"Why did you do 4 years in Comm?"
"Why did you go to graduate school?"
"Don't you just want to start your career?"
My response: Why do I have to choose between being a student or being a professional? Can't I do both?
Well, we can. We can take our education beyond the classroom. On that note...
My name is Kerryn McDonough. I am currently an M.S. candidate in Public Relations from Boston University College of Communications. I received my undergraduate degree in English literature with a concentration in World Literature and a minor in Italian Language and Culture from UCLA in 2012. During my time at UCLA, I spent a year in Bologna, Italy at the University of Bologna. My undergraduate years were dedicated to Bruin Belles Service Association (BBSA), which is a philanthropic organization whose members are committed to community service and women’s professional development. After graduation, I worked for Directr, a point-and-shoot movie-making app in Boston.
Public Relations was appealing to me because I love people. Interacting with others, establishing relationships with anyone and everyone I meet, and providing help are all things that have always been innately important to the way in which I choose to live my life. I was looking for a career that would allow me to interact with a lot of people, work in a team environment, and put my writing skills to good use.
Why graduate school?
While Public Relations seemed like the perfect fit for all of these requirements, the competition was high. Most people entering the field of public relations are recent female graduates with an English or Communications degree. To give myself an edge and learn more about the strategies and tactics of public relations, I decided to pursue a higher degree.
What is it like working on a start up?
Working on a startup is a rollercoaster of emotions. Overall, it is fun, exciting, and rewarding. Unlike at larger companies, you see the direct results of your effort through every stage. The evolution of the project develops right in front of you. The other side of startup life is exhaustion and frustration. A lot of the work is a scrappy, throw-it-together, find-a-work-around-because-something-is-broken type. Luckily, this hard work and the long hours provide for a greater sense of accomplishment when something works out well.
What is your specific role?
My role was similar to the emerging position, “Community Manager.” I monitored all of our social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, and YouTube, curated user-generated content within the app and on the website, wrote blog posts, chose the Directr of the Week, reached out to app users to get feedback on tools within the app as well as communication from the team, organized internal events for the employees, and answered all of the help desk questions. I was social media, customer service, and community relations all rolled into one.
What have you learned from Directr?
Directr was a great learning experience. I learned the best ways to interact with a community, how to promote brand initiatives, and how to work with a variety of work personalities. My role at Directr taught me a lot about my work ethic, what I can accomplish, and what skills I have to improve.
You're traveling abroad this summer. What does that mean for your career?
I was just accepted to the London Summer Graduate Program, which means that I will be finishing my last few classes abroad as well as completing an international internship. I really value a variety of experiences and think that this opportunity can only enhance my career. The more people with whom you work, the more cultures you explore, and the more experience you gather, the better informed you are for a future career. I am excited to get a full-time position after returning from the London program as I am eager to get my career started, but think that this internship will be a valuable learning experience.
How do you think your life and future career would be different if you chose not to attend graduate school?
If I chose not to attend graduate school, my career path would have been more of a struggle. I think learning from academics and professionals has granted me a wealth of knowledge that I can apply to any position. I am grateful for the advice I have received and the connections I have made not only with fellow classmates, but with professionals in and around the Boston area.
Any final advice for current students considering graduate school?I would say absolutely go to graduate school. As much as I complain about my workload, I think my classes have been invaluable to my academic and professional development. I learned a lot from working for a year between undergrad and grad school. I was able to apply those lessons to case-studies and general lecture points, which I think helped me make real world connections. Even if you don’t work for a full year between undergrad and grad, I definitely suggest doing an extended internship to have working knowledge of office structures and politics.
Graduate school isn't for everyone. Neither is a four year undergraduate program. Many outstanding programs exist to get you in and out in two years or less. In communications especially, a field that doesn't necessarily require certification, people wonder why I've stayed in school. ComBeyond honors people working hard to balance being a student and a professional.
A Boston girl via Toronto. University of Toronto, Sheridan College, and Boston University alumna. Passionate about ending domestic violence. Hoping to never go a day without carbs or chocolate.