This month the AFA Alliance featured me in its monthly member spotlight.
Being involved in AFA in college had a huge impact on me both professionally and personally. I truly believe I would not be where I am now without those experiences and the network that it helped me build now includes mentors, colleagues, a support system and many friendships.
Becoming a Lifetime Member of the AFA Alliance was important to me not only because I want to continue to learn and develop as a young professional, but also because it signifies that I want to be committed to seeing the organization grow and continue to influence college students for years to come.
Thank you Lauren and Celia for selecting me as your spotlight this month!
In the Spotlight:
(View the original on the AFA website.)
Organization: U.S. Wheat Associates
Current Position Title: Communications Specialist
Education Summary: B.S. Agricultural Communications and Journalism from Kansas State University, 2013.
1. Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in Hermiston, OR, which is located in what is known as the Columbia Basin in rural Northeast Oregon. After staying in Kansas for a few years after I graduated college, I moved to the Washington D.C. area just over a year ago. I currently live and work in Arlington, VA.
2. What does your current position entail?
USW does export market promotion for the U.S. wheat industry, with two U.S. offices and 15 offices overseas. I work on a three-person communications and marketing team, so we cover a lot of tasks. About half of my work is cyclical with a number regular newsletters, press kits and reports that I help write and manage for a variety of audiences. I manage social media and incoming media requests, and often collaborate with our state wheat members and other commodity groups. The other half of my work is on support projects. I work closely with both our trade policy and programming teams, on their projects and events, to plan and implement any communications strategy and support materials needed. I am also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel quite a bit for board meetings, conferences and other events.
3. What is the biggest professional challenge you have overcome? (or biggest professional challenge you face?)
In college there is so much focus on “self-discovery,” leadership and honing in on what our skills and goals are. As a young professional, it is a different environment and I found it really difficult to feel confident in how gauged where I was in my career, and what was the best next move for me. A year into my current job and my move to DC, I think my current professional challenges is the learning curve, work-life balance and applying myself with confidence.
4. What advice do you have for young professionals motivated to lead?
Don’t patiently wait around for life after college to start or think that you need a few years under your belt before anything you say or do will matter. Confidence, energy and the willingness to learn are qualities that are respected no matter where you are in your career. And living in a place like DC has showed me that young professionals can have a huge impact when they are motivated to lead. Find a mentor, speak up and be open to new opportunities and networks.
5. How do you balance your personal and professional life?
Honestly, I know this will always be a challenge for me, because unlike many, I grew up in a family who “lives to work” instead of “working to live.” And when properly balanced, I think that is OK. I am the type of person who pours my personality into everything I do, including my work, and I need to strongly believe in what I’m working toward or for. That also includes my relationships with my co-workers and colleagues. But on the day-to-day I find that the more organized I am, the better I am able to separate my personal and professional life. I think it is also important to have hobbies and interests away from work that add value to your quality of life.
6. What is one of your habits that has helped shaped your professional career positively?
My network has been the single most important thing in helping shape my career so far. So maybe it’s because of my love for communications, but I always strive to ask really good questions and focus on being present and intentional in my conversations, whether they are in a formal meeting and a casual chat. I want to understand who a person is past just their name, where they work and where they went to school. I believe we all have something to teach one another, and a negative experience is a missed opportunity. Since I moved to DC I set a goal for myself to write a few handwritten notes a month, to express my thanks for something specific or just to further invest in that relationship.
Of course I couldn’t make an AFA post without a few team pictures…