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Old Dogs with New Tricks: An Alumni Panel

Talking Dog Alumni make a grand return to share their success stories and the hard truths about life since graduation.

By: Tara Anastasoff

We may have been Zooming from the comfort of our bedrooms, but even through a screen, seeing familiar faces felt refreshing. The pandemic has completely restructured how post-grad life looks. Offices are empty, remote work is plentiful and our industry’s future is being reshaped. We invited recent UGA graduates and Talking Dog Alumni Hanh Nguyen, Cara Anne Anderson, Jordan Callaway and Stacy Lee to share their insight about lessons they wish they knew in college and how they find inspiration.

Here’s an inside look at the questions asked during the panel:

1. What type of impact has Talking Dog had on your life post-grad? How did you transition your skills from your roles in Talking Dog to your new roles?

Cara: “The networking you do now with your peers is so important. One of my first freelance gigs came from a connection from our art director on the board. Stay connected, even if it’s just on Twitter or LinkedIn — you don’t have to call someone every day nowadays to still be connected.”

Jordan: “I totally agree with what Cara said. One of the other people in my team right now was in Talking Dog. I actually interviewed with her at a different agency my sophomore year, and now I work with her on a weekly basis. I know a lot of the more tactical stuff because of Talking Dog as well.”

Stacy: “Talking Dog does a really great job of separating the roles and responsibilities for each team. Once you understand the structure of how teams are formed, it’s really easy to see where you want to fit in at other agencies.”

Hanh: “Talking Dog taught me work ethic and project management skills, which can be applied to any job you apply for. I’m pretty sure that for every single question I was asked in interviews, I mentioned working with the board of directors and my team. Your personal role within your team creates those experiences that you’re going to talk about, which is going to get you your next role.”

Key Takeaways: The experiences and interactions you have in Talking Dog are invaluable, and the people you meet can stay in your life even past graduation. Stay connected with your team through social media or LinkedIn, and find a way to turn your experiences into talking points during interviews.

2. What did you do your junior or senior year that helped you prepare for your first job? What’s your biggest advice or things you wish you knew before going into the working world?

Stacy: “I know we’ve said this a hundred times already, but networking is so important. Career fairs are literally my nightmare, but I had to force myself to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Also, reach out to people on LinkedIn that have a role that you like. You’ll find that a lot of people are genuinely interested in answering your questions.”

Hanh: “My biggest advice is to get involved in something that you’re passionate about, and then go for those leadership positions within those organizations. Be nice and kind to everyone you meet — you never know when you need a recommendation or want some advice.”

Cara: “Make sure that you’re not so focused on one thing that you get blinders on; diversify your interests. Be flexible in life, that’s something that you’re going to see in a job, especially right now. You have to be able to go with the flow.”

Jordan: “I figured out what I wanted to be, a brand strategist, kinda early. I listened to brand strategy podcasts, read a lot of brand strategy books, wrote spec work and did brand strategy. It’s easy to say you want to be a brand strategist, but what really makes you driven towards doing that thing is actually doing it.”

Key Takeaways: Networking with people in positions and brands you admire is valuable, but the bottom line is to nurture your passions. When you develop genuine interest and passion for a club or job, dive in head first and prepare yourself for life post-grad. With that being said, it’s also important to diversify your interests and learn to go with the flow.

3. What’s the biggest misconception about adult life?

Jordan: “You have to keep learning and getting better at the things you want to do to move up higher. For the longest time, I thought that the people above me knew everything. They don’t. They know a lot, and they know things that you don’t know, but you also know things that they don’t know. It’s about finding a way to connect that knowledge that is really helpful.”

Stacy: “I’m the complete opposite of Jordan. I had no idea what I wanted to do, and I still feel like I don’t know. It’s a huge misconception that people are very set on what they want to do. You might be feeling that you don’t know what you want to do, and that’s okay. When you land your first job, it’s still okay to have that unsure feeling.”

Hanh: “There’s way more to life than just focusing on getting a job, you’re eventually going to get it and find a job that you genuinely like. I wish that I cared a little bit less during college. Everyone in here is capable of getting a job, but it’s more than just finding a job. You’re eventually going to find a career that you enjoy, it just might not be right after college.”

