At seven years old, I worked with my sisters to create a newspaper called The Family Free Press, featuring my own column, “Kerry’s Krazy Korner.” Poetry I wrote was posted on the walls of my elementary school (an excerpt: “When cold and warm air come together/ Be prepared for stormy weather”). In a spiral notebook, I handwrote short stories about my favorite dolls, complete with dialogue of what I imagined they’d talk about. The summer after fifth grade, for no reason, I made the commitment to myself to read 100 books (real books, not little kid stuff) before sixth grade started. The night before the first day of school, I achieved my goal.
Throughout middle and high school, I sought out as many communications and advanced English classes as possible. I coordinated with my friend, a budding graphic designer, to create my own logo and tagline, and I built a personal webpage filled with teenage ramblings, poetry, a journal of my dreams, artsy photos, and shout outs to friends and family. I competed in Quiz Bowl and debate, acted in plays, marched in the band, and sang in the chorus. I played handbells at church and sang in two choirs. From age fifteen up through my summers home from college, I worked at a landscape supply company, where I wrote, designed, and produced flyers, brochures, fact sheets, coupons, and direct mail correspondence. There, I learned how to manage a customer database and mailing list, and I learned the fundamentals of bookkeeping, sales and customer service.
In college, I majored in advertising and public relations with a heavy English minor. I emphasized creative writing and advertising copywriting in my coursework. My poetry was published in the competitive journal of art and writing, and a professor invited me to read three original poems at a public event. Peers elected one of my creative advertising assignments as best in the class, a travel ad for icy Canada (successful even in snow-covered Michigan). I joined the staff of our university paper, the Grand Valley Lanthorn, and researched and wrote Arts & Entertainment stories. I acted in plays written and produced by students. I completed an independent study in ad campaigns and another independent study in creative writing. I learned how to write, produce, film, and edit digital videos. I blogged about college life, thrived on Myspace and Facebook, and continued building my knowledge and application of social media. I interned at Community Circle Theatre in Grand Rapids, where I coordinated publicity events, assisted with playbill advertising, proofread and edited web copy, wrote production press releases, and created and maintained an inventory of press, photos and publications. For two summers, I volunteered for SandCastles Grief Support Program for Children and Families, a division of Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. There, I facilitated bereavement activities for youth ages 13-18 and 5-8 at an overnight summer camp for children and teens whose loved ones died.
After earning my Bachelor of Science, I worked for DTE Energy as assistant to the Vice President of the DTE Energy Foundation and manager of Corporate and Governmental Affairs. There, while completing important administrative tasks, I honed my professional writing skills and knowledge of corporate social responsibility and nonprofit grantmaking. I learned the ins and outs of philanthropy in southeastern Michigan. I coordinated ad placement as grant recognition, sifted through RFPs, attended galas and fundraisers, corresponded with the board of directors, and coordinated production of media with corporate video, writing and advertising departments. After that, I spent seven months as a temporary assistant in the President’s Office at the Detroit Regional Chamber. I coordinated meetings for the 76-member board of directors, some of the biggest movers and shakers from some of the brightest companies in metro Detroit. When my assignment at the Chamber ended, I was hired at United Way for Southeastern Michigan as a temporary administrative assistant. Three months later, I was hired in permanently. Less than a year after that, they promoted me to professional staff with the title of Blended Funding Associate. I served as liaison to nonprofit agencies that United Way funded, making sure their programs ran smoothly and their grant dollars were spent according to contract guidelines. Since then, I worked for the Detroit Regional Chamber again, this time doing marketing for a transportation-centered economic development program, and then I moved to workforce development, handling compliance, operations and process improvements for the Michigan Works! service centers in the city of Detroit. I worked as administrative staff for a branch of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters after that, proofreading all the union president’s correspondence and crafting strategy and standard operating procedures for website redesign and content creation. After that, a recruiter called me after finding a three-year-old resume, and I was hired to work on a team of internal communicators in IT at one of the Detroit auto companies. That’s where I am now, leading human beings through major organizational change and shaping pretty dry messaging into fun and digestible bits of communication.
I’ve always been a major go-to person for marketing tasks, including report and presentation design, writing, proofreading and editing, social media, and internal communications. I created a wiki site for over 200 nonprofit service providers to network and collaborate and coordinated monthly in-person meetings for the group. I facilitated monthly meetings for 15 service provider agencies who keep teens out of the juvenile justice system. I led a team of seven of my colleagues to write employee profiles for every staff member, posted on the intranet, to increase coworker familiarity and strengthen organizational culture. I took over the internal recognition program, increasing participation by 600%, to improve employee appreciation and satisfaction. I trained grant recipients on reporting requirements, trained coworkers on constituent relationship management (CRM) database software, facilitated webinars for both internal and external audiences, and led my team in sharing departmental news with the rest of the organization. I increased my social media skills further, spreading organizational messages through Facebook and Twitter.
In November 2009 I graduated the Dale Carnegie Course: Effective Communications & Human Relations/Skills for Success. My peers elected me the winner of the Highest Award for Achievement, the top honor in the class. At United Way, I was recognized with the Extra Mile Award for going above and beyond my normal work responsibilities. I joined the Employee Recognition Committee and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and I spearheaded a departmental teambuilding project to raise awareness of individual strengths, determined by the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. I learned to vocabularize that some of my own greatest strengths are strategy, intellection, input, empathy and connectedness. I studied the assessment, learned how to work better with my teammates based on their individual personalities, and spread that message throughout the department. From the StrengthsFinder 2.0 report, I wrote my own personal power statement to describe what I’m best at:
I am inventive and original, and I select the right combination of words to convey my ideas. I can reconfigure facts and data in ways that reveal trends or offer solutions. I am drawn to the subtle and emotional meanings of words. I dive into my reading with abandon and want to absorb as much information as I can. I pay close attention to what people think and do, and I discover what makes each person special. I facilitate dialogue and bring an added dimension to discussions. I create peace among people by linking them to one another.
My dream is to build a long-term marketing-focused career with a community-focused organization in whose mission I believe. The right “what” of the job will attract me. The right “who” will keep me there a while. It’s the right “why” that will become my love and livelihood.