Meet the Graduates: Taylor

Major: Journalism
Certificates: Digital Studies & Entrepreneurship


How does it feel to be done with college?

Very weird. It hasn’t set in yet because it still feels like summer, like I could be going back to school in the fall. I’m also still living with my parents, so there’s that.

What are you doing now that you’ve graduated?

I’m interning at Civilian Agency in Chicago. It’s an agency with ten employees, including two interns. I’m doing account management, which is what I wanted, so I’m pretty happy about that.

How did you find the internship?

Well, I applied to about 40 different places and I searched through everything, like the 4A’s website to find agencies. I ended up finding Civilian and reached out to them via the general email. They responded and asked me to submit a resume and cover letter. The managing director reached out to me two days later and asked to schedule a call. They weren’t hiring, but did have an internship available. I talked with the director for about an hour and we had a great conversation. He told me they’d be sending out internship information and I’d be the first one on the list to let know once they decided if they were hiring a both a creative and an account intern or just one of the two. After a couple weeks and a reminder email, they sent me the job description and asked if I wanted it, which was great!

At the same time I received their offer, I was also in the process of interviewing for a full-time position at a larger agency in Chicago. I had no idea what size agency I wanted to be at. I knew there were pros/cons to both and being involved with the Association for Women in Communications, I was able to talk to a lot of professionals about it, but it was hard to translate the pros and cons into what I really wanted. I ultimately decided I was much more excited about the internship despite having the safety of a full-time job.

How are things going with the internship?

They’re going very well and I really like the culture and the people a lot. I’m very happy I ended up at a smaller agency because I get to do so much more than just account management, which is helping me figure out what I really want. I can try out project management and social media and decide what I’m most passionate about. But it’s also stressful and overwhelming at times. Just the amount of itty bitty projects we have to remember and prioritize. I don’t think there’s a class that could have prepared me for being able to keep 8 million things in my head at once.

What are you plans for when the internship ends?

I’m not sure yet. The internship goes until August 24 and I’m trying to think about when I should start looking for a full-time position. My manager and the managing director have said a couple of things about possibly staying on, but that’s determined by workload and having enough clients.

I lot of people, including my parents, didn’t understand why I was choosing the internship instead of a full-time position. But especially in advertising, PR, and marketing, unless you have actual agency experience, there’s a very slim chance you’re going to get a full-time position. Despite the fact that I had four internships, they weren’t in an agency.

If only someone could just tell me what I should do with my life, that would be so much easier. You can do so many things, especially with Journalism and Digital Studies. It’s hard to get through all the clutter and I was really worried about making the wrong decision. I always thought I wanted to do account management and I’d been told my personality works great with it, but what does that mean?

In the end, I’m definitely happy with my decision and am glad I chose the smaller agency to start with.

Tell me what’s new with you since we talked over the summer.

Well, a week before my internship was scheduled to end everyone was talking as if I wasn’t leaving, but I hadn’t gotten any confirmation. I scheduled some time with the managing director to find out what was going on and he told me they weren’t able to hire me on as a full time employee at that point, but that they could extend my internship until the end of October. Due to Illinois law, I can only intern there for six months, so the farthest out I could be an intern would be the end of November. But they’re hoping to hire me on full-time before that. I just can’t see myself not working there because every week I’m there, I’m more and more involved…more a part of the team.

Oh, and I asked for a raise and they gave me one, so I’m happy about that!

Were you nervous about asking for a raise?

I had no idea how to ask for a raise and I didn’t come in with any sort of dollar amount. It was a challenging conversation because part of the reason they can’t hire me on full-time is because of the finances and I didn’t want to be too greedy. But I have a really great supervisor who is always pushing me to do more and she encouraged me to ask for a raise.

I think it would have been a bigger deal to ask for a raise if I didn’t talk to my colleagues any other time except for work and we were only talking about work things. But I feel like I know them and that’s part of the reason why I don’t want to leave.

