University of Oregon

Alumni Perspective: Journalism Graduate Taps Into References to Land Job


Kimberly Wilkie“Some people are born to talk, and I’m a talker!” said Kimberly Wilkie, a 2011 graduate from the Masters of Strategic Communications program. Kim is indeed a talker and a story teller, so she was willing to share a bit of insight she gathered in the post-graduation hunt for a career position that led her to become a Public Affairs Specialist at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System. Here’s her story:

It was largely due to this innate talent for speaking that drove Kim to pursue an education from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication. While working on her undergrad and then grad school degrees Kim spent three and a half years in a work-study position for the Vocational Rehabilitation Program through the Department of Veteran Affairs. Accumulating more than 5,000 hours during her time at the Portland VA Medical Center gave her specialized work-environment experience, confidence and references.  But at the time of her graduation, there were no openings in her field nationwide.

Kim spent plenty of time doing what she called “wishful applying,” but it didn’t take her long to recognize a “no response” cycle, so she sought the assistance of the Career Center in Portland. There, she received valuable resume polishing advice and much needed words of encouragement.  It was in the midst of this process that she was able to set personal and professional goals while narrowing her focus for jobs.

Now focused, Kim learned of a position with VA Puget Sound Health Care System that paralleled her interests. The lengthy application process required that she submit an eight-page, single-spaced resume, followed by a strict writing assignment. The interview process was highly competitive. What marveled her was that the final decision came down to personal recommendations. “Isn’t that funny? All that work and the final selection was based on who I know, not what I know,” she said.

Kim is now a Public Affairs Specialist at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System. Simply, she uses a variety of mediums to tell audiences about Veterans’ stories, the issues they face and work of those who serve them.

When asked what advice she’d like to share with others, Kim, a former U.S. Marine, told a story: “I remember a colonel addressing us one day:

There are two kinds of people in this world: hothouse flowers and field corn.
Hothouse flowers are beautiful and probably smell good, but they can only exist in the highly specialized world of the hothouse. That’s great, but I’m looking for field corn. You can just stick that stuff in the ground anywhere and it flourishes. Those are the kind of people I need on my team.

I decided then and there I was field corn. So go forth, graduates; be field corn and thrive wherever you get planted.”

Thanks for sharing your story, Kim!

If you would like assistance polishing your resume or other career advice, give Alumni Career Services of Portland a call today at 503.412.3701 or email us at

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Ayn-Marie Hailicka's picture