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Alumni Profile-Christiana Marjakangas
Recent PR grad begins career with local job that benefits community
By Alex Pistole
For some people, those first steps off the graduation stage are hesitantly taken. Of course it’s an exciting moment to wrap up your college career, but if your only prospects are to go back home or stay in Radford hunting for jobs, you may not feel ready for college to be over. This wasn’t the case for Christiana Marjakangas. When she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications with a concentration in public relations in May of 2014, she not only had a job lined up, she was already working in her field part time.
Thanks to her work with career services and PRSSA, and a lucky turn of events at one of the job fairs on campus, she had landed a part-time position with the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce a few weeks before the end of the school year. Only a week or two after graduation, Marjakangas was made the communication director of the Chamber, and had her first full-time job in the PR field.
“I’ve gained a lot of responsibilities in the year and a half that I’ve been there,” she says, looking back at her first few weeks on the job. “I’ve just learned a ton, and I really like the work environment.”
Coming straight out of college and into the work force was a bit of a challenge at first, she admits. But the benefits of not having to wait in limbo for weeks or months to find a job no doubt made things easier. She barely even had time to put her book bag away before she picked up a briefcase.
“With my job in particular there’s a lot going on at any given moment,” she says. “When I first came in I kind of struggled knowing exactly who everyone was talking about and what specific project they were referencing.”
Working for the Chamber of Commerce, an organization that manages the needs of the Pulaski community and local businesses, can get hectic at times. She says she often has to balance multiple ongoing projects in a day, and be able to switch from one to another with little warning. The Pulaski Chamber has a staff of only three employees, including Marjakangas.
Getting the job wasn’t a stroke of luck, or a last minute thought for her. She started her search in the fall semester of her senior year, applying to multiple positions at PR firms and fashion companies, in an attempt to find that dream job that crosses style and entertainment with public relations.
“You know I didn’t get any of those jobs, but it definitely helped me hone down my cover letters and my resume,” she recalls. “I would highly recommend starting early. If you think it’s excessive, then you’re probably right on target.”
One of her most memorable and helpful classes at Radford turned out to be PR Campaigns with Dr. Courtney Bosworth during her senior year.
“I’ve worked with him, with the Chamber, on opposite sides now.” She says of a joint publicity campaign project between the school and Pulaski County. “I literally worked with the exact same PR class that I was in the year before. That was pretty cool.”
The job in Pulaski has opened up opportunities for her, and it doesn’t hurt that she’s still so close to campus. Marjakangas was invited back, and spoke at the Radford Alumni Panel in September, after Dr. Lisa Baker Webster reached out to her.
“You can get by being average in college, but you can’t move forward in life if you’re just average,” she explains of her work ethic. One of the Chamber’s projects that she has been giving that extra effort to is something she started on almost a year and a half ago.
Marjakangas is now project manager for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, or YEA! for short.
Working with her boss, Peggy White, the executive director of the Chamber, they are now almost to a stage where they can start providing classes to local high school kids who wish to start their own business or develop a product. But the program goes much further than that; it will actually see these students through the process of writing a business plan, registering their companies with the county clerk’s office, consulting with lawyers, and eventually bringing their projects before a board of investors, ready to spend real money to get these fledgling entrepreneurs off and running.
“It’s absolutely been a long process,” says Marjakangas, but helping the 13 students who are signed up will be something she can take more than a paycheck away from at the end of the day. According to YEAusa.org, the program, which is partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and available all over the country, has helped more than 3,000 students between the grades of 6 and 12 launch their own companies. It has also proved to be an unerring indicator of high school graduates and college enrollees.
“If you become invested in something, and you care how it turns out, that’s important,” she says. “It wasn’t my dream job, but it’s turned out to be a great job.”