Jessica Ellington wants you to know that while blondes may (purportedly) have more fun, they certainly aren’t afraid of hard work. This three-time intern (yes, you read that correctly!) has her B.A. in communications from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, and has worked in a wide variety of fields—from nonprofit fundraising to public relations to managing an upscale salon and then back to public relations. Sound familiar?
“It’s so common these days for young people to switch careers, which was encouraging for me when I had to make that decision again, four years out of college,” said Jessica, who has a brand-new office with a view of the towering North Shore Mountains and the sparkling Vancouver Harbor below her.
But despite the ambition, education, and passion for communicating that define Jessica, her early to mid-20s were spent in a fluctuating state of feeling stuck. After college, Jessica had taken on two internships—both without pay. And to pay the rent in her pricey home city, Jessica was a cocktail server on weekdays in a busy downtown restaurant.
Though her lifestyle (and job!) was fun, Jessica wasn’t exactly where she thought she would be at 25 years old. Where was the “big girl job” that her education and numerous internships were supposed to provide? Frustrated, she parlayed her service experience into an administrative role at a salon and, in no time at all, she became the manager. In this managerial role, Jessica realized what she already knew deep down. She was capable of growth in her career; she was a natural leader.
But even in her higher level role, Jessica worried that she wasn’t living up to her full potential; she wasn’t helping anyone, and she hadn’t actually found her calling like many other high-achieving young women. And she knew that in order to switch careers, the best way to get her foot in the door would be to swallow her pride, forget, about her management experience, and land an internship with the right company.
An inspiring trip to New York City was the catalyst for her to finally pursue her dream—working in public relations and event planning. Eager to jump into the industry, Jessica agreed to her third and final internship at age 27 with Vancouver boutique digital marketing agency, Booje Media. Jessica is one superstar intern turned account manager. She’s tackling her new career head-on, with new clients signing on every month and a promising career unfolding every day.
“A year from now, I see myself having really defined my role here at Booje Media. I want to leave my mark and know that I have worked as hard as I possibly could to achieve my vision,” she told us. Read on to learn more about Jessica and how a little hard work can go a long way.
Name: Jessica Ellington
Current Title/Company: Account Manager at Booje Media
Location: Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Simon Fraser University
You started at Booje Media as an intern four months ago and are now the account and PR manager (with six clients). Congratulations on this huge achievement! When you decided to switch career paths, did you feel like you needed to start as an intern in order to make it in a digital marketing industry?
Yes, because for me, it has always been about the fact that I just wanted the chance to prove to myself that I could do it—that I could land this position. These opportunities aren’t usually just handed to you, which is exactly why interning can be such a great start.
If you do your homework and get in with the right company (I learned this lesson the hard way after two previous internships) and if you’re not overused in any way, then I absolutely think that interning can be the ideal entrance point to a new career.
What does it take to set yourself apart from the intern crowd? What was it about your intern period at Booje that made you into a full-time team member?
I treated my internship like it was a real full-time paid position from day one. I had taken a big leap of faith by quitting my job to become an intern again, so I had no other choice but to really go full throttle! I know that this is what made me stand out—I was very direct with my goal of becoming a member of the Booje Media team, and I think that Clio (my boss) could just see that. To stand out as an intern I would say: always show professionalism, take initiative wherever you can, and ask a lot of questions.
What is the greatest lesson your internship experience has taught you?
To challenge yourself in every aspect of your job—no matter what that is. It will pay off! Learn as much as you can about every area of the company you work for.
You seem to be taking on 2015 with gusto! Tell us about some of your goals for the year.
This is the year of goal crushing for me. For starters, my New Year’s resolution was to read one book a month and so far so good—one month down and one book read! Also, my boss/mentor and I will be completing Google Ad Words and Analytics training next month, and I would like to have mastered this by 2016. Learning new skills like that for my job is just a part of my overall goal to keep on top of this ever-changing industry.
I treated my internship like it was a real full-time paid position from day one. I had taken a big leap of faith by quitting my job to become an intern again, so I had no other choice but to really go full throttle!
How has your role changed since your internship? How far have you come in the company so far?
I was hired as a basic intern. I was expected to just plan a couple of events for the agency and build some social media plans for clients, which I did and worked very hard at. Now, I’ve moved into my current position as account and PR manager. Mainly I manage our real estate clients and their social media campaigns, and I am also focused on our internal public relations for events that we host.
When do you move into this managerial role?
My total timeline with the company is really only four months. I would say I have had account management tasks given to me since my first week.
Congratulations! That is a total of three job descriptions in four months, by the way.
Yes, thank you, and it continues to evolve as the business grows every day, which is so exciting.
Have you had a “big win” in your career at Booje so far? Was there one project or moment that really sealed the deal for you to move ahead with the company post-internship?
Yes—definitely. My first task as an intern was to plan the “Last Garden Party,” which was a networking event held at a beautiful restaurant venue here in Vancouver. In that time, I gained several sponsorships for the event and was able to plan and organize all the gift bags, and we ended up having a very successful, wonderful evening.
I did all of that within my first two weeks here as an intern, so I think it was just that first event that was really my defining moment here in the company. It showed that I was able to take on this huge 200-plus person event and blow it out of the water. It was a confidence boost.
I think I know the answer to this already, but what is the number one attribute that you think made you such a “superstar intern”?
Thank you for giving me that title! I have a background in management, but I think that it’s good to be on both sides of the table. And coming into Booje and having people who were above me to guide me, like my amazing mentor, Clio.
It has also been my work ethic, organizational skills, and ability to see a task through from start to finish. I don’t let any detail slip through the cracks. Because I’ve been on both sides of it, I would say that I am comfortable delegating and also taking direction. Even now, of course, if someone on the team needs something small done, I am here to help.
