Connections in Communications

Alumna in advertising shares networking tips

February 22, 2010

By Ali Eaves, '11

Just one year ago, Sophie McMaster, ’09, was a participant in the Career Development Center’s “Spiders in Media and Communications” road trip to New York City, hoping to make a connection in the communications industry that could land her a job after graduation.

Sparks flew for McMaster during a stop at Ogilvy Advertising, where the group heard from a 2007 Richmond graduate.

Now partway through the coveted associate’s program at Ogilvy, McMaster played host this January, sharing her experience with a group of 23 students on the very same path she was on last year.

“It's so strange that just a single year ago, I was sitting in their position!” said McMaster, who majored in marketing. “It felt very different to be on the other side of things, but I also feel like I have so much to share with them.”

As a recent graduate, McMaster was able to relate with students in a way that senior executives couldn’t. She used the same CDC resources and alumni network to launch her career that current students have at their disposal now.

“The associate's program has been a dream come true for me,” McMaster said. “In my five months at Ogilvy, I have learned so much about advertising, Ogilvy and myself.”

In addition to meeting McMaster at Ogilvy, participants in the 2010 Spider Road Trip visited several other advertising, public relations and publishing firms and were able to network with both young professionals and senior executives at each stop.

Lauren Lewis, a senior political science major, said that hearing from entry-level associates was the most helpful part of the trip.

“Now I have a comprehensive idea of what a day, and a career, in publishing, public relations or marketing is like,” Lewis said. “There is nothing more helpful than hearing from a direct source and being able to ask questions that you cannot find answers to on the Internet or in a book.”

Joe Testani, CDC associate director, said the trip was established to give students a better feel for mass communications and to allow them to network with alumni working in the industry.

“Networking is huge in this field,” Testani said. “Like most job or internship searches, most opportunities are never posted. So building your network and more importantly, maintaining it over time, is key.”

Building relationships was what sealed the deal for McMaster. She tapped all of her contacts in the industry to get the inside scoop before applying to Ogilvy, and during the recruitment process, she established connections with her recruiters, making an impression every time. She noticed that her manager kept each hand-written thank-you note she had written.

“As simple as it is, taking the time to show your appreciation goes a long way in this business,” McMaster said.

But networking doesn’t stop once you land the job.

“It's quite funny,” McMaster said. “I have done more networking since joining Ogilvy than I ever had before! The difference is that now, it's not about getting a job. It's all about seeing where I fit best in the company, meeting new people who can inspire my future path and learning more about Ogilvy as a whole. I find that reaching out for a quick cup of coffee is the best way to get to know someone.”

Luckily for fellow Richmond students, McMaster is just as eager to lend advice as she is to seek it.

“For seniors especially, I know that this is an especially daunting time,” she said. “Hearing that companies are hiring and flourishing provides encouragement and signals that life after college won't be all that bad!”

For more information on Spider Road Trips, visit http://cdc.richmond.edu/programs/road-trips.html.