“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost
This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.
When I originally asked Chandra to be featured, she hesitated, worrying that she didn’t have something fabulous to share. I am so glad that she did though because her story of struggles and hard work finally starting to pay off are the type I want to share. This is a crazy time in our lives and a lot is left to chance and the unknown. I just hope that other young professionals read her story and feel encouraged.
But let’s not jump the gun. This is Chandra. We went to high school together and were friends through FFA. And really, if we are being honest, “friends” was probably a conditional term because we spent most of our time competing against each other, unless we were on the same team, and even then we were probably still trying to best each other. Looking back though, I do have some really fun FFA memories with her and it makes me laugh because I really think that much about our personalities were really similar. Chandra was smart, creative, witty and very passionate about her interests, and as she’ll tell you below, always had a good sense of who she was. There is not a doubt in my mind that those qualities have evolved and made her into a strong young professional. I have been following Chandra’s story through Facebook over the years and admire the risks she’s taken and the determination she’s had toward pursuing her dream.
Name: Chandra Magnuson
Hometown: Hermiston, Oregon
College: Oregon State University
Degree(s): Bachelors of Science, Merchandise Management
Current Location: Brooklyn, New York
Current Job: OMEN PR, Showroom Manager
Background Story: I was born and raised in Hermiston, OR which speaks volumes for itself. I’m the oldest of two with my sister Morgan being 4 years younger than me. From a young age my parents instilled a certain sense of “self” into me and a competitive spirit. My father especially always pushed me to go the extra mile no matter what I was doing. I remember he would make me listen to the “Patton Speech,” before big events, so that gives you a glimpse of how much I hated letting people down. I was always very busy growing up which is something I miss now! From about 7 years old I played soccer, danced, showed horses, held a basketball and baseball bat on occasion and leapt into the 4-H program headfirst once I was old enough. I always felt a little out of place in high school, while I had friends in many different “cliques” I never exactly fit in with just one so I often felt out of place. I immersed myself in sports and school activities. I took soccer very seriously and was offended by people on my team who didn’t take it as seriously as I did. I tried to be an over achiever in FFA participating in just about every public speaking event, showing horses, pigs, steers and sheep. I developed a deep passion for public speaking once entering 4-H and I was further groomed in public speaking when I got into FFA and I served as the student council Activities Coordinator for two years. In high school I never would’ve guessed that my love of planning events and speaking would come full circle and I would later find myself working in fashion public relations in New York City.
How did you choose your college and your major?
While I applied to other colleges based off of how prestigious their horseback riding programs were I think there was never a doubt that I wouldn’t be going to Oregon State. I entered my freshman year as a General Agriculture major thinking I would graduate in 5 years ready to be an Ag teacher somewhere in Oregon. Little did I know halfway into my freshman year I would fall into a deep depression that left me feeling lethargic and wondering what I was doing with my life. While I loved the agriculture programs and opportunities I grew up with I knew I needed a change. I met a friend in a writing class that winter that introduced me to Oregon State’s School of Design and Human Environment that along with an apparel design program also had a Merchandise Management program. I had always had a love of fashion, running a small blog not worth mentioning, a love of vintage clothing and its history and in interest in the “behind the scenes” of the industry, so I felt very at home with my major switch.
What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations?
There aren’t nearly as many opportunities in the Merchandising program as there are in the apparel program at Oregon State. So during summer term my sophomore year in a Styling class we took matters into our own hands. Our teacher had our small class of 8 create Oregon State’s first Fashion and Lifestyle Publication, DAMchic, a project we are still very proud of today. I served briefly as the first Fashion Director than as the Women’s Fashion Editor and finally the Business Director. One of the biggest takeaways personally from the class were the industry tours we did that summer in Portland. After visiting a small production/event planning house in Portland coupled with the fact that I had recently started watching Kell on Earth from Bravo (I have since met and worked for Kelly Cutrone and I absolutely don’t recommend it. If you are wondering if she is as mean in person as she is on America’s Next Top Model, the answer is yes) I was hooked on the idea of working Public Relations and going to Fashion Week in New York.
What internships were you involved in?
