Stefan Walz (’16) shares his lessons on how to job search and have fun

I came out of school with a career doing exactly what I set my heart on and that is something for which I am grateful. I am the Videographer/Multimedia Producer for GoTriangle, the local transit company for the triangle area of North Carolina. I make promotional video content that encourages people to take a new mode of transportation such as the bus, vanpools, carpools, biking, or walking.  I work with a great team that allows for a lot of creative collaboration and simultaneous freedoms and I love every aspect of my job. However, looking back, I wish I had approached the job search differently.

In May 2016, I graduated from UNCA with a degree in New Media and concentrations in video art and interactive web/design. I was still recovering from my last semester of college and attempting to grasp the fact that after 18 years of education, I was finally done with that chapter of my life.  I made an agreement with myself upon graduating that I could slack off and just have fun for a few months. Throughout the summer following graduation, I went on adventures to new and old places, visiting  friends and having a blast. I had completely pushed the idea of looking for jobs or writing applications to the side.  This was a mistake.

I realize now that it is possible to have fun while simultaneously writing cover letters, completing applications, and actively job searching.  During my trips, I could have easily looked at job sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, and Beyond or requested informational interviews with people in my field. I vastly recommend that you engage in informational interviews because you can learn a great deal by asking questions and gaining insights about your career options and your future that you wouldn’t normally think of.  It also gives you great practice and confidence in an interview setting, making it that much easier when you are finally called in for a real job interview.

Informational interviewing also improves your network of contacts exponentially.  Every time you connect with a new person, you have the possibility of getting connected with their contacts and it grows from there.  You never know; it may lead to an eventual job offer or nice referral. I connected with and am still in contact with five people I met during informational interviews.  One of them even allowed me to shadow them on a video shoot and was incredibly encouraging in the process leading up to me getting my job.

My advice to students still in college; please, please build up your resume.  Most jobs have a minimum requirement of a bachelor’s degree in the field of interest.  It is your job as a college student to pursue internships or have an impressive portfolio made to showcase that you are above and beyond the competition.  It will give you great insights into what you will expect in the job field and looks so much better to employers come application time.

Jessica Yee (’11) works with Publishing in New York

New YorkWhile moving to Brooklyn during the summer of 2011, I had the quintessential, clichéd “New York is so inspiring” experience. Although the physical trip to New York was terrifying (my parents and I had several extremely close calls with aggressive cabbies), seeing the Manhattan skyline for the first time was exhilarating and inspiring in a cheesy kind of way, especially when it hit me that this would be the new place I’d call home.

Fast-forward a week and I was bawling uncontrollably on the phone to my best friend in Michigan, moping in my unbelievably hot, air-condition-less apartment with four gigantic mosquito bites on my ankle. I was physically and emotionally miserable, and I was 100 percent convinced that I had just made the biggest mistake of my life.

But things worked out, as they always tend to do. I started my graduate publishing program at NYU, got internships and jobs, made some fantastic friends, and conquered my fear of getting lost on the subway (though for the first six months I was always afraid that each time I left my apartment I would somehow get lost and end up in some obscure neighborhood in Queens with no idea how to get home).

Moving to a big city where I had no friends, family, or connections was the last thing I thought I’d be doing after I graduated from UNCA with a mass communications degree. I was a bookish, painfully shy kid when I was younger, and I was terrified of being vulnerable in unfamiliar or intimidating experiences. But around the middle of my senior year at UNCA, I realized that I co uld not see a future for myself in journalism. The thought of staying in my comfort zone and settling for a job I wasn’t excited about really pushed me to explore new opportunities. At the suggestion of a colleague on The Blue Banner, I completed editorial and art internships at Lark Books, which sparked my interest in publishing.

Once I decided to pursue publishing as a career, furthering my education seemed like the obvious (and only) option at the time. I was accepted at four graduate publishing programs iOpen Roadn cities across the country: Portland, Oregon; Washington DC; Boston; and New York. They were all tempting in different ways, but as the mecca for publishing, New York edged out the other options.

