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Alumni Connections

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Caitlyn Grady 2013

Location: Minneapolis, MN
Major: International Relations
Company: Multiple Fortune 500 companies including a healthcare company, oil and gas manufacturer, a hospitality and gaming company, and Microsoft plus other clients in the pharmaceutical and diplomatic relations industries

What were your daily tasks and how did you support your organization?

In my most recent role as an Account Manager, each day looked different, but my daily tasks typically included chatting with my clients about upcoming projects and then determining what type of team is needed to accomplish the projects at hand (e.g. a copywriter and designer, videographer and producer, etc.). A significant portion of my role was focused on getting a detailed understanding of the client’s need and then providing input and feedback to the assembled team as we moved forward. Via my path to being an Account Manager, I also had the opportunity to help drive communications strategy plans and brand campaigns for clients and direct media placement strategy including evaluating placement performance based on analytics and working to create more effective creative assets. Outside of my immediate client work, I also supported the firm’s new business efforts by providing advice on how to respond to requests from potential clients about the firm’s capabilities. Overall, my day-to-day role was about keeping an eye on what’s going on for my clients, how our agency could help, and the broader initiatives of the agency.

What skills do you consider most essential for this career?

Account management relies on your ability to communicate clearly and concisely, understand the creative and digital development process, and be resourceful if things don’t go as planned. This definitely applies across both advertising and PR, so it’s an essential skill set for anyone looking to enter into the broader communications industry. Staying curious and finding what aspects of communications appeal to you (PR, branding, content production for social, analytics) are key to success—your client roster and role can change over the course of a few years, even if you remain at the same agency, so knowing your interests will allow you to take advantage of opportunities as they come up. The final skill that’s important is strong critical thinking—an attribute that I think all Rochester grads really bring to the table, regardless of major. It sounds a bit contradictory, but being able to step back and think through a project, campaign, or communications crisis from beginning to end, how you can help your clients best meet their present and future needs, and how you need to provide effective information and direction to your colleagues is the hallmark of a successful account manager.

What advice do you have for students preparing to enter the workforce?

The 3 pieces of advice that I’d give recent grads would be the following—

1) Network. Network. And then, network some more.—Regardless of whether you’re looking to pursue a career in advertising, PR, or something more niche like public affairs, working to actively network will help you gain contacts in the industry and understand more about what type of role might be right for you. Aiming to have at least 5 conversations with different contacts will help give you a feel for things like potential opportunities, your expected daily work, and career trajectory which can help you evaluate what you want your first step in the industry to be. UR alums are great about informational interviews or conversations about potential opportunities—that’s how I scored my first PR internship!

2) Know what you want (as much as you can)—This was a piece of advice that I received while working in D.C. and it still sticks with me today. When networking and reaching out to potential contacts, keep in mind the end goal with which you’d like their help. Are you looking for them to tell you about their experience in the industry? Or are you really looking for them to refer you for an open role at their firm? As a recent grad no one expects you to have things all worked out and the easier you can make it for others to help, the more traction you’ll gain. By being direct (in a polite way!), this will also give you a feel for how much your contacts are willing to help. Chances are, they’re busy folks with lots of client work and responsibilities outside of work, so by giving them a place to start (forwarding on your resume, referring you for a role), they can then let you know if they can help above and beyond that—or if forwarding an email/making an introduction is the most that they can do at the moment.

3) Stay informed and involved—If you’re interested in working with a particular type of client (healthcare, fashion, health & wellness, etc.), stay in the know about what’s going on in the industry. Reading industry publications/industry influencer blogs can give you helpful background for networking conversations and interviews—and in some cases, even provide information on what firms are doing work that you might be interested in. Get involved in industry networking organizations—especially if you’re looking to work in cities that are big communications and advertising hubs like New York or Chicago, because these markets tend to be pretty competitive. This will help with your networking efforts and these organizations can help you with training to build your skills.