Not Your Typical First Post-Grad Experience: Reflections from my Fellowship Program

When COVID-19 shut down the world in March 2020, I thought I would be back in a classroom by August and have a normal senior year with no problems. Flash forward to July 2021—I hadn’t been in a classroom in 15 months, I finished my bachelor’s degree on my living room couch and I would be starting my first job completely remote. Not exactly the idea scenario, but here I am six months later finishing my Fellowship Program at Spectrum Science alongside seven other recent grads as a more knowledgeable communicator.

When searching for my first post-grad job, it was important to find a workplace where colleagues would expect me to be a contributor, not just a paper pusher, and push and teach me to become a stronger communicator. This is exactly what Spectrum's Fellowship Program is about—I joined as part of a team and did work for real clients. I quickly realized that, even as a Fellow, my opinion is appreciated, valued and encouraged by my peers. And I’ve seen first-hand how my contributions in brainstorming and strategy sessions have come to life.

While I may have been working in a different time zone than the rest of my East-coast based team, that didn’t stop them from fully embracing me as a Spectrumite. I learned that a computer screen doesn’t stop you from developing professional relationships and friendships. When I finally got to meet them all in person last month at our holiday party, you never would’ve known that was the first time we’d actually met.

As this was most of us Fellows' first time as a full-fledged member of the workforce, Spectrum seized the opportunity and taught us the ropes of the agency in a hands-on fashion. Every single member of the leadership team took the time to introduce themselves, give us a breakdown of their department and answer any questions we might have. This really made me feel, even as a junior employee, valued and heard.

And then there’s the crown jewel of the Fellowship Program—the Capstone Project. The agency trusted us to take the lead on a real new business pitch, including the research, strategy and creative. We were split up into two teams and we each developed our own proposal for the client, ultimately leading to some friendly competition amongst ourselves (shoutout to Team Fire😉).

The five weeks I spent on this project is when I truly began to understand Spectrum’s interwoven approach and how central it is to the work we do here. I got to work with so many new people across the agency who all ensured we had the tools needed for a successful presentation (which happened to be in front of the entire agency). Fielding live questions on my work from CEO Jonathan Wilson was not on my radar when I signed up for the Program, but it has made me a better presenter—just one way the Fellowship Program has allowed me to grow professionally in ways I could not have begun to imagine six months ago.

To all the college seniors preparing for graduation, and possibly agency life, here are a few things I’ve found to be crucial to my Fellowship experience:

Speak up and ask questions

It took me a long time to realize there are truly no dumb questions. Don’t be afraid to ask them, it’ll just hurt you in the long run if you don’t. But more importantly, show curiosity and ask to work on more projects if you have the bandwidth.

Develop a relationship with your coworkers

While this may seem difficult in a remote environment, I promise it’s still possible. Make sure to set some time aside each week to just chat about your life and interests with your manager so you can build that relationship early on. And forge relationships outside your team as well! At Spectrum, we have Thirsty Thursdays where everyone in the agency can hop on a Zoom and participate in fun activities together so we can still get to know some new faces.

Take full advantage of the workshops and trainings

The purpose of the Fellowship Program is to learn and prepare you for future roles in the agency. Your coworkers want to see you succeed and are willing to take time to help you get to where you need to be. You probably won’t have many other opportunities to receive personalized training from leadership or take the lead on new business pitches, so take advantage of it while you can.

As I complete the Fellowship Program and transition to my new role as Assistant Account Executive, I am excited to see how my journey at Spectrum continues. Whether you’re working out of the office or your childhood bedroom, you have opportunities to be successful in a hybrid environment and do impactful work right out of college—don’t be afraid to fully embrace them!

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn by Reagan Eckley, Assistant Account Executive.

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