Career Moves: LinkedIn & résumé advice helps secure public relations job
Gabriela "Gabby" Szewcow '13 discovered a passion for media relations and used resources through the Student Professional Development Center, along with advice from faculty mentors, to land a job in New York City.
She enjoys all forms of writing and spent considerable time working with The Pendulum student newspaper, but when Gabriela "Gabby" Szewcow '13 envisioned career possibilities in media relations, her professional interests shifted from journalism to strategic communications.
The print and online journalism major from Pittsburgh, Pa., landed her first job with the business communications firm of Gibbs & Soell using campus and career resources available to all students. Now living in New York City, the junior account executive has commited herself to helping the next generation of students by being active with the Elon Network managed by the Student Professional Development Center.
Szewcow is the latest person to be featured this year in a series of E-net profiles on the successes of students and alumni who use the Student Professional Development Center to find job and internship openings, and to prepare for interviews and improve applications with guidance from staff.
She answered questions recently from the SPDC about her experience.
Tell me about the company and your role as an employee.
My company handles public relations and business communications for many business and brands in the advanced manufacturing, agribusiness, financial services, and home and building markets. We work closely with our clients to create meaningful, trusting relationships with them. As a new employee, I have already made direct contact with all of the clients whose accounts I am working on through email, phone calls and group conference calls. Every day is new and exciting. I am learning so much about different companies and brands and what makes their products unique and marketable. I love all of my co-workers and honestly could not have asked for a better fit. This company values its employees and has an amazing group mentality that I love being a part of.
How did your interest in position or profession develop?
I have always wanted to be a writer and really enjoyed dabbling in all forms of writing, from blogging to newspaper writing to online magazines. I learned a lot from my professors at Elon and through my various jobs and internships, all of which were strictly editorial. But what I love most is interacting with other people and helping them in any way that I can. So with help from some friends and mentors, I stumbled upon media relations, and I thought that it would be a good way for me to use my skills to help others reach their goals and succeed. And in doing so, I would feel like I was succeeding as well.
What have you learned from the experience?
Because most of my work experience has been editorial, I learn something new every day. I'm almost glad that I never took a PR class at Elon, because everything is new and fresh and I like learning it in a professional atmosphere and in a more hands-on way. I'm learning to write more strategically and succinctly now, but I still write full-length articles and long emails from time to time. I work on six or seven different accounts, so I feel like I become a mini expert on the things I do research on and write about, which is very similar to the journalism world. I became a mini expert on the topics I reported on through interviews with experts and my own research. It's a different environment and a different approach, but I feel that being a writer allows me to move fluidly and easily from world to world.
Who did you work with in Student Professional Development Center to prepare for your career, and what help did you receive?
I worked closely with Katie Smith in the Student Professional Development Center. She helped me craft cover letters and get my résumé looking great. She even took the time to check out my LinkedIn profile and give me some pointers. I also took a Transitions course with Professor Tom Nelson in the Student Professional Development Center, which I found extremely practical and helpful.
How do you plan on using career services in the future?
I plan on being a resource or contact for Elon students and on using the Elon Mentor Network to network with fellow Elon graduates in the New York City area. I contacted a lot of Elon alumni through the network, and they were all extremely helpful and willing to talk to me and give me advice. I want to pay it forward and be that person for current and future Elon students.
What recommendations would you share with other students about the Student Professional Development Center?
I would tell them to take advantage of it, even when you'd rather be doing something else. I graduated early and was hardly on campus the second semester of my senior year. But I forced myself to go to Moseley once or twice a week and get into the Student Professional Development Center. Sometimes, a little can go a long way, and I really enjoyed the one-on-one interaction. Even if you don't go to the Student Professional Development Center, take advantage of the emails and the resources on the website. Someone works really hard to put that all together, and it's a resource that many other schools simply don't have!
Which faculty members did you work with to prepare for your career/employment and what help did you receive?
Tom Nelson's transitions course focused on real-world situations and things that I would never have learned in a classroom. I really appreciated and valued that course, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about real estate, paying taxes, taking the GRE, going to grad school, buying stock or rocking an interview. Of course, all of my professors in the School of Communications were incredible mentors. Colin Donohue was my instructor and advisor at The Pendulum, and he has always been great about writing recommendations and being a reference. Janna Anderson was my biggest cheerleader, and I always went to her for advice. My advisor, Rich Landesberg, was great at telling it to me straight, which was hard sometimes, but definitely what I needed. And Naeemah Clark even recruited her sister to help me with the job search.
I felt so much love from the School of Communications, and that was by far the coolest thing about being a student at Elon.