Student Sets Up Post Graduation Employment
by Jillian Stenzel
Perseverance and networking through Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism connections helped Nicole Dion, senior advertising and public relations major, craft her ideal situation as a freelance social media consultant and a social media coordinator and graphic designer for a local public relations firm.
A studio art minor, Dion has been developing her graphic design skills since high school.
“I’m intrigued by the fact that pictures and words can influence people’s decisions,” Dion said. “I think it’s a really powerful thing.”
Social media, on the other hand, is a craft Dion discovered a little less than two years ago. She served as marketing coordinator for Inkblot at ASUN during summer of 2010.
“Part of my job was arranging social media and managing their Twitter,” Dion said. “I noticed that I was progressively slumping off my marketing duties for social media. It was so empowering getting the students involved in that way. I fed off of the energy of their responses.”
When she began an internship with The Abbi Agency that same summer, Dion expressed her specific interests in social media.
“My internship was unpaid, but I made the most of it,” said Dion. “I came in early and stayed as late as I could. Even though I wasn’t doing exactly what I wanted to do, I figured I would get noticed and possibly move up.”
Three months later, the agency offered her a paid, part-time job doing social media.
“Nicole proved herself capable of learning new things,” Abbi Whitaker, founder of The Abbi Agency, said. “And if I tell her to do something once, it gets done.”
Dion used her graphic design skills to save her employer valuable resources: time and money.
“I noticed that they were paying outside agencies a ton just to do small design stuff,” Dion said. “I encouraged them to buy an iMac and design software so I could whip out in an hour what they would normally pay a couple hundred bucks for.”
Whitaker followed Dion’s suggestion to keep small design projects in-house. Since then, Dion has essentially set herself up for full time job with Abbi after graduation.
“I don’t think I could make it [my job] any better,” Dion said. “Doing only social media would stifle my creativity and being strictly a designer would place too much pressure on me. This way, I’m able to have the best of both worlds.”
Dion supplements her part-time income with freelance social media work.
“I never intended to do freelance,” Dion said. “One day, I decided that I could help people with social media, so I changed my LinkedIn profile from ‘Student’ to ‘Social Media Consultant,’ not really expecting much to come of it.’”
Dion was pleasantly surprised to see her LinkedIn update paid off.
“Someone called me to help their company decide if they needed social media or not, so I was like, ‘Uh, I guess I have to learn freelance now!”
Whitaker appreciates Dion’s willingness to keep learning.
“Every time I see Nicole, she’s got a different book in her hand about the industry,” Whitaker said. “She’s constantly self-educating, and that’s what you need to do to be successful. Media moves at the speed of light, and if you don’t keep up, you’ll be left in the dark.”
Dion began consulting with Agilent, a subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard. After two months of company research, she created a social media plan and presented Agilent with several options. They then hired someone to implement her plan.
“Agilent was a one time thing, but I have two consistent clients now and a handful of projects here and there,” Dion said.
Dion credits her connections and progress in the field largely to the ties made through the Reynolds School.
“I think because the J-school is such a tight knit community, the connections are so valuable,” Dion said. “Had I been in a huge marketing class, instead of a PR class of 20 people, I would have never gotten to know Jill [Coyle] enough for her to connect me to the internship with Abbi.”
Coyle, a classmate of Dion’s, had done an internship with Abbi and recommended Dion to fill her shoes.
“I worked closely with Nicole over the course of the semester in our PR class and I knew she would work well with Abbi,” Coyle said.
Dion also did some freelance for Alison Gaulden, an adjunct instructor at RSJ, and another member of the Reynolds School’s close community.
Dion is heavily involved with the local professional community through her leadership in the University of Nevada, Reno’s Ad Club. As president, she sees the club as a way to help students, and herself, better connect to the community.
Jenna Hubert, the president before me, really started to get community professionals involved in Ad Club,” Dion said. “I took what she started and kept it rolling. I have been bringing speakers in from around Reno to our club meetings and planning events within the community.”