What types of projects are you working on now?

I’ve working with one client right now that’s seasonal because of the healthcare open enrollment period. It’s kind of complicated because this client is actually a client of a former employee who is at a different agency. But we do all the editing for the client and it’s been great because I’ve negotiated talent fees and talked to agents about setting up recording sessions to record the voice overs for the commercials and I’ve helped in pushing the budget up for what we bill the client. It’s the first time I’m doing a project from start to end, so it’s been a great test for me.

I’m also doing the social media for the company, probably because I’m the youngest one on the team and still an intern. And I’m doing tons of research for pitching a new client.

Do you find that you enjoy one type of work over another?

I definitely don’t love social media. When I started, they didn’t even have a social media strategy and it was cool to come up with the strategy and do the research behind the strategy. But the execution of physically scheduling posts is less exciting.

I don’t mind research. I don’t think I could do just a research dedicated job, but right now, being at a smaller agency, I get to do a bunch of different things and I don’t feel stuck doing one thing. I really like the flexibility and being able to figure out what I want to spend my time doing when I’ve got an opening in my schedule, after responding to client emails, which are always first priority.

It sounds like a small agency setting really suits you.

Yeah, I think it would be interesting going to a bigger agency and seeing the difference. Actually, right now, our agency is in the process of merging with a mid-size agency that’s in Minneapolis. Each agency is keeping its individual identity, but personnel-wise, there will be some overlap. They have 60 people in their office and it’s very different from our office. They have a bunch of project managers and a full digital team, while our creative team is three people. The way they approach everything is so different and the concepts they come up with are completely different, which isn’t bad by any means, it’s just interesting and something to get used to. I think it will be good once the kinks are worked out, just to have more people on our teams.

Is there anything that you’ve thought of that you could have done as a student that would have prepared you better for what you’re doing now?

I wish I would have taken more DoIT classes, especially the Excel classes. I know how to work Excel for the most part, but I feel like I could be a lot smoother with it, especially because we use it so much at work for budgets. And the classes are free!

Where do you think you’ll be the next time we talk?

Hopefully the next time I talk to you I’ll have a full-time job and I’ll be moving to Chicago. I don’t want to be commuting in the winter! 

So it’s January now – tell me, are you still at Civilian Agency?

Actually, my last day at Civilian was December 21st. I had my internship extended a few more times, but in the end, they weren’t able to offer me a full-time position. But I have some exciting news to share – I just accepted a full-time position at Kaleidoscope in Chicago as an Account Coordinator.


Thanks! I’m really excited. Kaleidoscope has about 70 employees, so it’ll definitely be nice to get experience at a slightly bigger agency since Civilian only had 11 employees, including me. I’ll be splitting my time between two different teams working on Wrigley and ConAgra. Kaleidoscope has their own production house in studio too, so they do brand strategy and packaging, which is something I haven’t done before, but I’m excited to learn about.

How did you learn about the opening at Kaleidoscope?

Once I realized that I wasn’t going to get a full-time offer at Civilian, I decided I needed to start applying to other places. My manager has a friend who has worked at Kaleidoscope for a while now and she passed along all this information about the work I’d been doing for her. He then emailed HR on my behalf. I had already applied separately, but his email enabled my application to get fast tracked through the system. I had several interviews with them pretty quickly, but then ended up having to wait three weeks while they interviewed other people for the position as well.

At the same time, I was interviewing for the position at Kaleidoscope, I was also interviewing for a position with McGarryBowen. Pam Garcia-Rivera actually connected me with a Journalism alum who was working there who was great to talk with and I plan to keep in touch with her even though I’m not working there.

What were some of the factors that helped you choose Kaleidoscope over McGarryBowen?