I’ve been in the city for a little more than four years now. I work in publishing at Open Road Integrated Media, and I’ve been at the company for almost three years. I started in 2012 as a managing editorial assistant, and back when our department was basically just me and two other NYU publishing grads, I had to learn extremely quickly and on the fly. After a year I became the metadata coordinator, and I’m now the associate digital asset manager. I’m responsible for all the metadata, cover images, and content assets for our entire catalog, which at this point is about 8,000 titles.

I’m responsible for data entry and supervision of our title management system, and I handle all the metadata, cover images, and content assets for our title list. As part of the managing editorial department, I often work with our editorial, art, and marketing teams as well. In particular, I work closely with merchandising and marketing to set up price promotions and monthly campaigns at retailers. I also work with Ingram and other printers to make sure our paperback book assets and metadata are complete and correct in their sales catalogs. Customer-facing data is also my responsibility, so I maintain regular correspondence with our 30+ retail partners to make sure our books’ product pages are up-to-date and formatted correctly on their sites.

The fact that my job is significantly data-driven gives me a wealth of opportunities for the future, should I decide to branch out and pursue a job in a different field. Data has never been more vital, especially since digital commerce has become the norm and transactions are instantaneous. It’s more and more important for all companies to use their data to support discoverability, customer analysis, and general operations. As Open Road’s title list has grown, I’ve had to come up with creative solutions for managing our books in both internal and customer-facing systems, and I’ve gainOpen Road maped a lot of technical skills that apply to data management in publishing and other industries.

Working at Open Road and going to NYU forced me to do a lot of things I used to dread—public speaking, presentations, leading training sessions, and diving into new experiences without knowing exactly what I was doing. It’s made me more assertive and confident, both personally and professionally. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned, and one that I’m still working on, is how to balance my work and my personal life.

When I fiOpen Road booksrst started at Open Road, the company was still very much in its start-up phase, and as such, we all worked extremely long hours, including taking work home on weekends. Now that we’re more established and our company is constantly growing, I don’t necessarily need to work on the weekends or stay for 10-12 hours during the week (though forcing myself to leave at a reasonable time is still a struggle). I’ve had to accept that the work will always be there, and that it’s important to take breaks and maintain perspective. I’m not a doctor or a public leader. I work in publishing and help make books. If something goes wrong or a project has to get pushed back a day, it really isn’t the end of the world.

That’s a lesson that I wish I had learned a year or two ago—how to relax and not take everything so seriously. Big changes are intimidating, and leaving college and entering the real world can definitely be a daunting experience. I went directly from UNCA to NYU, and I think my fear of idleness was the biggest reason I didn’t take a couple of months to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life. I hope current students don’t feel like they have to settle for the first job they can find. Even though I’m not in a position where I use my degree on a daily basis, it was a huge stepping stone that allowed me to get where I am now. Don’t feel like you have to follow a specific track just because you studied a certain subject in college.

However challenging my experiences in New York have been, being here gives me opportunities that I never would have had if I had stayed in my comfortable, safe bubble. Not only do I get to work in an industry I love, I’ve made wonderful friends, learned from some inspiring professors and colleagues, and accomplished personal goals I didn’t even know I had.

Sarah Hinson (’12) Follows her Writing Passion to Wildfire Advertising

I met a young artist named Em last night at a bar in Winston-Salem. We both described ourselves as creative types, and we both noted a disparity between reality and what my grad school professor liked to call “the aspirational self” (i.e. the ideal, yet unattainable, version of you who is forever flipping you the bird from her pedestal in the sky).

“When you’re always creating and thinking and driven by passion, there’s this self-inflicted pressure to be great,” Em said. “You just know you could do great things.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” I replied, wondering whether or not I could call myself a real writer because, well, isn’t copywriting working for “the man” and not for the greater good or for truth and beauty and justice? “It’s like you always know you could be great, but you have to be extremely self-disciplined to get there, and most people don’t get there.”

This is called arrogance, and it’s an epidemic in the creative world. Scratch that—in the human world. Even if you admit that you’re far from being “one of the greats,” you still think you could be great—you should be great—and that, friends, is what your freshman English professor called “hubris.” You might not think you have it, but you do. It’s the little monster under your bed that likes to disguise itself as humility.

