Every so often, we’ll be spotlighting alumni and what they are up to these days. These Q&A sessions will give you a bit of insight into where the world has taken them since graduation.
This week, the spotlight is on Katherine Schwappach (BA/Public Relations & Advertising, English Minor ’14), Associate Public Relations Manager at Fathom Events.
DODGE COLLEGE: What did you do after graduation? What was life like?
KATHERINE: I moved back to Denver the day after graduation. I had been looking for a job since February of 2014 without a lot of luck. One week after I moved back, I found myself in a toxic internship that had been presented completely different to me. I decided to do something bold and leave my internship early to pursue a job that would challenge me and promote further growth in my career.
I ended up working 3 different jobs (mostly freelance/ consulting jobs). My main job was helping a good friend of mine launch her boutique. I created the press lists, helped plan the grand opening, pitched press to attend and from there it grew. I ended up working at the boutique part time (since I was working 2 other jobs at the time) as a stylist/ PR coordinator. I was able to develop the social media, plan events, style clients and work alongside good friends!
DODGE COLLEGE: These days, you are at Fathom Events. How did you wind up there?
KATHERINE: After a lot of interviews and working 3 odd jobs, I had given up hope. I decided to take the holidays off from my job search to just enjoy my free time. In January 2015, I had decided to stop holding myself when applying for a job. I would constantly undermine my own skills and tell myself I wasn’t qualified for a lot of the positions out there, so I developed a new rule: apply to any job I was remotely qualified for or looked interesting. I remember it was a Sunday night and I was perusing Andrew Hudson’s job board (a marketing professionals job listing site) where I discovered a Fathom listing – it was due that night. I worked as fast as possible to get that application in.
I got an email the next morning asking if I would be interested in interviewing for a different position within the company: PR Specialist. The other listing I had applied for was more of a marketing position, and while I definitely could have thrived in that role, I was more passionate about PR – that was my emphasis in my major so it was an area I was more comfortable with and the listing fit better with my skill set. I had 2 interviews within 2 weeks and was hired at the end of the second week. I had wanted the job from the second I had my first interview. I just had the best feeling about it. So, naturally I accepted (and kindly declined another job offer I had at the time).
DODGE COLLEGE: What does your job currently entail?
KATHERINE: Fathom is the leading distributor of alternative content in the cinemas (simply put: we distribute anything that isn’t a big blockbuster to theaters nationwide). I assist with some administrative PR tasks such as sending out press passes and split events with my boss, as we are working on roughly 20-30 events at any given time. I write press release, edit press materials, assist clients with their PR plans, oversee our PR firms’ efforts on each project, lead calls, manage our company’s LinkedIn, write talking points for interviews, arrange interviews with our executive team, create internal reports and brainstorm with the rest of our PR/ marketing team on other efforts among a variety of other tasks. Overall, I work as a project manager on events.
DODGE COLLEGE: Are there any skills you learned at Dodge College that you apply at work now?
KATHERINE: Since I work in entertainment, I would say I get to apply a lot of my skills that I learned at Dodge! I think that all the presentations and writing assignments have helped me immensely as I spend a lot of time directly communicating with clients and writing and editing press materials. I think that Dodge also taught me to manage my time well since most of my assignments were larger project that took extended periods of time. Since I work on events from start to finish, my timelines are similar to the way they were in college.
DODGE COLLEGE: Was there a professor or mentor at Dodge you learned a lot from?
KATHERINE: Dawn Taubin was a huge inspiration for me to go into PR. I really admired how calm and collected she was, as well as how successful she was in the entertainment industry. It’s an industry that has a class of its own, but it has been a blast to be a part of and I get to experience some really amazing perks! Dawn pushed us to be better about grabbing press with our pitches – I attribute my ability to whip out a press release quickly to her!
DODGE COLLEGE: Any advice to current students?
KATHERINE: I know that sometimes there are assignments that may seem really daunting or a waste of time, but I think there is a lot to be said for growing your portfolio while you’re in school. You can add those assignments and samples of work from your internships to an online portfolio that can truly set you apart from other candidates. My boss told me that she hired me mostly because of my portfolio, because no one else she interviewed had one. It’s OK to brag about how awesome you are and put it in a place for others to see! Add that to your LinkedIn, social media accounts, email signature, etc.
Lastly, do not give up if you can’t find a job right away. I think “unemployment” was an important time in my life and I wouldn’t do it any other way. I am celebrating 2 years at my job this year and I really don’t think I’d be this happy anywhere else. You will find what is right for you when it is time – everyone has their own timeline!
Thanks so much for sharing, Katherine!