Do you think that doing an internship with a company first and then working for them makes you a stronger employee?
Definitely. You already know the ins and outs, and you know exactly what is expected of you, and of everyone else on the team.
But, that’s not to say that for people who get hired on straight away aren’t wonderful employees either. It’s just that you first get to know all the roles in the company, from the lowest perspective on the proverbial “ladder.” You understand their jobs before you’re even given your own! You’re seeing this model more and more now in large companies—where every employee needs to be put through, even for just a day, or a week, what other roles in the company go through day in and day out.
It’s the whole idea of the big-shot CEO choosing to learn every aspect of how their own company runs, which is a huge asset for them to have. This model of leadership has stuck with me for years since working in the hospitality industry; at a successful restaurant, you don’t just waltz into a great serving role with big tips. Everyone who wants that position—the moneymaker—first has to hostess at the door and run food. And then, you can serve, and then you can bartend, and then you can be a manager! You can really see that the managers who followed that path are the best at understanding their business, their customers, and their people.
What is your favorite moment in your workday?
Anytime I’m drinking coffee! No, not to be cheesy, but I truly love my job. It just changes every day. Right now, I have six accounts, so, every morning, I sit and go though the social media management and choose content to share. I get to be strategic and creative. And our clients’ interests range from everything from cooking to home design to fashion to retail—it is always engaging. I’m also so lucky to work for someone is also a friend, a positive light, and a mentor to me.
What would you say is your favorite part of your role at Booje and how do you stay inspired on the daily?
My favorite aspect of the job relates to the fact that we are a boutique marketing agency, meaning that we’re relatively new and small but growing every single day. Because of our size, I get to work alongside everyone on our team on a minute-to-minute basis, which I love.
We are definitely a strong team of motivated young women, and I love being involved in as many aspects of the business as I can. Also, the smaller dynamic means that I have really been able to define my own role within the company and decide what I’m most passionate about and where I should focus my skills and energy. That part is awesome—sort of writing and rewriting my own job description constantly.
So now I’m gushing; but not only do I love my job, I also have the freedom to flex and evolve in my role.
That is so great to hear! What do you look for when hiring interns now? What is the secret ingredient to being an excellent intern?
In this environment, everyone is extremely busy, so you simply have to be extremely self-motivated. Be a fast learner. Also, you have to know how to have fun at work! We attend and host a ton of industry events, so an internship here is best suited to a highly personable candidate.
Where do you see yourself one year from now, professionally?
I see myself in the same role I am in now but Booje media is going to be making some huge strides in the next couple of years, and I’d like to see my role shift into more of a PR-driven position. PR and events are definitely my passion!
Do you think that interns should break the rules a little bit? Should they be working longer hours, and should they always be going above and beyond?
Yes, I think that’s what your job description essentially is as an intern. Even if you’re working for free, you are also proving to your coworkers, employer, and ultimately yourself that you are worthy and capable of coming on board at the company. Really, if you want to work for anything, you have to work hard for it. And internships are competitive. For me, especially—I quit a salary position to come and learn as much as I possibly could.
What is the craziest intern situation you’ve experinced?
I wish it was that innocent. In my very first internship, I had someone who was supposed to be mentoring me tell me (point blank) that because I am blonde, I should seriously consider dying my hair dark and wearing glasses so people would take me more seriously. Seriously.
How has landing this job after your internship affected your life?
I was actually talking about this last night with a coworker. When you are happy with what you do in your daily life, and you feel pride in what you do every day, then I think it just shows through to your friends, to your family, and to your partner. For me, I see a huge difference in my relationship with my boyfriend since I got this position—just in me feeling like I’m building a career and a life for myself and us.
Where do you see yourself personally in a year?
I actually made a vision board when I got my internship. Vision boards are so crucial! When you can see your goals laid out and envision them happening, and you picture it every single day, amazing things will happen.
For the next year personally, what I see is possibly a German Shepherd puppy and moving to a new neighborhood that is closer to my boyfriend’s new job. Also, we love visiting new cities—this year, I’m thinking Chicago!
Has your internship experience shaped who you are today?
Absolutely. I was able to prove to myself that I was smart enough, good enough, and skilled enough to be working in this industry, as well as that my perception of other people wasn’t everything and that I was educated enough to be working in this same group of very smart women. I didn’t need to feel intimidated.
What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?
Comparison is the thief of joy. I spent so long comparing myself to what other people were doing and worrying too much about what I wasn’t doing. So, I would tell myself to stop comparing and just do what you want to do instead. Never let yourself think you’re not good enough to be achieving what the people around you are. Just take more risks!
Jessica is The Everygirl…
What is the cause closest to your heart?
Anything related to prostate cancer. Four years ago, my Dad was diagnosed and although he is now cancer free, it will always be a cause I continually find ways to support and keep close to my heart.
Next vacation destination?
San Francisco… California has my heart.
What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Drink the large glass of water I have strategically placed on my bedside table.
The last thing you do before you turn out the lights?
Apply my Vitruvi “sleep” oil, and watch a late night episode of “The Office.”
Best pump-up song for when interning gets tough?
“Started From The Bottom” by Drake. Get it? Intern humor …
What is the single best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Never regret something that once made you smile.
I wish I knew how to:
What did you purchase with your first “career girl” paycheck?
A night out for my man and me! He was living with an intern for a while, so I thought he deserved it.
Favorite way to treat yourself?
Pedicures with my best friends!
Advice From the Top
We asked Jessica’s boss and mentor, Clio, what it really takes to be a superstar intern. Here’s what she had to say about excelling as an intern!
Easy—passion to learn, dedication, and demonstration of hard work ethic. A lot of things in our job descriptions can be taught, but multi-tasking, urgency, and excitement to learn and excel are characteristics that I look for when evaluating an intern’s next steps within the company.