Landing that dream-job after graduation is a fantasy that many soon-to-be college graduates share. But don’t get caught up in daydreaming too long. Those who have landed fulfilling careers after graduation understand that the transition into the professional world begins long before registering for the last semester of coursework. In an interview with a recent UT graduate, and native Texan, Michelle Okeke gives BMC some insight on her experience starting a career in NYC after graduation. “Making sure to keep connected to your network is a big one,” Michelle says. “If not for mine, I would not be in this amazing apartment in Harlem, working in midtown Manhattan.”
Ms. Okeke finished her BA in Advertising at The University of Texas at Austin in May 2011, and landed a job as a media planner/buyer at Carat in New York City. I asked Ms. Okeke about what prepared her for the real world:
Derrick Davis: How do you think your degree (or time as a student) helped you in the professional world?
Michelle Okeke: My Degree definitely helped give me the solid foundation for my career. I’m currently working in digital media, and my understanding of that field can be attributed to the classes that I took while at UT as well as the intern opportunities I was afforded. My time as a student, however, taught me who I was as an individual, and that has helped to give me confidence and security in place (NYC) where it is easy to lose yourself.
DD: How would you recommend students prepare themselves for the job market prior to graduation?
MO: Internships, any type of real world experience is all that you can hope for. Also, time management is a big skill often taken for granted, but learning it will help you immensely.
DD: How can students work together to be professionally successful after graduation?
MO: Making sure to keep connected to your network is a big one. If not for mine, I would not be in this amazing apartment in Harlem, working in midtown Manhattan. Stay connected!
DD: What role(s) do you think social media has in landing a job after graduation?
MO: A lot of agencies blatantly put out employment opportunities through their Twitter pages. Also, sometimes agencies are scoping out who is using their social media network in an interesting way, and they use that as an avenue to consider a person for employment. I would say, don’t be fake with your social networks, only posting agency news/headlines, but let them know that you know the issues and also have a fun side – this always helps.
DD: In your experience, how beneficial was your internship?
MO: MAIP (Multicultural Advertising Internship Program) was the most important 10 weeks of my life. I learned so much about myself and the advertising industry. I was blessed with the opportunity to do my internship in New York, which is basically the mecca of all advertising, so I was fully immersed in the industry. Visiting agencies and learning about the different fields within advertising was mind-blowing. In addition, I met the people that would become lifelong friends, and some who would just be great connections in the future.
DD: How can students maximize their time as an intern?
MO: Have. FUN! At UT our motto is “work hard, play hard,” so everyone will tell you that the same intensity you put in at your 8-5, should be utilized in at your 5-8! Also, listen to your heart; don’t box yourself into one specialty too early in the game. If you feel like taking on a couple of tasks related to other fields that you may be interested in, do it! Internships are not jobs; they’re learning experiences.