Cara: “I definitely agree to all of that, but also, you have to give yourself some grace, okay? If I don’t feel like I’m checking all the boxes today, it’s okay. You can tomorrow, and you might not tomorrow, you can the next week, but you might not ever check every single box and that’s okay. You have to live in the reality of things, which is hard because we go to a wonderful school with wonderful instructors who are great mentors and people, and we are at one of the best schools in the South. You have this push to do all these great things, but give yourself grace with your timing.”

Key Takeaways: Graduating college with a degree does not mean that you have to know everything, there will always be things that you don’t know, which is okay. It’s okay to feel unsure, it’s okay to not secure your dream job, and it’s okay to rest. Adulthood does not mean that you have to have everything figured out, even if it feels like you do.

4. How has COVID impacted your daily work life, and how do you think the pandemic will shape the future of the industry?

Hanh: “Honestly, interviews are a lot less scary online than they are in person. Like Stacy said, it’ll take you about six months to get the gist of things — but since we’re working remotely and virtually, it’s taking me a lot longer than six months. 2020 was actually Home Depot’s best year in history, so it’s kind of proven that we can do anything from the seats in our house.”

Cara: “I’ve been working on my current job from home, and I like it, but you don’t feel as connected. I would say that for the future of work — this is just a hypothesis — is that it’s going to move either fully optional remote or a hybrid way of working. At the end of day, it saves agencies and companies money.”

Stacy: “My last semester of college was during COVID, so I think that was a weird transition for me when I graduated because I found myself doing work at 9 p.m. when I didn’t have to. I figured out that I needed to have a work-life balance. You guys have learned how to make your online presence, and I think that could be very beneficial moving forward.”

Jordan: “Instead of working on one solid account for the entire summer, I bounced around from six or seven accounts. COVID caused me to invariably get a lot of experience. Don’t get me wrong, I really, really hate COVID, but it’s also made some interesting opportunities for collaborating with global brands.”

Key Takeaways: A year ago, the term “remote work” was few and far between. Today, it has provided businesses with more opportunities to connect with people virtually. Virtual work, however, has also created a sense of casualness and disconnect between employees. There are pros and cons, but there is no doubt that the pandemic’s effect will continue to reshape how companies view working from home.

5. Where do you draw your inspiration from, and what inspires you to do your work?

Stacy: “I would say my coworkers definitely inspire me, they have this huge curiosity to look at the same problem a hundred different ways. Seeing people truly passionate about their work and curious about what’s going on is what I aspire to do — it truly inspires me to be a better worker and individual.”

Jordan: “My job is pretty much finding daily inspiration for other people, so inadvertently, I get inspired as well. I have a folder on my computer that I just like to throw in articles and cool pictures in, and I’m subscribed to like 50 different newsletters. Newsletters are really cool.”

Hanh: “The people that I work with are so smart and so brilliant. Imposter syndrome is real and everyone gets it, but I’m always learning something new with my role. The best advice I can give you guys is to always try to have a conversation with someone and learn their story.”

Cara: “I’m a giant Twitter fiend. Last year, there was this giant Super Bowl Slack channel started by Dong Draper, he’s kind of like a parody account on Twitter. I can’t even tell you how many people I met through that. You have to put yourself out there and see what happens; that’s something that I want to continue doing and find really inspirational.”

Key Takeaway: Coworkers, social media, strangers on the Internet and newsletters are all places to find inspiration. Find people and passions that you value, and pursue them at full force.

It’s no surprise that COVID has changed the world of PR, marketing and advertising, but it is reassuring to hear about the experiences our alum have had in their roles. Whether you are just beginning your job search or have nerves for your official start date, remember to give yourself grace. Pursue your passions, join a niche Slack group and be nice to people.

Thank you so much to our incredible Talking Dog Alumni for giving us an hour of their time to share how their lives and jobs have been going since graduating. We can’t wait to continue to watch the amazing things that you all do!

If you want to continue building your network, make sure to connect with them on LinkedIn!

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