Freaking out about life post-grad? Hear from four PR pros about how the “real world” really is!

By Jasmine Garcia

Taking on the real world seems like a daunting feat. But there are plenty of Ohio University students who have taken life by the horns and headed full speed into post-grad living. I had the opportunity to reach out to a few recent Scripps graduates to learn about where they are now, how they got there and to share their much-needed advice about life after the “G” word, graduation.

Lauren Nolan ’12

Junior Account Executive, Hunter Public Relations

Aimee Rancer ’11

Account Executive at BOCA Communications, a boutique high-technology PR firm in San Francisco

Bethany Scott ’12

Account Coordinator, MWW Group

Heather Farr ’12

Media Relations Specialist at Walker Sands Communications, a mid-size tech firm in Chicago.

1. How did you obtain your first job after college?

Lauren: Before beginning the job hunt I took a trip to Europe following graduation. I toured around Ireland and Paris alone for a bit, and then met up with the Scripps London group to cover the Olympics as a freelancer in late July through early August. I knew my heart was set on working in New York City so just before leaving London to return to the States I changed my current/displayed city on LinkedIn to NYC. This single move allowed my profile to become more searchable within the network I aspired to join.

A few days after returning to Ohio, an OU alumna who I was briefly acquainted with during undergrad emailed me about a job opening with her public relations firm, Hunter PR. I was already familiar with the firm, as a former Miss Universe Organization (MUO) employee had moved from MUO to Hunter just before I began my internship with MUO. After emailing my resume to my contact at Hunter I was asked to interview with the team. While they would have allowed me to interview over Skype I chose to make the 650 mile drive to the city to visit their office and interview in-person, which I think said a lot about my dedication to the opportunity. The interview, which included a sit-down, one-on-one, as well as a writing test, went well, and two days later I was offered the job. Then came the hard part – I had to pack-up my life in Cincinnati, move to New York City, and be ready for work in 10 days – easier said than done!

Aimee: I moved out to San Francisco initially working with Macy’s and their Executive Development Program. It wasn’t the best fit and after several months, I left to work for BOCA.

Bethany: I interned at The Miss Universe Organization, which led me New York City. While I was interning with Miss Universe Organization, Kate Simpson (an OU alumna and past PRSSA president) informed me of the job opening at MWW Group. I applied and three weeks later landed the job.

Heather: While I found all of my internships through connections and networking, I actually found my current job through a LinkedIn group for post-grads in Chicago. It seemed like a long shot, but I replied to a WS employees’ post in the group and she wrote me back saying that my experience looked like a fit and I should come in for an interview. Lesson learned: always keep your LinkedIn profile updated!

2. What is your dream career? (if you are not already working in your dream career) 

Aimee: Working in-house at a fashion house such as Balenciaga or Phillip Lim.

Bethany: It’s hard to say! I hope that throughout my life I am constantly evolving and changing career paths. For me, the core of PR is educating others. In 20 to 25 years, I hope that I am still using my PR skill-set to educate others about causes I am passionate about. I also hope to one day get my Master’s and teach at a college. Oh, and I want to operate my own study abroad program.

Heather: Public relations for the House of Blues, or basically any music venue or concert.

3. What would you wish you would have known before starting your first job?

Lauren: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Every person who is on your team was in your shoes at one point. While they expect you to know the basics, they want you to ask questions so they can clarify and teach you what you need to know to be better at your job. Also, use Google. While your team wants to teach you, some questions have simple answers and can often be found by taking time to teach yourself.

Aimee: A job takes hard work, determination and patience. It’s a process to get to where you want to be.

Bethany: I wish I would have shadowed at a PR agency to gain a better understanding of day-to-day operations. I think that to work and be successful at a PR agency you need to be able to function in extremely fast-paced environment. I would definitely say that agencies aren’t for everyone. You need to able to manage your time well and also be extremely organized. I would definitely research before starting at a PR agency.

4. What has it been like to get around in a new city?

Lauren: When I made the permanent move to NYC it was only the third time I had ever been to the city. The first being when I started my internship with the Miss Universe Organization. Luckily, I’m fairly direction oriented so I never had much trouble with public transit – but I have to admit, without a smartphone I may have faced a few more challenges in navigation. I think the most important thing to remember when moving to a new city is that you have to put yourself out there. Talk to strangers, attend events and dedicate time to challenge your comfort zones. It may not always be comfortable, but in the end you will be a better person for it, and you may even make new friends and learn something from those experiences.

Aimee: It’s an adventure! You learn by getting lost!

