned into much more than that. I started doing a lot of trial and error to see what worked and what didn’t work in terms of reaching my targeted audience, and I am proud to see that I reached over 3,500 followers before I let anyone know that I was the person behind the anonymous Twitter account. I figured out a specific voice for the Twitter handle, and I stuck to it. I made it a priority to use this profile to serve as a source for all Clemson female (and some male) fans for consistent and relevant information and commentary on what was going on in the Clemson community. It was from this experience that I learned how human social media is, and that there is no “9-5” time scale for it to be constricted to. I learned that social media is a never-ending conversation, and that in order to be successful at social media, you need to constantly be plugged in and listening to your audience in order to respond properly. In addition to @ClemsonGirlProb, I also responded to the rise of the #WhatShouldWeCallMe Tumblr accounts and created one specific for Clemson students, #WhenInClemson. As rewarding as it was for me to see my friends posting links to this account on their Facebook pages without realizing that it was me, it was even more rewarding to track the page visits using Google Analytics. At the height of the Tumblr page, I was seeing upwards of 10,000 clicks per day, and several times I had to take a step back and realize what was happening.
This is when it dawned on me: I loved interacting with audiences, no matter what the platform. Whether it be through advertisements that consumers would see, hear, watch; content being pushed out via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and other social networking sites that users could interact with by making viral or responding to; and, of course, just general interaction with people about something you are passionate about.
My love for social media lead me to many great things at Clemson. First, I was grateful to have earned the position as the first ever Social Media Intern for the Clemson University Division of Student Affairs. This experience only furthered my passion for all things social media and really continued to open my eyes as to how social media can be used to reach audiences. Since Clemson is something that I am passionate about, it was really rewarding for me to be able to combine two of my biggest passions in a professional setting and to see my ideas come to fruition. My experience in social media continued as I completed two creative inquiries with Clemson’s own Social Media Listening Center, a gift given to Clemson University by Dell and Radian6. During my time working with the SMLC, it really hit me how extremely vital social media is in today’s rapidly expanding society, and having the opportunity to work with the Radian6 technology was truly an honor that I am very fortunate to have been given.
During my last year as a Clemson student, I knew that I wanted to get just a little more experience. By this time, I had finally figured out what I enjoyed doing, and I couldn’t have found a more perfect position for me. My senior year, I had the esteemed privilege to serve as Chipotle Mexican Grill’s Student Brand Ambassador for Clemson University. Yes, that’s right; I was getting paid to spread the Chipotle love to the Clemson community. I read something once that said to “figure out what you love to do without getting paid, and that is what you should be doing for the rest of your life.” Well, to say that I am obsessed with Chipotle Mexican Grill is an understatement, so I knew that I could not pass this opportunity up. As I told the regional marketing manager during my interview, even if they didn’t give me the official title, I would still promote Chipotle and be an asset to their brand new Clemson location. Since the chain is not very prominent in the South (read: I went to Chipotle everyday after high school, my friends from the South did not), I felt that it was my responsibility, long before Clemson even had a Chipotle, to introduce the wonderful world of Chipotle Mexican Grill to my fellow peers. Once I got the job, however, it became official. I was constantly tweeting, posting on Facebook, handing out promotion cards, speaking at organization’s chapter meetings, and just spreading my love for Chipotle to everyone around me, especially those that were new to Chipotle and their mission of ‘Food With Integrity.’
So, here I am. A college graduate, ready for life’s next big adventure. I am headed to Chicago and I can’t wait for the next chapter of my life to begin. But, in response to the question posed to me at the beginning of the blog post, here’s what I plan on doing with my degree in Communication Studies: creating content and streamlining it to audiences. My passion for social media and marketing, combined with my natural tenacity and curiosity, make me an absolute asset to a team in a fast-paced work environment.
I’m finally grown up, and I couldn’t be more excited. Adulthood is supposed to be fun, right? Well, if that’s wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
PS- If you made it through this entire post, I commend you.