23 September 2013

Introducing Katie Hinerman, guest blogger

I have been so blessed in this life to have true, sincere, faithful, hilarious friends.
Highschool, oh the braces!

Katie Hinerman, or as she will always be known to me - Hinerman, is one of those friends.  Even though she was one of "those" cheerleaders, and I was one of "those" (completely inept, warm the bench type) soccer players, we hit it off.  Our mutual love of sarcasm, liberal politics, mango flavored icey treats and horrible mismanagement of men creatures bonded us for life.

We both studied Public Relations.  I went to Marshall University, and Hinerman went to that other school a little more north.  While virtually ALL of our other friends were in the medical fields discussing herniated plasmastic ACL displacements or something like that, we were discussing whether the serial comma was necessary and comparing Fox and CNN's coverage of the Sago Mine disaster.  After completing college and a brief stint as a live-in nanny, Hinerman and I hatched a plan to live together across from our favorite bar in Wheeling and get jobs being kick ass young PR professionals.

Well it didn't exactly work out that way, but we lived together for about 6 months and both live to tell the tale (although it was touch-and-go with Hinerman wanting a pretty Christmas mantle with live pine and lit candles causing our whole apartment to almost go up in flames kind of way).

Now 5 years later we both have jobs we love in the public relations arena and still enjoy late night talks of how far AP style has come (website now doesn't have to be capitalized), and how far we haven't come (in that we'll still be single forever at this rate).

As Hinerman is bettering herself and being amazing at graduate school, she was tasked with interviewing a PR professional about his or her career.  As I was home that weekend for a family wedding, I  became the defunct PR professional on hand.  Over a few drinks and lots of laughs the interview was conducted, and the following is Hinerman's resulting report on me.

God, I love this girl.

Interview of a Marketing/PR Professional
By Katie Hinerman

Growing up as a ‘90s kid, Sarah Kemp wanted to be a marine biologist.  Who doesn’t love Shamu?!  And in elementary school, her favorite school supplies featured the brightly colored dolphin designs from the Lisa Frank collection.  Clearly, she was destined to work in marine biology.

However, Kemp never did learn how to swim.  And she didn’t remember to feed her pet fish.  Sadly, Rufus only survived a few weeks at home before he moved on to a better place and joined his brothers in the sea.  (Actually, he joined his brothers in the city sewage pipes.  Even so, it was still probably a better place for him, compared to being owned by Sarah.)  Kemp loved learning about ocean life, and loved the accessories that went along with it. But without basic skills in the field, she wasn’t going to make it far.  Fortunately, she also had a passion for writing, and she had the natural talent and abilities to match that passion.

An aspiring writer, Kemp headed to college at Marshall University.  She realized she didn’t want to major in English because of the limited number of jobs available to English majors, outside of teaching.  Instead, Kemp chose to study journalism.

“After shopping around the journalism school, I realized I didn’t enjoy objective writing; I preferred subjective writing,” Kemp said.  “So I ruled out a major in print or broadcast [journalism], and I chose public relations.”

Her first job in the public relations field was a marketing internship for Ernst & Young.  She quickly realized that she didn’t enjoy working in a position where she lacked a deep connection and passion for the company.

Next, she took a job as a college recruiter for her alma mater, Marshall University.  During that time, she said her commitment to succeed was fostered by a love for her school.  Nonetheless, after a couple of years working in that position, she became anxious for a new challenge.

In 2010, Kemp began her career at the USO, a non-profit organization whose mission is to support our troops.  She worked as a duty manager at the USO Center in Kandahar, Afghanistan.  At that time, she was the only staff member at the center with a marketing or public relations background.  As such, she became the unofficial social media manager.  She handled the USO Kandahar Facebook page, wrote blog posts, and worked with the USO headquarters to secure interviews with CBS News and Newsweek Magazine.  Thriving in these roles, she discovered her niche.  Unlike poor Rufus, the troops in the Middle East received great support and care from Kemp and her co-workers.

“I found my passion working to support our troops.  Serving a population that makes the greatest sacrifices and asks for the smallest rewards incites in me a passion to help them.”

Kemp continued helping our troops, even extending her contract working in Afghanistan.  When she finally returned home, she said a dismal job market awaited her.  She wanted to work in a public relations position with a military non-profit organization.  With such specific criteria, employment opportunities were especially limited.  Nonetheless, Kemp was prepared for the job hunt.  She had been utilizing her networks to reach out to contacts that could provide assistance, and she had kept her online resume updated with her published works and her personal blog.  She then invested a great deal of her time and energy in searching and applying for relevant jobs.  In one instance, she had even gone through 5 rounds of interviews before the employers made their hiring decisions; unfortunately, Kemp was not offered a position.  After 8 months of job searching with no success, she adjusted her strategy. 

“Eventually I took a temporary position just to get my foot in the door.  It took a lot of swallowing my pride to accept an entry-level temp position while possessing a degree and 5 years of experience,” said Kemp.  “Ultimately, that temporary position led to my current position which I love.”

Sarah Kemp now works as Manager of Volunteer Operations for the USO.   In her current position, she especially enjoys applying her expertise to help solve a problem or to find a way to more efficiently serve our troops.  Any time she can ease a small burden for USO staff members, they can in turn focus on providing support for the troops; and that is most important to her.

Her most rewarding days are when she is able to help multiple USO centers in multiple locations around the world.  “When I help solve a problem for a center in Germany, in Japan, in Afghanistan, and in the U.S. all in one day, I feel empowered, excited, and exhausted,” Kemp said.

While assisting multiple USO centers is one of the most rewarding aspects of Kemp’s job, it can also present some of her greatest challenges.  “With more than 160 locations in 18 time zones, and a volunteer operations department consisting of only my boss and me, it is easy to ‘fall down a rabbit hole,’” Kemp said.

In her position, she sometimes finds it difficult to complete large projects.  She often puts her work on hold multiple times a day in order to assist with questions or issues from USO centers throughout the world.  Indeed, Kemp’s greatest challenge is managing her time in the most efficient and effective way she can.

Sarah Kemp’s career is inspirational to me.  She is continuously bettering herself, and to that end, she is not afraid to make a change or to take a calculated risk.  I highly respect her both personally and professionally, and I feel motivated and excited to apply some of the lessons she learned and the advice she gave to my own career and life.

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