Letters Home: Stephanie Stouffer

Stephanie Stouffer is a client strategist at Engage in
Washington, D.C. She graduated from the Missouri
School of Journalism
in 2011 with a degree in
convergence journalism.
Dear ONA Mizzou,

If I had access to this list during my last few months of college, I’m still not sure I would have been prepared for what was to come. I have learned more about myself and my work ethic since graduating in May 2011 than I ever did in my four years at Mizzou. I am currently working in Washington, D.C., as an account executive (my official title is “client strategist”) for a digital strategy firm. I started this job in December 2011, exactly 7 months after I graduated. I love my job more than anything, and it truly was fate landing this gig. But those 7 months between graduation and starting this job were some of the toughest months I have ever experienced. Here are just a few things I’ve learned along the way:

1. Outside of the journalism world, Mizzou is just the University of Missouri.
They teach you as a Mizzou journalism student that you go to the best J-School in the world. It’s true. You do go to the best journalism school in the world. But what happens when you don’t want to work in journalism? You now have a bachelor's from a public university in the Midwest. What I learned right off the bat was that I needed to prove to people that while I wasn’t applying for jobs in traditional journalism, my degree was every bit as valuable to them (and to me) as a business degree from Harvard. And it worked -- I proved it by being successful in social media and by having killer answers to interview questions. Which brings me to my second lesson...

2. Do as many interviews as possible. Even if you don’t want the job.
As journalism students we’ve always been on the other side of the mic, the ones asking the questions, not answering them. So transitioning to the opposite side is pretty tough. No matter what the position or how much you want it, try to get an interview. Even if it’s just calling someone for an informational meeting. The more you interview, the better you will get, and the better you interview, the more likely you are to score the job you want.

3. Listen to the faculty, but don’t be afraid to fight for what you believe.
The journalism professors at Mizzou are amazing and talented people. But you’re going to have disagreements every now and then. Don’t be afraid to stand up to them if you think your way is better. While it may be smart to go ahead and do it their way, make the argument. (But make sure you have the tools you need to back up your argument!!) The skills you will acquire by standing up for yourself are invaluable in the workforce.

4. Move to the city you want to work in, regardless of your job status.
This is especially true if you want a non-journalism job, and probably the #1 hardest lesson I learned. I knew I wanted to work in D.C., but after graduation I moved home to Texas. I tried looking for a D.C. job from Texas, and I got really far in the process with several fantastic companies. But I ended up losing the positions for the mere fact that I wasn’t already living in D.C. Even if you have to move home for 6 months to work somewhere and save money before you can move, do that instead of trying to do something to get the first job that comes along. By the numbers: I was hired 7 months after graduating, but just 7 weeks after I moved. If I had moved in May, I would have been working by July.

5. Soak up every single moment you have left at Mizzou.
You don’t realize this now, but you are having one of the best, most positive college experiences. Not a single one of my colleagues have the same memories I have of college -- they either went to commuter schools, urban universities, or small colleges. Mizzou offers so much in addition to a fantastic education. You have big sports, a big campus, a small college town, and awesome people. The memories you are making now will last you a lifetime, so don’t blink -- you might miss something.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to contact me for advice and/or questions! Find me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, add me on LinkedIn, and please introduce yourself :)

Good luck, and go Tigers!!! MIZ!

Stephanie Stouffer
BJ ‘11 Convergence
Client strategist at Engage in Washington, D.C.

Check out the rest of the Letters Home series

Editor's note: If you're a Mizzou journalism alum who would like to contribute to the Letters Home series, send us an email at onamizzou@gmail.com with your letter, your name, your sequence and graduation year, your current job and contact information.

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