5 Years Out of College and Here’s What I’ve Learned Since


It’s been more than five years since I’ve graduated from Grand Valley State University - GO LAKERS! I earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations in 2012, and it feels like yesterday I was moving my tassel from right to left and walking across the stage to receive my diploma.

Today, I’m in the throes of #agencylife, where one day is never the same: running from call to call; writing, developing, executing; but more than anything, driving client success. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’ve learned a few things since my days at GVSU that a college education can’t necessarily teach you, including:

Writing the right way. When you’re in agency world or freelancing, you’re constantly juggling different writing tones, terminology and acronyms, and even varied company style guides. I keep detailed notes on how to reference specific client terms, ensure I refer to approved press releases and messaging documents vetted by organizations and, in the case something hasn’t been written, provide context in advance of use so that I bring value to not only the content I provide but also strategic oversight in what our clients should be talking about.

Staying in-the-know. As a PR professional, you hear all the time how important it is to get ahead of the news. And it has never been this imperative! Do you have media monitoring software, such as Cision or Meltwater, or Google Alerts set up? Make sure you do! I also keep my Twitter and Google News feeds open to scope trends popping up throughout the day. Tracking news helps when managing clients’ social media accounts, any media coverage that may impact a company’s reputation, etc. As tedious as it may seem at times, I also subscribe to daily news alerts for local media (Detroit Free Press, DBusiness, Crain’s Detroit Business) and industry verticals (e.g., Healthcare Dive, CollisionWeek, FenderBender).

Stopping to smell the roses. If you’re part of the agency squad, you’re rolling with the punches. “Day-to-day grind” is how we define the work atmosphere. It’s exhilarating yet exhausting once you reach 5 p.m. on Friday. One minute, you launch a website, and then within the next hour, you’re on to the next project! In addition, don’t forget to take time for professional development! Graduating does not mean that your education ends. Our team is compiled of board members, young leaders, committee representatives, high school/middle school coaches and professors! If you’re an active member of an organization in college, continue that service when you start your career.

While these may seem to be just soft skills, they all make us better professionals. Don’t forget the power of networks, too! I still keep in touch with my college professors, counselors and student organization advisors when I need some career advice or project inspiration. What skills have you acquired since college?