Anyway, back to me. This conversation had me feeling a little bad about myself. I lamented the fact that I’m not one of those writers who wakes up at dawn to work on her novel and devours essays from The New Yorker during her lunch break. I am a writer who wakes up late, spends the day writing about undergarments and cake flavors, and comes home to skim gossip magazines. Truth be told, I am a disgrace.

“I’m not even sure what a writer looks like,” my new friend admitted.

Hmm. What does a writer look like? The archetypal writer? The 21st century, tech-savvy writer? The queer writer? The technical writer? The sober writer?

Then it hit me: I am who I am not because of what I have to show for it, but because of who I am. I am a writer. Period. (Or, better yet, exclamation point!)

I am plenty of other things, too. I am a daughter, a cousin, an aunt, and a friend. I am a female and a feminist. I am queer, quirky, and sometimes quiet. Whether or not I look like these things doesn’t change the fact that I am.

Here’s my point: who you are is going to manifest in a million different ways, and none of these ways is better than the other. Furthermore, you have no way of knowing how all these spectacular little aspects of YOU will express themselves.

This doesn’t mean you won’t have to work hard to succeed. You will. There will be times when you feel like throwing in the towel, but as long as that little ember of passion still burns within you, keep going. If you think you’ve lost that little ember, do everything you can to get it back.

That means something different for everyone. You might fall in love. Fall out of love. Travel. Hunker down and read a few good books. Volunteer. Hike. Conduct an anthropological study. Dance. Just do something and, if you’re lucky, you’ll end up doing what you truly love to

I never thought I would love the ad world. There are countless things I never thought I would do, or feel, or say, and I’ve done, felt, and said all of them. I’m sure this will continue to happen until the day I die, because I don’t really know myself. The closest I can come to knowing myself is to become aware of that tiny burning lifespark in my gut.

I was a Literature major at UNCA with a minor in Mass Communication. I wrote articles and essays and interned with a local magazine and agonized over what I would do with my degree. (Here’s some more unsolicited advice: do not agonize. It won’t do you any good. Study what you love, and that will carry you through. I won’t say anything trite like “things will fall into place,” because no one can promise that. But your passion can sustain you, if you sustain your passion.)

Two years after graduating from UNCA, I received an MFA in Writing from the Savannah College of Art and Design. I wrote lots of nonfiction essays and long-form journalistic pieces and magazine articles. I wanted an editorial job. I agonized.

A friend told me to check out a few ad agencies in Winston-Salem, my hometown. I begrudgingly followed through and told each interviewee the honest-to-goodness truth: I knew next to nothing about advertising, I didn’t have any copywriting content in my portfolio, but I did love to tell stories that might resonate with people. I started my job at Wildfire few weeks later.

If you had told me four years ago—or four months ago—that I would be working in advertising after school, I would have laughed. Or shuddered. But, what do you know, it’s fun, and rewarding, and it has me writing and thinking, day in and day out. Sure, I might change career paths down the road, but I’m stoked to be doing what I’m doing right now.

Let go of that aspirational figment, especially if it makes you feel crummy about yourself. Let go of feeling like you have to carve out the perfect self, or the perfect path. Let go of the invulnerability you think you have when you think you know everything. If you’re open to them, unexpected opportunities will find you. Take them.


Erin Frye (’14) Maximizes Social Media


Hi everyone! My name is Erin Frye. I graduated from UNC Asheville with a Mass Communications degree (a group of students fondly referred to as “mass commIMG_6297ies” by Professor Hantz at the graduates award ceremony…) in May 2014. I attended UNCA for a grand total of five years, taking one semester off in the fall of my junior year. Read: TAKING TIME OFF IS OKAY. I would be lying if I said my parents, friends, professors…(genuinely everyone) thought that I would come back to school when I took that gap semester. But, I did. I worked full time and got my head around what I really wanted and I came back to UNCA instead of transferring, as I had planned. I realized it was the best place for me. Looking back, I’m so glad I did. The Mass Communications degree I earned has proved to be very valuable just in my few months as a post-grad professional!


