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Alumni Connections Spark in New York

By Caitlin Wallace

There I was, standing on the corner of Howard and Spear.

I looked to my right at the cars whizzing down the Embarcadero, and the sail boats lazily rocking with the waves of the San Francisco Bay; to my left was the Financial District, with buildings so tall I could barely see the sky.

I threw out my arm to hail a yellow cab and stepped out into the street with my patent leather red pumps. I slid onto the black leather bench seat of the cab, closed my eyes and sighed with relief as I threw my purse and portfolio next to me and said to the driver, “Union Square, please. I have a lunch date.”

That exciting day when I stood on the corner of Howard and Spear was a long time in the making.

It truly began the first day I walked into PR Strategy and realized that a career in public relations was going to be a lot of work.
Not only was the profession itself demanding, but getting a job in a tough market was going to require skill, talent and a year’s
worth of off-the-clock networking.

TGC alumnae Kristina Richman, Caitlin Wallace and Megan Pouliot
visit the Hearst Corporation in New York City. Photo by Kayla Naylor.

Of course, I didn’t come to this epiphany all at once while sitting
in my chair in Tehama 130.

It took several alumni site visits with Tehama Group Communications to understand that job offers are made after initial meetings, follow-up connections, phone interviews, several rounds of in-person interviews, writing tests and then finally, days or weeks
of agonizing waiting.

Once that fact clicked for me, I realized I was not going to land a grade-A internship by shooting off my application to some black-hole HR submission page and then hope all the other candidates spelled a word wrong on their resume. If I wanted to walk across the graduation stage employed, I was going to have to make a connection. Make an impression.

Make every day of my last year in Chico count.

And that’s exactly what I did.

In November, TGC visited two of our alumni working at a large international agency, Fleishman-Hillard International Communications.
I immediately fell in love with the office, the clients and the team in Sacramento. I could see myself there. Something just clicked.

That day at lunch, TGC adviser Debra Johnson asked the group if anyone would be interested in spending spring break
visiting some alumni in New York City.

Knowing it could be the chance of a lifetime to get some perspective on life as a PR grad, I jumped at the chance and even
offered to help organize the whole thing.

Five months later, 11 of my TCG colleagues and I were marching down Madison Avenue after months of planning,
anticipating and fundraising.

We spent two days traipsing through Manhattan visiting alumni. We had the opportunity to spend two hours with these fabulous
grads in their natural work habitats at Tiffany & Co., W Hotels, ABC, Edelman, Hearst Corporation and Access Communications.

TGC staff visit alumna Kirsten Dobbie (fifth from left) at ABC News in New York City.
Photo courtesy of Kalya Naylor.

Talk about making connections.

I was in awe of what inspiring women these were. To know they had sat in Tehama Hall, walked the Butte Hall breezeway, eaten lunch in the BMU and had group meetings in Meriam Library convinced me further that I was part of a special program with a long history of successful graduates.

I was particularly impressed with Access Communications, a power boutique agency with a bi-coastal resume of clients and offices. The sparkling alumna we met with, Ashley Carter, had a bubbly, enthusiastic personality I was
immediately drawn to, and we ended
up chatting for a while after the formal presentation was over.

After we left Access, I emailed Carter immediately—I mean from the subway— and asked if she could connect me with the HR contact in San Francisco. I loved this fresh and funky agency and could see myself having a future there.

I did connect with the HR contact, who said I’d be more suited for an actual account coordinator position than an internship and to keep
in touch in case something came up, as no such positions were currently available.

Two months after boarding our flight home from JFK International Airport, I was offered an internship at Fleishman-Hillard
in Sacramento. Grateful to be in the presence of two former TGCers, I gladly accepted, but I kept Access in the back of my mind.

Fast forward four months, a graduation ceremony, countless media lists and clip grids later, I once again reached out to Access.
My internship was coming to an end, and I was ready to make the move to San Francisco.

The night before I found myself standing on the corner of Howard and Spear, I was on the phone with Carter.

Months after our trip to The Big Apple, she was willing to take a few minutes out of her hectic schedule and chat with me even more in-depth about life at Access. We talked about the clients, the vibe, the culture, the perks and, of course, she gave me some great advice, TGC alumna to TGC alumna.

As the San Francisco cab driver pulled up to my lunch spot, I saw my date standing on the corner of Grant and Post streets.

“How was your interview at Access?” she asked.

“I think it went really well,” I replied, “like, really well.”

Caitlin Wallace is a 2011 Chico State graduate with a journalism major and PR option. She was on the
TGC team during the spring 2011 semester as the Social Media Director and is now currently working
as an Account Coordinator at Access Communications.

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