By Delight Ejiaka
College graduates in 2020 entered perhaps the most difficult job market ever. But the economic downturn is not unique to our times. In 2008, the worst recession after the Great Depression hit the United States. The stock market crashed and jobs were scarce leaving many recent graduates unable to secure employment.
One of many individuals who needed to navigate opportunities in the midst of this situation was Casey Adams Jones. She graduated from North Carolina State University in 2007 with a bachelor of science degree in business administration and a specialization in marketing. In addition to her academic pursuits, she led a plethora of school organizations like the Society of African American Corporate Leaders and served on the executive board for the university’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
Like many college students, Casey aspired to use her college education as the key to financial independence and success. She had diligently worked on her education and expanding her network, only to be met with economic downturn and job scarcity.
“It was frustrating because I thought an advanced degree was going to open a lot of doors,” she said.
Casey was resilient in trying to find the right opportunities in the marketing communications field. “I shadowed a lot of communications professionals and even took on projects without pay,” she said.
Due to the economic downturn, her first long-term role after graduation was in higher education at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business as a program associate for Alumni Career Services. This was a temporary deviation away from her goal of being a communications professional.
But demonstrating her entrepreneurial spirit, Casey started her own PR agency as an Integrated Marketing Communications Consultant while still maintaining her full-time role at Duke. She continues to run C. Adams Agency as the founder and has been doing so successfully for the past almost 10 years.
“I have been very fortunate to collaborate with national brands like the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) and various Bravo TV and MTV personalities,” Casey said. “These various experiences have helped shape my professional career.”
She eventually went back to school in 2015 and graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism with a master’s in health communication. She enrolled in the program while working as a marketing and communications specialist at the University of Missouri School of Health Professions for over two years to strengthen her knowledge in the field. She has since handled the communications of various companies and rose to her current position as the communications director at American Heart Association in Philadelphia.
She has distinguished herself in the health and communications profession and is a voice for health equity among marginalized groups and vulnerable populations. She lent her expertise to organizations hosting virtual discussions on racial equity
and police brutality after the murder of George Floyd as well as on health equity and its impact on Black and Latinx communities amid COVID-19.
Top skills to build a great personal network
Casey offers a unique perspective on how students like me can navigate their futures, leveraging both her past experiences in a university career relations department and her own unique professional journey. Be persistent. “Envision what you want and consistently go after it. If you want to talk to a top marketing professional, be persistent in seeking them out because they have busy schedules,” she said.
Be proactive. Casey advises to be direct and straightforward with your goals in meeting with these individuals. “Tell them what you want to discuss during your time together and suggest available meeting times in your first encounter if possible.”
Utilize available resources. Talk to people around you about your goals and career interests. Engage with them and it might lead you to other people you want to meet.
Be resilient. “There will be no’s and disappointments but you keep rising back and seeking what you need.” She also advises recent college graduates looking to grow their network to consider volunteer roles that will help them achieve their goals, just as she did earlier in her career.
Casey believes in the individual’s ability to pursue and succeed in whatever field they set their minds to. I spoke to her about my experiences at Lee University majoring in Digital Media and English writing and my aspiration to do a masters and earn my PhD one day. I am not sure exactly how I will use this education, but some possible ideas in my head are communications and marketing, writing for film and TV, writing fiction and media law. At times, I can be frustrated that I don’t have more clarity, but I was certainly encouraged by Casey’s advice: “You can absolutely do any of them or find a way to blend them.”
As I think about the next steps in my career journey, I can draw inspiration from Casey’s experiences finding a job in the midst of a downturn, a fate that many recent college graduates are encountering today. Just like Casey did, these individuals need to rethink their approaches to securing a first job. My ideas too will certainly evolve and that is fine!
Casey Adams Jones is the communications director for the American Heart Association and founder/owner of C.Adams Agency. She guides brands in creating and executing effective public relations and communications strategies. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Delight Ejiaka is a Digital Media and English Major at Lee University. Connect with her on Linkedin to follow her journey.