Bethany: New York City is a tough as it gets! I truly believe that if “you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” So many simple tasks (grocery shopping, getting coffee, travel, getting an apartment) are at least 10X more difficult here. That being said, NYC is an extremely wonderful place. I love that it keeps me motivated, and that literally the city never sleeps. There is definitely electricity that you feel in the city. I also love the diversity of cultures… and the food isn’t too shabby!

That being said, HopStop is my best friend to help get around in the city. Even with HopStop, I have gotten lost, though. I would say to get around in a new city, definitely download HopStop, but realize that it’s going to take a while to get fully accustomed.

I feel like I could write the script for Season 3 of Girls. Throughout my seven months, I have lived in Brooklyn (on a couch with a few close friends), slept on a couch in Astoria, and I was finally able to land an apartment a few months ago in the Upper East Side. It’s been a crazy 7 months, but it has definitely been awesome!

Heather: I hang out and work with a lot of people who have been in Chicago their whole lives, and as much as I wish I could effortlessly rattle off great restaurant recommendations and directions, I like the mystery behind not knowing everything. It’s fun when every place you go is new. It can be intimidating at first, but I’ve found that friends and strangers alike are always happy to suggest restaurants or at least point you in the right direction.

5. Is the real world as scary as everyone thinks?

Lauren: I would never describe the ‘real world’ as a scary place. It’s no Athens, that’s for sure. I think a big, and unexpected, shock is moving from a city where most of the population is in your age range, to a place where you are very likely to be friends, colleagues, passengers and neighbors with a much more diverse population. I commute on the subway every day, right alongside homeless people, millionaires, even a celebrity or two can be sited at times. There’s such a wide range of ages, cultures, and social identities – and you’re really missing out on some great experiences if you don’t take time to notice and reach out to some of these people.

The real world certainly seems a whole lot less scary, and less lonely, if you have a solid group of friends. Like I said earlier, it’s important to put yourself out there. The world is much more fun when you’re nice to people and can find a good group to jive with.

Aimee: Yes and no. It’s amazing having freedom to being in charge of your own destiny. Paying bills? Well, that’s a different story.

Bethany: Definitely not! Yes, it’s going to kick your butt — but in a good way. You’re going to realize just how valuable your Scripps PR degree is. I am still learning and at days my job is so tough. However, no matter what city or town you move to, you will definitely find your Bobcat network.

I would just stress to take it slow. Do what makes YOU HAPPY. If you don’t want to start a career in PR right away, then don’t. Life is short – go abroad, find an international non-profit that may need some PR help. I am a big encourager of students doing what feels right for them, not just what seems like a safe choice.

Also, realize that you are going to make mistakes, but don’t beat yourself up. As PR pros, I think we constantly over-analyze situations. Make sure to take a step back and every 2-3 weeks think about all the progress you have/are making in your new career.

Heather: It is certainly not scary. I will say, though, that it is very different. College life is amazing and the real world is amazing, but both for very different reasons. One of my college friends put it best: “No one told me that in the real world, you really need to make yourself do things and make an effort to stay happy.” In college – while you do have freedom – opportunities, social events and resources are all at your fingertips. In the real world, you need to seek out these things. In the real world, you have to work a little harder to maintain and balance a social life, hobbies, exercise and long-distance friendships.

6. What was it like to find a company culture that suited your personality?

Lauren: The culture at Hunter is so many things – fun and creative, certainly – but I really love that I’m surrounded by bright and highly motivated individuals. It was important for me to find that solid balance between individuality and light-heartedness, as well as a culture of people who care about what they do, and care about their industry as a whole. I have a lot of friends working for other PR firms in Manhattan and I can’t help but compare their perspectives on their firms to my experiences at Hunter, and really, I feel there is no comparison, which is a huge relief to be able to think to myself, “this feels right,” and mean it.

Aimee: I was lucky in the fact that my current company’s culture is very liberal, outgoing and open. I feel completely at home at my current job. We’re like a family. Spend all day together, hang out on the weekends and go to happy hours. It’s great.

Bethany: Company culture is key! MWW Group is great because it’s such an open environment. We definitely embody the “work hard, play hard” mantra. I also love that I am able to work in the consumer lifestyle division on three well-known brands: Zumba Fitness, Gold’s Gym and Sara Lee Premium Meats.

Heather: It is not as hard as it seems – when you’re in an interview, you really can get a good sense of the company’s culture and whether you will click with the people to whom you’re speaking.

Finding a company culture that suits your personality is huge. You spend 8 or more hours a day at work, and if you can’t have fun and spend time with your co-workers outside of the office, you will quickly burn out. And culture doesn’t just involve happy hours and kickball; it includes things like flexibility, work life balance, fitness programs, professional development and more.

