One Year and Counting: Reflecting on My First Year at Vanguard Public Affairs

I started with Vanguard Public Affairs on April 23, 2018. I was on the job hunt for a few months, each time loading pages and pages of jobs in and around Traverse City. I heavily considered leaving the industry in order to stay in a place that was breathtaking and constantly making “Top 10 Places to Visit This Summer” lists. I’m grateful I didn’t.

I first heard of Vanguard through my Central Michigan Life network. One of my professors serves as an advisor to the company, a good friend of mine spent a summer interning there and I’m Facebook friends with Vanguard’s former creative director. Her work and her work-related posts always caught my eye. How was this creative director buying a house, going on vacation and always posting pictures of team-building activities that actually looked fun? Meanwhile, I was just a cog in a wheel churning out intricate furniture ads while consistently being told two things: 1) “The view of the bay is half the pay,” and 2) “You’re on the right bus but we might have you in the wrong seat.”

I was tired of the negativity. I was tired of being limited in how many ideas and processes I could bring to the table. I was tired of being overworked and underpaid.

So, I got to work. I gathered my best designs and reached out to my connections to learn more about the graphic design position that was open. That was a Friday. By Monday afternoon, Vanguard’s president caught word that I was interested in applying and had made reference calls on my behalf. I was invited to interview and the rest is history.

———

My first day was spent accompanying a gubernatorial candidate to the Secretary of State’s office to submit his signatures to file to run. During my first week, I traveled to Ann Arbor for a client meeting where I was encouraged to share my ideas for an animated video to describe a complex state funding problem that later came to fruition and received more than 10,000 video views. And within my first month, I was building a social platform where I was responsible for executing an ad budget that was larger than my savings account.

In the past 365 days, I have gained hands-on experience and extensive knowledge about strategic communications, advocacy, public affairs, politics and digital media. I came on as branding coordinator and shortly thereafter earned the title of creative director. I have made connections and grown as a young professional, but mostly importantly, my voice is finally being heard.

So far, I have had the opportunity to work with congressmen and women, state senators and state representatives. By creating print and digital collaterals and staffing events, I have helped important democrats get a seat at the table. I led the Vanguard Public Affairs brand refresh and am responsible for a lot of the creative materials that form the identity of our clients.

And I’m not done yet. This is only the beginning.

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