Making the transition from student, or intern, to a working professional is tricky and often makes you doubt your next move. Cristina Gordon is no stranger to this phenomenon, however she successfully navigated her way from a college graduate without a job offer, to the founder and president of her own public relations company, C Bee PR.
Gordon created her company last year after moving out of the city to her new home on Long Island and realized the three-hour commute to work was nearly impossible to maintain. While this move was completely outside of her comfort zone, she felt that the time was right to step out and follow her dream. But beyond this, Gordon felt that she was equipped with the tools to successfully create her own business through the years of internships and jobs that prepared her for the many factors of the PR industry.
Having started out as and English literature major at The State University of New York, Geneseo, Gordon’s love of planning and creative, hands-on projects led her to discover public relations as something she, not only would enjoy pursuing, but would also have the skills to do.
While working as a writing intern for Celebuzz.com during the summer between her junior and senior year, Gordon networked her way to many Hollywood parties and red carpet events. There, she wondered who was in charge of organizing these events and thought it was something she could see herself doing. From that point on, and after years of networking and pursuing intern positions and jobs in the field, Gordon accumulated a résumé that would lead her to successfully found her own company.
Here is some of the advice Gordon has learned along the way:
“You always have to build connections. See who knows somebody, because everybody knows somebody who knows somebody. That’s the best piece of advice that I give. “I have to utilize the connections that I have an continue to reach out.”
She says you have to reach out and utilize your connections. Write handwritten notes to people and let them know that you’re there. Send them your resume or try to hand deliver a copy to them during a coffee meeting.
“Just really try to not just apply online because there are thousands of people that apply online.”
On first jobs
“I learned so much. When you’re a PR coordinator at your very first job, you are thrown into the fire. I learned how to do billing—I learned how that PR agency functioned. You get to see everything from the inside out when you’re at that level because you’re the one doing it.”
She knew that this “dirty work” would eventually come in handy in the future when she was held a higher position and then when she started her own company.
On proving yourself to recruiters
“If you’re going to be that person that is willing to go the extra mile, then you have to go the extra mile and show them that you are because then it clicks.”
On staying in touch with former employers
“During Christmas I sent them cookies that I made. I was always kind of like, ‘Whenever you need anything, I’m here. If you ever need help with events, I’ll freelance, I’ll be an extra set of hands.’”
On working fashion week and other big projects
“We’d do like 11 shows during fashion week. You are running around with a fanny pack filled with granola bars and that’s what you eat. It’s wild, but it’s such a great experience. And not going to lie, you go home some nights crying, ‘I’m so tired, and I have to wake up again so early.’”
On living at home:
“It was very hard for me, but it goes by fast. I went a year living at home and I saved up money. I actually saved so much money that I was able to move both [my future husband and I] out and I put the deposit down and everything myself. I was so happy that I saved the money and all those nights I couldn’t stand my parents–I look back and there’s nothing like it to save money and not have to pay for things. You guys are going to be rich. So stay home as long as you can. Get through it and see the numbers.”
“If you put your mind to it, you can still do it, even with a commute. I commuted through Sandy to get to my first job. I will never forget—I’ve done some crazy stuff. I am always trying to find that intern or worker that’s willing to do what I was willing to do.”
On adjusting to NYC:
“There are a couple adjustments: money, the price of everything is way more expensive; the atmosphere, obviously, is a lot more hustle and bustle all of the time. For me, I adjusted right away because growing up, I was coming into the city all the time. I knew I wanted to be here; I lived and breathed it. But for friends [who didn’t have that background] it takes some time only because you have to learn how to get around, and learn the subway system, and you kind of have to be OK with sometimes the subways don’t work. But honestly, a couple months, just like anything else. You’ll kind of fit right in. And I’m still learning things about the city.”
On agency vs. in-house:
“There’s two sides of PR: there’s agency side and then there’s in-house. I always really wanted to get to know the in-house side of things because there are parts that you get to see there that you wouldn’t get to see from agency. And when you’re in agency you’re kind of on the outside. You’re given your strategy that you have to implement and that’s about it. When you’re in-house you get to see the marketing plan, the sales, the e-commerce, the retail, and the points-of-sale all around the country. And I was like, ‘I think I really need that in my portfolio.’”
On learning from your experiences:
“Along the way, I really made sure to suck everything out of every job I had. Whether you’re there for six months, a year or five years, you really want to make sure you’re learning something in some way. You don’t just want to go through your day, you want to be learning something, even if it’s not the job for you in the end. It’s always good to have it be what you need it to be. I always say, make what you can of it. It is what you have right now so make the best of it and think of what you can get out of it. What skills can you learn? What can you be adding to your resume and portfolio?”
At the end of the day:
“At the end of the day, you guys are going to see there’s a big world out there and it’s amazing. What you learn in school is nothing like real life. You have to get internships.”
If you liked the advice above, be sure to come to Valley Magazine X Fashion Society of Penn State’s event Tuesday night (4/11) to learn even more about entrepreneurship, public relations and career advice. RSVP for the event at 7 p.m. in room 129 BC of the HUB-Robeson Center.