7. What is your advice for seniors who are preparing to enter the workforce?

Lauren: I think one of the best things for people just entering the workforce to understand is this – in order to get what you want, you need to decide what you’re willing to give up in order to get there. As much as I love New York I had to give up living close to my family and many of my friends from college and high school. I also had to accept that by moving to New York City I wouldn’t be making huge strides to build a large savings account anytime soon. In exchange for those things though, I get to live in an amazing, high-energy and competitive city. I get to meet interesting individuals every day and I get to learn from some of the best PR practitioners in the industry. My other piece of advice – be nice, the world is a small town. 

Aimee:  Explore everything. If you are curious about something, do it! Why not? Not to quote Drake, but you only live once. Might as well see what’s out there. Then, at least you can say if you liked it or not.

Bethany: Definitely use your connections! I am not sure how long it would have taken me to land a job had I not a strong PR professional contact base. Three years ago, Kate Simpson emailed OU PRSSA to offer advice and help. I took the initiative to email her back and we stayed in communication throughout my undergrad career. Now, four years later we work at the same company, MWW Group.

Heather: Relax and ENJOY your senior year! It really is the best year of your life and you won’t fully appreciate it until it is long gone. If you’re in the Scripps Journalism School, you are likely already prepared for what is ahead of you. While you’re job searching, keep an open mind and know that as stressful as things can feel in the moment, it will work out and you will get a job. Promise!

8. What is your advice for underclassmen?

Lauren: Explore. Explore your options and the industry. Explore the world – the one around you and the one abroad. Find opportunities on campus to take part in public relations and communications, even if the title isn’t as clear cut as “public relations coordinator/assistant.” Work hard for people. And when you’re not dedicated to a project, it’s OK to admit it might not be your cup of tea. These are the ways to find out what areas of the industry you really want to work in, and will be happy working in. When you find projects you’re passionate about, you’ll get a good idea of the direction you want to take later on, and will probably form valuable relationships with students, professors, and other community members who may remember you and the work you did the next time they have an opportunity.

Aimee: The same as seniors. Work hard, explore, be curious, and enjoy life! College is one of the best times to grow and find out who you are.

Bethany: Study abroad for sure! Don’t stress and take advantage of every opportunity that you can. Don’t feel the pressure that you have to get a job right away. Take your time and do your research. Make sure that before you commit to something, you are truly interested in the company.

 Heather: Don’t be afraid to speak up or step up because you are younger. Find at least one older mentor, and make an effort to stay in touch after they graduate. Befriend your professors early on. Get involved in something — even if it has nothing to do with your major — find something at OU that you can be passionate about. Study abroad. Write hand-written “thank you” notes. Don’t feel intimidated by your peers and friends — you are all fabulous and one day, your classmate’s success could lead to an opportunity for you. Don’t underestimate the power of the coffee date.

9. What were you involved in as a student at Ohio University?

Lauren: I was a Scripps ambassador and worked as an office and teaching assistant in Scripps Hall. I was a member of PRSSA and worked on the Cardinal Health account for ImPRessions. I traveled to Zambia to work on a documentary, and wrote articles about Thailand for the Scripps Institute for International Journalism. I worked on Soul of Athens, both as a publicist and as a content creator. I led fundraising and publicity efforts for Project C: Clicking Creates Change, as well as developed storytelling content for their site. I was a member of Delta Gamma and Greek life, acting as VP Programming, Director of PR and E-Ops, and Director of Fundraising throughout college. I also worked as a learning communities peer mentor in the fall. Outside of my university involvement I interned at an advertising agency in Cincinnati and the Miss Universe Organization in NYC.

Aimee: I was involved in University Program Council, Thread Magazine, Sigma Kappa, Southeast Ohio, Women’s Panhellenic Association and Student Senate.

Bethany: I was on the executive board in PRSSA. Throughout my undergrad career, I held three elected PRSSA positions: Execute VP of External Relations, Executive Vice President, and Executive Vice President of Member Relations. I was also a member of the Global Leadership Center, a peer adviser at the Ohio University Education Abroad office and an Account Supervisor at ImPRessions.

Heather: Well, I got voted “most obsessed with my student organization” if that tells you anything 😉 I was on the PRSSA executive board for three years as vice president of PR, executive vice president and, eventually, president. I was an associate, account executive and account supervisor in ImPRessions.  I wrote for Brick Beats, the OU music magazine and I was in Alpha Gamma Delta. I was involved in the Global Leadership Center, which led me to studying abroad in Vietnam and Zambia. I held three PACE positions and I was a campus tour guide.

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