After eating inhaling my dinner I sat down to write this blog post. It’s 7:09 p.m. Today I worked at Minx Boutique, and enjoyed almost every minute of it (minus a few frustrating technical difficulty moments)! I landed this position two weeks ago as an intern promised 15 hours per week. Four days later, I was offered a full-time position with the company! I was elated.

My job description is ever evolving, but I was hired as the Ecommerce and Social Media intern, so let’s just go with that! Today I added lots of new items to our online inventory via Shopify (technical difficulties ensue), wrote a blog post, and posted across all of our social media platforms. It was a busy day in Minx HQ! However, I am in awe almost daily that I get paid to do the work I do. I mean…one of my duties today was to take the perfect picture of new shoes we’re stocking for Instagram. My hobbies have officially become my career. Can you say: the dream?


As I graduated just over two months ago, my first big girl job hunt was very recently! But what my job search lacks in history, makes up for in drama…trust me. So. My plan upon graduation was to move to Denmark and become an AuPair. I went to Europe immediately after graduation and quickly decided that it wasn’t going to happen. I was homesick the entire time and just got this gut feeling that it wasn’t where I needed to be. I came home and started completely over with my job search. Learning lesson, begin. I landed a position just a few days after returning state side. I posted all over social media about how excited I was immediately after getting the news. A week later, I received an email stating that my position had been resended.


I freaked out. I totally and completely freaked. I didn’t know that was even a thing that could happen. But I assure you, it can. And it did, to me. I quickly learned that nothing is concrete until you know it is (and even then- concrete can crack) so it’s best to just stay quiet about new jobs until you’ve at least at your first day at the company. I picked myself up though, and accepted the position at Minx a week later.

All of these job opportunities might seem like they happened so fast, and it’s because they did. But they were not handed to me. I was up every morning to set up my imaginary “office” in different coffee shops around town. I shot out my resume for every posting I could find that was ANYWHERE relevant to what I wanted to do. I printed out tons of copies of my resume, asked people to keep me in mind if anything opened up, and scheduled back-to-back interviews several days in a row. Needless to say, the job hunt itself became a full-time job for me for a few weeks. And it paid off, literally.


1: Intern. I had several relevant internships while I was in college (paid and unpaid). Babysitting isn’t going to impress a future employer. Focus on finding something that will build your resume. I assure you, the positions are out there if you’re willing to look! …Or have the career center help you look. Hello, the services are FREE!

2: Network. My internships and networking often went hand in hand. It really is a small world and you would be amazed at how connected your bosses and coworIMG_0670kers are. Always dress to impress and follow up with people when you say you will. They won’t forget you.

3: Know that you will hit some bumps in the road, but bounce back quickly. I let myself get discouraged for about 24 hours after I lost the job I thought I had. You have to accept when things don’t go as planned and let it fuel your desire to make something even better happen!

3: Remember that the job market is fluid. Don’t rule out internships or part-time positions that look interesting, because they could evolve into much more. Focus on finding a job that you enjoy before worrying about paying the bills. Things will work out.

Rachel Ingram (’15) Observes through Nature

Life at UNC Asheville is remarkable.  Speaking as a student who transferred in to UNCA, I can attest that educational excellence happening here every session are unparalleled. I am a senior in the Mass Communications department, and I have had such a positive experience at this school. The professors, students, and overall environment are so conducive to a successful college journey.  Generally speaking, the classrooms of UNCA are somewhere that I enjoy being.

Last semester, however, I discovered one thing that no profound classroom discussion can compete with: real-world experience.  In January, 2014, I began an unpaid internship with the US Forest Service here in North Carolina.  While some of the work was monotonous, I quickly realized that the opportunity to become a fly on the wall within a large, diverse organization was invaluable.

I spent 12 hours10390530_10152547667054252_9072381004549987223_n per week nestled in my own little cubicle just outside the Public Affairs Officer’s corner office. My daily duties included plenty of my own projects; I was tasked with writing press releases, informational blurbs for pamphlets and doing numerous community outreach events at Asheville-area schools.

