Garrett Aanestad graduated in 2016 with his B.A. in Strategic and Corporate Communication. A year later he would return to work at Chapman and pursue a master’s degree in leadership development. Below he shares his experience going from Chapman student to Chapman staff. If you want to connect with Garrett you can find him on LinkedIn.
Where do you work and what is your job title?
I work at Chapman University as a Manager of the Chapman Fund.
What does your job entail?
As a manager in the Chapman Fund, I help facilitate conversations toward philanthropic giving that helps support our annual unrestricted fund, which virtually touches every corner of campus. Whether it’s student scholarships, faculty excellence, research or emerging opportunities, I communicate daily with our various Chapman Family members (parents, alumni, staff, faculty, friends of the University etc.).
Tell us about your job search process.
I have been with the Chapman Fund for the last six months, and previously served with our Alumni Engagement team for roughly a year and a half before that. My career with Chapman University started a year after I graduated. Before that time, I was working retail and manufacturing in the surf industry. While the surf industry was a really fun experience, my career passion has been in education and when the opportunity to join the alumni engagement team at Chapman opened up, I took it. In this position I was fortunate to be able to show case who I am and serve my alma mater. The job search process came through a mix of being persistent and networking with Chapman colleagues, which I believe were both vital. After matching who I was to the work I was doing, I furthered my fundraising skills on top of planning events and reconnecting alumni with Chapman. I then took the next step in being a full-time fundraiser by joining the Chapman Fund team. I find so much fulfillment in what I get to do now, because I wouldn’t have had my own Chapman experience without the donor support that helped fund my scholarship.
Why did you choose Chapman University and the School of Communication?
I chose Chapman University for a variety of reasons. I knew I wanted to play water polo, I wanted a great education, and a great place to live. What set Chapman apart from other schools was that the campus and facilities are gorgeous, the people are genuinely happy, and the professors have a passion to serve their students.
I didn’t start out as a School of Communication student. I was originally in the health science program. After quickly finding out it was not a fit for me, I took some time exploring General Education courses and getting different experiences. I had a couple teammates who were strategic and corporate communication majors and they always talked about how much they loved the program. Eventually I took a related course and talk to professors about how it would impact my career and made the decision to pursue SCC and back it up with a minor in leadership studies. I chose SCC because I found it to be applicable on a broad and diverse spectrum, however, still offering opportunities to specifically home in on skills if one wanted; public speaking, research collection, marketing etc. The degree was a fit for who I was as a person, and the professors were people I enjoyed connecting with inside and outside of the classroom.
How has your School of Communication degree benefited you in your career?
My SCC degree has benefited me in so many ways, especially outside of the classroom. Knowing what I do now and having experienced what I have, I didn’t realize how important effective communication is in the workplace and life in general. Each person communicates and receives communication very uniquely. Learning to understand how to craft messages and how to “communicate” with others is an effective skill set that will further relationships and create success. The culmination of the entire program is something special and courses that I consistently reflect on dealt with interpersonal communication, crafting messages for intended audiences, using communication to obtain resources, and even the importance of being able to publicly speak/present.
Outside of the classroom, the relationships that I made with amazing people- both students and faculty, further enhanced my confidence in myself and the way I think. Getting to work together with people who see things differently is one of the best ways to grow personally and the School of Communication provided that opportunity on a daily basis. There are things that one can learn outside of the theory, case studies, or application and with the SCC degree I found myself ready to jump into any work setting and adapt as needed.
What advice do you have for undergraduate students or recent graduates?
The advice I continue to give is that if you want great results, you need to put in great work. This is applicable to many areas; courses, relationships, work, hobbies etc. When I reflect on my time and some of the things that stand out the most from my experience, it was usually because I put a lot more focus on them. The courses that I loved the most, the professors and colleagues I have amazing relationships with, it all came from investing myself and being present.
Lastly, I don’t expect life to ever be like it was during school. While I love where I am and what I am doing in my life, my advice is to make the most of your time in school. Get involved, talk to people you pass by, help a stranger, etc. While I’m only a few years out, I think college is a time that you can further your opportunities in life and do things with more flexibility.
As far as advice for recent graduates (which I fall under), is to also make the most of the opportunities you’re given daily. Whatever you’re doing, do it to the best of your ability and learn as much as you can. You’ll grow more as a person and have even more to share with others around you. If you’re not making the most of your investment in life, you’re simply wasting it and we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. I know that might sound harsh, but I don’t want to live a life of “What ifs?”. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow so we might as well make the best of what we are blessed to have and share it with those beside us.