University of Oregon

Alumni Perspective: Ups and Downs


By Courtney Nelson

So, I was supposed to have a job all picked out when I left school. I thought I would be an account coordinator--work with the client and the agency to get the feelings of both sides shared appropriately. However, no one ever believed me when I said I wanted to work in both Advertising and Public Relations because I thought the two fields were merging. It took me a long time to find Social Media though I worked in it before I left school. I struggled through the hiring process and part-time jobs and came out a stronger person with a full intention of being a Social Media person. That is where I am now. On the cutting edge of communications but I didn't follow the Yellow Brick Road. In fact, I got lost and questioned my degree more than once on the journey. Please don't let my story scare you, let it enlighten you.

After Graduation: Not What I Expected
I graduated in June 2008 after some amazing years as a Journalism Student in the Advertising & Public Relation tracks. I was on Ad Team, so I assumed life would be easy. Sadly, the world decided it was recession time, so I was given a stiff kick in the butt. I did have a paid internship about a month after graduation, but it only lasted a month. The company decided to hire another intern they felt was a better fit than I, shocking most of the other employees and bruising my ego significantly.

Troubles and Questions
I tried to soldier on. I took a break for the weekend then called all of my contacts in the Portland area. I set up as many informational interviews as I could and went to every networking event I could attend. Still nothing. Then the President announced the beginning of the recession and the market began to crash around me. People were fired in droves, and I hadn't even had a decent internship yet.

I felt like I might be moving in the wrong direction. I considered going back to school for something different. I even filled out most of the paperwork to attend Western Culinary. Then in January I looked at my world. I realized I love Advertising & PR and there was a way I could do both, but I just didn't know how yet.

Career Center Help
I worked as a waitress in Vancouver. Which was ridiculous because my apartment was just inside Beaverton. I continued to apply for any job I felt I even slightly qualified for and went to an interview a month, if I was lucky. I still felt like I was getting nowhere.

I decided to visit the UO Career Center Portland. I met with Linda Farvero who encouraged me to take part in an Alumni Job Search Group which would teach me the ins and outs of the job hunt/interview process. Participating helped me see where I was going right and wrong. I decided to apply for more internships but to make sure that employers understood I was looking to transition to a full-time position relatively quickly or have the opportunity to move up based on a job well done.

Finding my Niche
Luckily, I found a job that seemed like a good fit for experience and work environment (the hardest part of my job search was finding the right company atmosphere). I began an internship at a company named Forkfly that did a iPhone app for coupons on your cell phone. We also did some Social Media marketing for the company and some clients. Since I was the first intern of their group to begin working I got close contact with the Social Media Director, David Zumini. He taught me some programs for the management portion of Social Media and some of the dos and don'ts of Facebook and Twitter.

I fell in love with Social Media. I took on as many accounts as I could and got a record of 30 Twitter accounts to track and update daily (multiple times). I also began to teach the other interns how it worked.

In addition, I took this time to see if I loved event coordinating as much as I had in college. I held very successful events almost every First Thursday. The first I worked with Julie Ma who also be came a bit of a mentor for me as well. She helped me to realize that I was worth a full-time job, and she did everything in her power to get me one.

Forkfly looked like it was working out. They told me that as soon as they had the capital to hire me they would. However, the business partners had a disagreement and most of the company departed. Forkfly was later sold to someone else. While it may have ended oddly, I still love the time I spent there. I learned a job I love.

New Strategy Thanks to the Career Center
The only problem was after being told I was full-time in a short amount of time I had decided to quit my waitress job. After leaving Forkfly, I found myself back at square one. It wasn't ideal, but we all have to go there sometime. I began to apply for everything I could think of again. But now, I only applied if it had something to do with either Social Media or Event Promotions as I had the most recent experience in them and enjoyed both. It was hard. I tried to do some volunteering at the Red Cross and worked with some start-ups that didn't pan out for me (however, they are all doing quite well).

Rock Bottom to Cloud 9 in just weeks!
I finally hit rock bottom when I had two very promising interviews in one day. They both seemed to go really well. I was hoping they would fight over me, but they both said "no." One gave me some good advice about perfecting my brand. While I did need the feedback it also kind of hurt that I wasn't good enough....again. I cried, I talked to my pastor, I ate way too much ice cream.

Then, while I was beginning some Christmas shopping in '09 ( about 2 weeks after the depression started) one of the companies called me back. The one that had given me feedback told me that the person they had hired turned them down and offered the position to me. I said yes in a heartbeat because it was working in Social Media! The company was White Horse.

I was in by the next day to start my one month internship for December. After about three weeks they extend my internship to February. By February they made another extension to the end of May. My boss, Jamie Beckland, was pushing the company to hire me full-time. However, the answer came that our department of Emerging Media didn't have the hours/clients to support me full-time.

At the end of May I signed a new contract that would extend my internship until December 2010. About an hour later I was asked into an impromptu meeting with Jamie. He informed me of an opening in Business Lead Generation that he and the CEO and VP believed was a great fit for me. It was still only part time but doing both jobs would make me a full-time employee by the end of June. I agreed to try out the position, and that is where I am right now. I am currently doing my Business Lead Generation training along side my Social Media work.

In the End
I love where I am and what it took to get me here. I will continue to work hard and help those who have struggled in the job process as much as I can. It sometimes helps to know you aren't the only one when you feel like no one will ever hire you. It is at these times that you should go to the Career Center and just talk it through. Sometimes you just need to tell someone what is going on. The Career Center can help you feel more confident as you go through your job search and help you through the ups and downs.

To learn more about our alumni career services in Portland, give us a call at (503)412-3701 or e-mail

Stefani Jenness's picture