This story doesn’t end with me being the most popular girl at the party, but it ends with me, the girl who used to stay in the corner the whole time, landing my dream job. I’m also a former Mercer student and that’s not a fact I hide. I’m proud of it.

My career trajectory started when I moved to  New Jersey from São Paulo, Brazil. I decided to attend Mercer because it was the closest place to where I was living at the time, and the college offered the courses I was looking for. I also thought that attending a community college would be good for me since I was still learning English. And I was right.

During my three years at Mercer, I tried to make the most of my time and the resources that the college had to offer. There are a number of clubs and activities to get involved in. For me, the most interesting things were the TV and the newspaper. Being part of MCTV gave me a taste of how a TV station works and what kinds of skills you need to make it in that environment.

At The College VOICE, which was where I dedicated most of my time, I had the opportunity to experience the very rewarding chaos that it is to make a print newspaper and its online version. It was insane at times, but looking at your work in print is priceless. I also was able to go to conferences in Chicago and New York, won awards and made friends for life.

Being part of these two clubs helped me decide what I wanted to do with my life. I was accepted into Baruch College in New York after graduating Mercer. I already had a BA in Journalism from Brazil so I was able to enter their Master’s program in Public Relations, which was the area of communications I wanted to pursue for my career.

Before I entered the world of PR I imagined it would be red carpets, cameras, lights and paparazzi. In reality it is usually a room full of people furiously typing press releases, monitoring social media and figuring out way to get clients out of a crisis. Simultaneously you have clients pressuring you to deliver results on deadlines not even George Stephanopoulos would be able to meet.

That’s my life now, and I l-o-v-e it!

While attending Baruch, I worked at an internship which allowed me to meet the greatest of the greats in the PR field. I met executives from Fortune 500 companies, PR Agency CEOs and professors from the most renowned schools in the world.  But I struggled to learn how to make meaningful connections.

Networking is one of the most valuable skills in life and I had always been afraid of it. The thought of walking into a room full of highly successful people, ones who did exactly what I wanted to do, made me sick to my stomach. At first when I showed up for networking events I would only talk to people I knew. I wasn’t sure how to approach or hold conversations with anybody else.

Over time and with a lot of practice I figured out that successful people are just like any other people and if they are at networking events, it means they are open to talk to anybody that approaches them with good conversation. And that’s really how I went from being a student-journalist to a Jr. Account Executive at one of the largest PR firms in the world.

I would ask the people I connected with for advice on my resume and so on. This showed them my interest and put my name on their radar, so if they ever came across an opportunity that fit my profile, they would remember me.

Another trick I learned was to research who was going to be at the event so that when I got to the event I could show that person my genuine interest in their work and the level of respect I hold for  what they do.

I know I was lucky to get an internship where I did, but you but anyone can start learning these skills to move themselves forward. Start with  the resources you have at hand. The College VOICE, for example, is a great lab and so is MCTV. The VOICE even takes a group of the hardest working staffers to conferences each year where there are hundreds of industry professionals to meet and workshops to attend.

The bottom line is, use what you have to help you move forward.

Mariana Braz is a Jr. Account Executive at Weber Shandwick Brazil.

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