When I started at Illinois in the Division of General Studies, I planned to speak with as many people as possible to learn how others settled on their majors and career goals. During freshman orientation, I spoke with some advisors about pursuing communications and marketing. I was interested in these areas, but I wanted my major/minor combination to have a strong creative blend. They suggested pursuing Advertising in the College of Media, and after taking an intro course and receiving encouragement from a Teaching Assistant, I decided to declare Advertising as my major.

Throughout my time at Illinois, I had a strong relationship with my advisor. I’d enter advising appointments feeling overwhelmed and stressed about the upcoming semester but would leave with a clear head and a solid plan. Coming into college, I was unsure what to expect from my advising relationship at such a big university, so the ability to have genuine conversations with a faculty member and discuss my career goals at length was invaluable.

Along with my major, I declared two minors: Business and Public Relations. Thinking ahead to the job market, I thought that these specializations would equip me with a wide range of skills. Through my classes and networks, I learned that the lines are blurring between business, marketing, advertising and PR, so I thought obtaining a wide range of skill sets would best prepare me for my career.

As I reflect on my time at Illinois, one experience that stands out is an Advertising Immersion trip I partook in, which involved a group of students, faculty and advisors traveling to Los Angeles and San Francisco to visit multiple advertising agencies during the day and attend networking events in the evenings. The trip enabled me to make connections with industry professionals and peers in the college, as well as plan for post-grad life.

I also participated in the American Advertising Federation while on campus, an organization that allows students to work on real advertising campaigns. We worked with a diverse set of clients, ranging from an acapella group to an on-campus robot fighting competition. Being exposed to different clients and their advertising needs helped prepare me for my job today.

I currently work at Edelman as Assistant Media Relations Specialist, Health. I applied and accepted an internship offer with Edelman as I was also applying for jobs. I admired the company and wanted to work there full-time, so I’m glad I took the chance on the internship, as it opened the door to a job offer.

When applying to this role, I was unsure about Healthcare PR since I had no experience in the pharmaceutical or healthcare fields. From my experience, though, I would advise others against shutting out opportunities just because the industry or client practice is unfamiliar. Healthcare PR was a new territory, and I worried I might not be cut out for it, but I learned how to discuss FDA regulations and medical conferences, for example, and see connections to my PR classes in school.

Every day, I’m learning and working on something new in my job, and I enjoy the variety in my day-to-day. I talk with colleagues that have been with Edelman for twenty years that say they’re still acquiring new skills and learning to this day. I never want to be complacent in my career, and I love how I am able to fine tune my skills as a publicist each day.

Once I’ve been working for a few years, I look forward to speaking with college students, whether through immersion trips, one-on-one’s, or Q&A panels, about my career path. It’s a rite of passage to progress from a mentee to a mentor, and I look forward to helping others, just as my mentors have guided me.

While it’s cliché, I would say don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Freshman year, raising my hand in a large lecture intimidated me, and I was hesitant to talk to professors one-on-one and forge those relationships because in my mind, I assumed, “they’re too busy to talk to me.” In reality, each time I met with a professor after class, their doors were always open. It’s critical to make those connections and build your network while you’re in college, surrounded by professors and advisors ready to help.