When I left high school, I was a novice at navigating an AP Stylebook. I couldn’t write a feature lead to save my life. And quite frankly, I wasn’t sure journalism was going to be the career for me.
That summer, I signed up for classes through the School of Communication anyway. My uncertainty continued, as I couldn’t take any journalism classes until I held a sophomore standing.
But four years and 123 credit hours later, I have never been more certain that I am on the right career track.
When graduation day rolled around, it didn’t feel like a big deal. Maybe it was because I knew I didn’t have a full-time job waiting for me. My family’s pride and congratulations felt silly. But now that I think about it, I had a lot going against me making it in four years. Neither of my parents graduated from college. I never lived on campus. At one point during my college career, I was working two part-time jobs and one internship. That was in addition to my leadership roles in PRSSA and at the Gateway.
For quite a while at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, I felt like I made a mistake. I felt like I should have gone with more of a “name-brand university.”
But eventually, I met an adviser and professors who pushed me to succeed. They saw potential in me and drove me to pursue it.
Senior year was without a doubt the hardest year of my academic career. I had never felt such exhaustion. And at the same time, I had never felt so trusted in all of my endeavors.
I managed to serve as news editor of the student newspaper, the Gateway; content editor and contributor for the School of Communication’s alumni magazine, Comm UNO; treasurer of PRSSA; finance director and senior staff member of UNO’s student-run PR firm, MaverickPR; research coordinator for UNO PRSSA’s Bateman National Case Study Competition team. In what free time I had, I worked nearly 30 hours a week as an Omaha World-Herald messenger and 12 hours a week as an intern at The Salvation Army. Oh, and I took a full-course load of classes.
Looking back on it now, I don’t know how I did it.
I left my job at Don & Millie’s restaurant after nearly five years to start as a messenger at the Omaha World-Herald. It was a foot in the door. My job at the Don’s was good when I started but I grew unhappy.
At the Herald, I’ve loved getting to meet and work with an assortment of people in the newsroom. And they’ve taught me so much — more than I could have ever learned in a classroom. Just being there is a great feeling.
I started out as an independent contractor in MaverickPR, UNO’s student-run public relations firm. I was there simply to write news and feature stories for a number of our on- and off-campus clients. I spent four semesters and one summer with the firm and worked my way up to finance director.
My best accomplishment in the firm was serving as the content editor and account executive for Comm UNO, the School of Communication’s alumni magazine. After the countless hours I put into this, I could not be more proud of the publication. I wrote stories and briefs. I took photos. I did some light editing and some seriously heavy editing. But the best part was getting to meet and work with so many wonderful and successful products of the School of Communication.
I was then convinced to join PRSSA. I went from a rather uninvolved member to our chapter treasurer.
My other roles included serving as research director for our Bateman National Case Study Competition team, putting together bake sale fundraisers and getting coverage in the campus newspaper, among others.
One of the things I did in the chapter that I am most proud of is helping to organize a PRSSA Regional Conference. In the last weeks before the event, I tried to step up as much as I could—gathering groceries, making nametags, filling swag bags and collecting donations—any little thing that I could.
The week before the conference, I spent all day, every day in our office space. And when I say “all day,” I mean 12 hour or more hours. But the conference was such a success and I am so proud of our little team that put it all together.
I’m so grateful for the time I spent with MaverickPR and PRSSA, not only for the experiences but for some of the lifelong friends I made.
The Salvation Army
I was reluctant and downright terrified to take an internship in public relations. Partly because I knew I didn’t want to do public relations in the future. But the main reason was that I didn’t know a thing about PR when I took it. I hadn’t taken a single course on the subject.
My internship at the Salvation Army was a great learning experience. I gained such valuable insight into the field and the experience of working for a nonprofit. I also got to practice my writing and editing skills.
While it made me realize that public relations wasn’t the career for me, it gave me a better understanding of how PR works.
The Gateway, UNO’s student newspaper, was an experience. I can’t say it was all good but I can’t say I regret it.
I joined the publication as news editor. The paper was in rough shape and had been for a while. When I started, I was truly excited and enthused to help turn the paper into a success.
I picked a lot of battles in the office. And while to some staffers, I’m sure I seemed petty and ridiculous, I did it because I cared and because I knew what needed to get done. My work isn’t lazy and sloppy, so on my watch, no one else’s was going to be either.
By the end of my second semester at the Gateway, I was exhausted. I could feel the passion I started with wearing off. Fallings out and end-of-the-semester busyness led me to writing the majority of my section some weeks and taking some of my own photos. My heart was far from in it. The last few productions, you could feel the tension between the staff. It was cold and bitter tension with a little side of anger.
One of the best perks of working there was meeting with our professional adviser. He gave me so many great ideas for stories, sidebars and photo packages. He showed me how to improve my writing and my editing. He listened to my concerns.
In my time at the Gateway, I had to make decisions that were hard. But they were ultimately the decisions I felt were right. And I will stand by them all to this very second.
I knew things weren’t going to be perfect. And I also knew they weren’t going to change overnight. But I feel I made progress. I set the ball in motion.
People might say that I’ve only ever worked “cushy” internships but that’s far from the truth.
The internships I worked pushed me to learn new skills and to adapt to ever-changing situations. They drove me to do better. They forced me to learn. I had to step out of my shell. Sure, there were days when I didn’t feel challenged — days that were easy. But they were few and far between.
Getting involved on campus was the best thing I could have done. It gave me some of the wonderful professional experiences I listed above. But it also gave me some great perks. Like enjoying a one-hour Q and A with Warren Buffett, taking a professional development trip to Chicago with my peers and professors, listening to accomplished professionals at our PRSSA Regional Conference, sitting in on Warren Buffett’s interview with Fortune Magazine at Mammel Hall and countless others.
My current internship in the World-Herald’s Special Sections department will be wrapping up in a few short weeks. It’s terrifying that I have no full-time job lined up. But I’m not worried because I know I’m on the right track.
One thing a reporter said on the Chicago trip will hold true for me. He said the day he stops getting excited when seeing his byline is the day he knows he needs to find another career.