By Emily Neelon, Communication, Class of 2017
Armed with an English degree and a resume highlighting positions at Kinfolk Magazine and journalism non-profit Next City, Class of 2014’s Kelsey Thomas is every journalism-hopeful’s qween. But, as she reveals in her Q&A with the Career Center, her success was fueled by copious amounts of Stumptown coffee and some serious ambition:
What was (is) your first job/role after graduating from the University of Portland and what did it teach you?
Editorial assistant at Kinfolk Magazine. Besides a slightly upgraded taste in home decor, I became a stronger editor and fact checker and built great friendships with brilliant writers and editors who inspired me to hustle harder and think bigger. It also taught me to expect copious amounts of Stumptown coffee and bougie snacks and that my Birkenstocks would be considered appropriate work attire, which unfortunately isn’t true of most office environments.
I also took some time off and traveled between working for Kinfolk Magazine and my current editor gig in Philadelphia (do you like my sneakily positive spin on being briefly unemployed?). If you can afford it and make it happen, I highly recommend leaving the country sometime in the first year or two after graduation. Joining the “real world” can be one of the most stressful and identity-crisis-filled times of your life. Leaving the country can help you gain some perspective.
Did the Career Center assist you in your job/internship search /applying to graduate school?
I started visiting the Career Center my junior year, but I wish started my freshman year. Make an appointment! You’ll feel so much better about your ability to tackle the working world. It’s basically like free therapy.
What were you involved in during your time at UP (both on and off campus) that helped to prepare you for this position?
(Another) big shout out to The Beacon — I probably spent as much time in the newsroom my final two years at UP as I did my bed, but it was so, so worth it. Being a reporter and then editor-in-chief was a nonstop boot camp in reporting, editing and just general news smarts. I also learned to manage people and oversee projects, which I didn’t expect to come in handy until I’m a boss again a ways down the line, but that experience has proven helpful already since I help manage some of our daily news blogging efforts at work.
I also need to credit student media with opening doors for all of my internships, which in turn helped me land my jobs at Kinfolk and Next City. If not for The Beacon, I might just be running a Tumblr where I photoshop faces of people I know onto llamas or something.
What is your current role/job and what excites you most about it?
I’m an assistant editor at Next City, a journalism nonprofit focused on urban policy and cities. It’s interesting, fast-paced, and our work has a noticeable impact. We get to focus on telling stories that matter, and I learn something new every day.
What is your number one job search (or internship or graduate school application) tip?”
This is particularly for all of my lady bosses out there: Pursue opportunities because they interest and excite you, not just because they seem within your grasp. I’ve heard that men tend to apply to jobs if they have at least half of the listed qualifications, but women don’t tend to apply unless they meet all qualifications. So I’d encourage women to be conscious of this from the time they start looking for their first internship through when they’re negotiating the salary for their final job. Don’t waste your energy worrying about whether you’re qualified; worry about doing good work and kicking ass.
What is the best career advice you ever got?
Even dream jobs feel like work a lot. Don’t freak out that you’re missing your calling if you occasionally have no desire to sit at a desk and be productive for 9 hours. As a UP grad, naturally I want to do great things and change the world and all that, but changing the world probably still involves lots of email.
Check out Kelsey’s stories at : https://nextcity.org/daily/author/kelsey-e-thomas , and follow her on Twitter @kelseyethomas.