Year of Graduation: 2012
Current Position: Communication Specialist, Vanco Services
Please give a brief description of your current position and where you're working.
I am currently working as a Communication Specialist in the marketing department at Vanco Services. Vanco Services is a financial technology company that processes electronic donations and payments for over 20,000 organizations.I am responsible for writing, editing and proofing a wide range of b-to-b communications including email copy, direct mail copy, advertising copy, sales literature, press releases, and more.
What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
A lot of hard work and persistence! Although I applied for about 15 positions the last couple months before graduation, it wasn't until after I graduated that I really dedicated all my time to completing job applications. I absolutely loved my senior year at CSB/SJU and I was not going to let myself become absorbed with applications and interviews! It is very easy to become overwhelmed so my advice is to try to keep things in perspective. St. Ben's grads have an excellent employment rate but the job search still requires a lot of effort and probably won't be super easy.
When I was applying for jobs, I tried to avoid talking myself out of any opportunity that came my way. So my advice is to apply to everything that interests you; don't assume that you are under qualified! When I applied to Vanco, I thought it was a long shot but I had good qualifications and the four people that interviewed me really appreciated my St. Ben's background, including a Johnnie grad and even my future Tommie boss!
What suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
Take a variety of classes! What I loved so much about receiving a liberal arts education was the opportunity to challenge myself not only within my major but in a wide range of subjects. Whether it was a communication course, a common curriculum course or an elective, I learned something from each class that has been both useful and valuable in my professional development.
Be prepared to share samples of your writing! For careers in communications, it is very common that you will be asked to include writing samples in your application and/or share them at an interview. For many of the jobs I applied for, I was asked to include writing samples. In the case that I would be asked during an interview to discuss the varying types of b-to-b communications that I have experience with, I made sure to bring copies of a variety of writing pieces, including; blog entries, press releases and other media writing stories. Also, during an interview it is not uncommon to be given a writing assignment that will be used as another form of evaluation. For my interview at Vanco, for example, I was asked to complete a writing assignment that was due the following day. This writing assignment is definitely something I look back and laugh at seeing all the progress I have made since starting at Vanco!
What skills are important in your field?
Besides having strong written communication skills, I think creativity, attention to detail and excellent interpersonal skills are some of the most important for students interested in pursuing a career in marketing or communications. Whether you are working on an individual project or are working as team, these skills are essential in building your career.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
Career Services was a huge help to me! Making an appointment at Career Services may seem obvious, but don't overlook the great support you can get from experienced and knowledgeable staff! During one of my visits I was given a career assessment that helped me further understand my strengths and interests. Although I thought this assessment was going to be like any other career or personality assessment I have taken in the past, I found this particular one to be an additional tool that helped me narrow my career focus. In addition, I highly recommend having your resume critiqued. While the appearance of your resume may not get you hired, a sloppy resume can immediately eliminate you from consideration. I applied for a variety of communication-related positions so it was important that my resume was not only well polished but also fit the particular position that I was applying for.
While I was studying abroad in London I had the chance to blog for the Star Tribune as a "World Class Blogger". This experience enabled me to share my personal experiences as well as provide readers and potential travelers with travel tips. Finding this unique opportunity was definitely by chance as my mom was reading the Travel section of the newspaper when she came across the advertisement. My suggestion here is to not overlook any internship or volunteer position that can allow you to demonstrate your skills and gain valuable experience.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?
One of the most satisfying parts of my job is looking back and seeing how much I've learned since starting at Vanco. I have learned so much about the company, profession and business in general. While it is incredibly different from college, the skills I learned there were easy to build on. The process of starting with a vision and ending with a finished product has provided me with many great learning opportunities.