It can be very, very hard getting an internship in New York when you live in Oregon. My school had a decent internship program that would assist you in finding an internship, but, for the most part it was up to you. I applied to probably 50+ internships the fall before the summer of 2013. I finally got hired by Marc Fisher Footwear as a public relations/marketing intern. While I was in New York I figured I would probably never get another opportunity to come back to New York and I was determined to get to experience fashion week. So I scoured the internet and a website called Freefashioninternships.com until I came across an internship that would take me. I spent the month following fashion week working with the PR team at Yigal Azrouel on his Spring 2014 show. It was a really amazing experience and both of my first internships hold a very special place in my heart. When I moved back to New York in September of 2014 I took an internship at BPCM, which is a very large agency and a lot faster paced than what I was use to at my prior internships.
What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college?
I truly feel like my biggest challenge was finding a place where I fit in. College can be scary at first and I witnessed a lot of my friends fall victim to the same things I experienced at first. You may be depressed because you’re away from home for the first time, you have to make new friends – or maybe you’re growing apart from the friends you went to college with from your hometown. You start questioning if the major you choose is really what you want to do for the rest of your life and you wonder what it would be like to do a complete 180 with your life. One I found a core group of friends who I could depend on, found an organization I could get passionate about and actually be able to envision what my future could be like, I felt a lot more comfortable and ultimately happier.
Do you have any regrets in college, or anything you would change if you had the chance?
If I could do it all over again I would’ve joined more clubs. Maybe club soccer or speech and debate. Anything that I could’ve done to make myself a bit more diverse, I’ve found not all interviewers after college care about what you did in college but, there are those few that actually want to hear about the things that get you excited and what you’re passionate about.
How have your experiences and involvement in college impacted your career and life post grad?
My styling class directly affected my career choices. While in high school I did not even know what public relations was! I’m pretty sure my parents and friends still don’t understand what I do and what I want to achieve. Internships in the fashion industry are an absolute must and if I hadn’t had them I would’ve probably of even been invited in for an interview.
What are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced moving from college to post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I wasn’t prepared to spend so long unemployed. Despite having the degree, despite having the internships, despite being what I would consider an easily adaptable-get a long with nearly everyone type, it took me a solid year to finally find a full-time position. I thought I found my “home” a couple times in jobs only to find that opportunities aren’t always what they seem. I would estimate that I’ve probably worked 10+ jobs over the past year. I temped in administration/special events for companies such as One Kings Lane, Calvin Klein, One Jeanswear Group and Dior. I held freelance fashion positions with Lanvin, was a Public Relations assistant at People’s Revolution, and was the Internal Events Planner and Receptionist at Rent The Runway. After my department was let go at Rent The Runway all I wanted to do was come home. I live with my boyfriend and at that point I was begging him to move back with me. I was ready to throw in the towel, New York clearly was not loving me and I wasn’t loving her anymore. Thankfully after my department got let go at this point I have some pretty good relationships with a handful of recruiters and I was able to get immediately placed into jobs. I spent a couple months at Ideel working logistics before we were told the company was going under. JUST MY LUCK.
However, a silver lining came with this. While at Ideel I had been applying to jobs like crazy and had two very good opportunities to choose between. I could go to Krupp Group as an Executive Assistant or I could go to OMEN PR as a Showroom Manager – a position that isn’t entirely glamorous or well-paid but would allow for me to be in an environment where I would at least be immersed in PR and be apart of the day-to-day functions of a fashion showroom. So I took the position at OMEN PR and I am hoping to be here for quite awhile.
What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Is coffee an app? Cause it keeps me in the right mindset to stay organized! Google Docs is my life, this questionnaire is the first time I have opened up Microsoft Word in a long time! We use a website called Apprello to track our samples in and out of the showroom, find out which magazine or stylists has what and when it is coming back to us. I use Instagram and Twitter a lot to make lists of influencers, track press hits and just stay up to date on what is going on. I like to start my day looking at Refinery29.com, Fashionista.com, Fashionweekdaily.com, and of course Vogue.com.
How do you stay motivated?
I have no family in New York, which has been very hard on me. My boyfriend and I got our first place together this October and he is pretty much my rock. He fully supports my dreams and ambitions and I don’t know what I would do without him and the family I have back home in Oregon. I have been so close to throwing in the towel a handful of times but, I pull motivation the most from my competitive past. Also, my boyfriend got us a kitten in June. Having a fur child around has helped me to stay positive enormously. His name is Jon Snow and despite popular belief he actually knows quite a bit. All in all, I’m not ready to give up just yet.
Chandra, thank you so much for being a guest on this series and taking the time to participate — especially since I took a holiday blog hiatus and your questionnaire sat in my inbox for two weeks! I wish you all of the best in New York and am excited to see where your career takes you!
As always, thanks for reading friends!