Two big factors were the timing and salary. Timing wise, I needed to either accept Kaleidoscope or continue interviewing at McGarryBowen with the hopes of them offering me a position. Also,

McGarryBowen offers the standard salary to every account coordinator they hire, which was lower than I wanted for moving to Chicago. Kaleidoscope offered me a higher salary and more PTO time that I was anticipating, so that was fantastic. I also thought jumping from super small to super large may have been a lot to handle, even though the clients at McGarryBowen would have been awesome to work with. I’m really happy with my decision and I’m excited to get started!

Now that you’re done at Civilian, what would you say was your biggest accomplishment there?

Probably getting to lead my own account there. The fact that they gave me so much responsibility and trusted me with the account after only being on board for three months was a great confidence builder. It definitely helped that it was a small agency because they really did need me to take on the work, which meant there wasn’t as much hand-holding in the beginning as you might get at a larger agency. By the end of my time there, I was a crucial and important member of the team – the timing just didn’t work out to keep me, as sometimes happens with smaller agencies.

I loved working there and am going to miss the people, though we’ll definitely keep in touch. And while I was sad to leave, after talking with other people and thinking about my goals, I realized that I needed to move on to a bigger agency to grow my career. At Civilian, we had a small team and worked really closely together. But with that, there’s also a lot of opportunity at a larger agency.

Last time we talked, you had just accepted a job at Kaleidoscope. How are things going?

They’re going well! But it’s definitely different than I thought it was going to be. I think I was unaware before I took the job just how much packaging was involved. It was one of those things where I was a little afraid during the interview process to ask exactly what Kaleidoscope does because on their website it says brand strategy and that’s what I wanted to see at the time. And even though they do brand strategy, probably about 75% of the company is focused on packaging and actually making the physical mockups.

I’m not sure I would have accepted the job if I’d known that up front. But I’m really glad I did! It’s pretty awesome to see something physically produced and learn about this whole other side of the company. It’s definitely been a steep learning curve, trying to learn about the print process and everything that goes into packaging, but I’m really liking it so far.

That sounds like a really interesting job! Can you give me an example of something you’ve worked on so far?

I work with the Wrigley and ConAgra brands and we do everything from design sizing changes to full rebrands of products. I’m mostly in charge of simple size change projects right now. For example, ConAgra reached out to us and asked if we could take the design for an 8 count popcorn package and size it to fit an 18 count popcorn package. So as the account manager, I work with the implementation team (the group that actually takes the designs and makes sure they’ll work on the packaging) and the client to make sure the process runs smoothly.

The other interesting thing that we do that was new to me is that we work with big agencies, like Edelman or BBDO, to create the packages that are featured in their commercials. For example, we’ll produce the KFC tub or box that the chicken will go in for the commercial. We also create the packages for sales reps to use when they visit retailers. So when the sales rep is at Target trying to sell next year’s Easter candy, we’ll make the product packaging that they use to take to the retailers.

I’m glad that things are going well. What are some of the differences you’ve noticed between Kaleidoscope and Civilian, especially since you went from a super small agency to a mid-size agency?

At Civilian, the CEO was also on accounts, so I talked with him on a daily basis and he always knew what was going on. Here at Kaleidoscope, I don’t have as much of a reason to talk to the CEO or the other partners; there’s a much clearer hierarchy here.

There’s also more time for professional development here at Kaleidoscope. We just had a seminar about emotional intelligence in the workplace and they’re planning to have these types of events quarterly. I also have monthly goal reviews with my manager here and things are more structured. I think because the staff was so small at Civilian, there just wasn’t as much time for those sorts of things, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, just different.

Now that you’ve been out of school for a year, is there anything about Digital Studies that has made an impact on you or that you’re still using today?

Yes! So, with moving into a company that does packaging, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing when I started. We use Adobe Illustrator all day long and I’m thankful to have the basic skills to know how to use it, even if I’m not necessarily the one manipulating the design. I learned Illustrator in Geography 370 – the cartography class – and at the time I was a little skeptical, but now I realize it was super helpful because I’m using the software every day.