I’m nearing my final semester at Grand Valley, and as 2020 is nearing the end too, 2021 couldn’t be looking any better. Despite the difficulty of the current semester, I’ve recently been reflecting on all that I had accomplished and experienced during my time at GVSU. Most of my time and opportunities wouldn’t be without the help of the Advertising and Public Relations (APR) program, and the supportive faculty and local PR professionals. And when I think of a PR pro that has helped me grow the most and inspire me to persevere: Jenny Griffin.
I didn’t get the job, but I gained a mentor
I first met Jenny Griffin in late fall of 2019. Jenny is the current communications manager at West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT). I applied to an internship position last fall, and interviewed with Jenny. While I didn’t get the internship — and now I see it as a relief, because I still had so much to learn, on top of a packed academic schedule. But even after that dreaded rejection email, I stayed in contact with Jenny, and a few weeks later, we met for coffee and spoke about the other summer internship I had landed (later canceled due to COVID-19).
Ask the questions you know you have
Jenny has become a mentor to me, not only in regards to school and work life after graduation, but about life in general. One question I keep asking to anyone who will listen is, what are people looking for in recent graduates coming into the industry? To sum it up quickly: a jack of all trades. One doesn’t necessarily have to be the best of the best in all sectors, but at least have your foot in the door. For example, I’d say my PR speciality is writing, though I’m spending time developing my digital marketing skills, design, etc. Another thing Jenny has taught me, and why I look up to her, is to not be afraid to move around and find the place that is best fit for you. One job might have all the items on your list checked, but what about the environment and the office culture? It’s like the saying for friendship: surround yourself with people who you want to be like. That’s when you’ll get your best work done, and at the end of the day, feel content and happy with where you are.
Wording your resume is key
Like I said, Jenny is a fountain of information and inspiration, all in one. And when we last spoke, I was feeling discouraged about internships and future job opportunities. We got to talking about my resume, and how I’m “only” working at Banana Republic right now while in search of internships. She stopped me right in my tracks, and pointed something out to me. Even though I consider Banana Republic just a part-time job to pay the bills, I’m gaining experience that can be applicable to jobs I will hold in the future. Customer service, product knowledge and handling, register programs, online orders, etc. She continued: it’s all about how you choose to express those skills on your resume. And she’s absolutely right. I often feel like a lot of my peers, and myself, downplay our skillset, and even our ability to adapt and learn on the go. And a lot of people won’t have that specific 2-3 years of experience that’s “prefered” on the job posting, but wording our experiences strategically on our application is important.
Look for someone you can reach out to
I’m really thankful I met Jenny when I did, and am able to maintain a relationship with her, one in which I feel comfortable asking her the uncomfortable questions, and even the concerns that stem from my own irrational anxiety. It’s comforting to feel like you have someone in the industry you can bounce ideas off of, get advice, and even help expand your network so you can figure out where your path is headed. If you don’t have someone like this in your life, start reaching out. Connect with them on LinkedIn, stalk them on Twitter, ask them for a virtual cup of coffee. Putting yourself out there is the first step; the rest will follow.