Perhaps the most beneficial tasks, though, were not assigned tasks at all. Countless tidbits of wisdom were gleaned during those quiet moments, when the majority of the office had already gone home on a Friday afternoon, and I sat poised in front of the keyboard at my desk, listening to the calm, knowledgeable prose of my supervisor in his office, on the phone with a reporter for Blue Ridge Outdoors.

On another occasion, my supervisor was required to handle the tragic death of a law enforcement officer and service dog from the organization.  He did so with bearing, compassion and skill.  In that stressful, grief-stricken week, I learned more about my career field than any textbook could ever convey to me. I learned because I had an expert showing me firsthand what to do.

Over the course of the semester, he dealt with endless budget cuts and heightened workloads, tough questions from concerned citizens regarding logging practices on National Forest Land and fee increases at recreational areas like Sliding Rock, and he chaired the monstrous structural revision project that the organization faces only twice a decade.

Ultimately, experience found its way to me during my internship through the vehicle of observation.  By shadowing my supervisor’s role in the organization as he led large project meetings, conducted interviews, communicated with the public and advised other employees, I learned what it meant to be a public relations specialist. The classes at UNCA are great, but there is not a doubt in my mind that I will carry the lessons of my internship with me forever.

Ingrid Allstaedt (’08) Makes News

Ingrid Allstaedt, Anchor/Reporter for WLOS News 13Image

University of North Carolina Asheville, Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication, minor in Women Studies, magna cum laude with distinction in Mass Communication (May 2008)

If you don’t bend, you’ll break.  I’ve heard this several times throughout my career. And boy is it true!  The world of television news is always changing, and you have to change with it or you’ll be left behind.

I am not quite five years into my career. So far I’ve held the following positions:  weekend weather anchor and show editor, one-man-band bureau reporter, weekend morning anchor and fill-in weather and evening anchor.  It’s important in this career to make yourself valuable.  There are plenty of people who want to be on television, so what makes you special?  As you can see from my job titles, I’ve been willing to do whatever is needed in the newsroom. Be a team player! If you don’t bend, you’ll break.

It’s a glamorous job, sometimes. As a reporter, I take eight hours of work and boil it down to a minute and a half story. On television, I will have my hair sprayed just right and my nose powdered… but the rest of the day is a mad dash to get a story in by deadline.  A deadline is always hanging over a reporter’s head. Honestly, it’s kind of a weird thrill.  No, I might not get a lunch break and will have no choice but to hold my pee for three hours… but a deadline makes my job exciting. Some days I am chasing breaking news, while other times I am telling an inspiring story of survival.  This job is different every day, and I like it that way.  If you don’t bend, you’ll break.

Yes it’s kind of sad, but true. Most of my friends don’t watch the morning or evening news while it’s airing live… heck; a lot of them don’t even own televisions.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re supportive!  But, they watch my news clips on their Apple TV’s, DVR’s, IPads and smartphones.  When was the last time you made sure to get home by 5pm to watch the news? Stories “break” on social media, not television.  Stations are now hiring digital content managers and requiring reporters to use Twitter and Facebook daily. I say this to show that the future of television is uncertain, so be ready to bend.   If you don’t bend, you’ll break.

Now here are a few final words for you eager journalists

  • Prepare now. Don’t memorize what your professor is saying, understand it. What’s the point of an “A” if you forget the material and can’t apply it in the “real” world?
  • Join clubs and attend community and campus events.  Anything to put on your resume is a plus!
  • Score an internship. This is so very important. I interned at WLOS, while attending UNCA. WLOS later hired me as an associate producer and then later as a reporter.
  • Network!  This can be through email, Facebook, LinkedIn or lunch dates. I got all of my past jobs and current job because I knew someone or a friend placed a call on my behalf.
  • Be nice to people. You never know when you might need their help.

And despite trying to avoid cliché’s in my daily news stories… I’ll end this post with these words:

“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

P.S. I love my job!Image


Facebook: Ingrid Allstaedt WLOS-TV

Twitter: IngridNews13