Recent USC Graduate
Master’s Degree in Communications
As a relatively new IABC-LA member, TJ Stevko is quickly discovering the benefits of membership. He recently earned his master’s degree in Communication Management from USC and has found the IABC message boards and local LA members to be a valuable resource for candid career advice.
While attending graduate school, TJ gained important real-world communication experience through a variety of internships. Most recently, he worked as a marketing communications intern for CaseStack – one of the nation’s fastest-growing logistics outsourcing services. In addition to writing press releases, award entries, the company newsletter and material for a recent corporate acquisition, he created the company’s first-ever corporate blog. Prior to CaseStack, TJ served as a corporate communications intern for Vivendi Games and an account intern for Formula PR. TJ also served as the Special Events Chair for the Annenberg School for Communication Masters Association during the 2006-2007 academic year coordinating events for alumni and students.
TJ earned his bachelor’s degree in Film Production from Loyola Marymount University and remains passionate about staying on the cutting edge of entertainment, media and communications.
Q: What made you want to get your master’s degree in communications?
A: The original plan was to study communications as a continuation of my undergraduate film production degree. While at USC I made an effort to branch out and explore other career options the program offered and, through classes and internships, communications quickly emerged as a more fulfilling career than my previous work in entertainment.
Q: When did you join IABC? And what have you found most valuable about your membership?
A: I joined IABC right after attending the first meeting for the USC chapter in Spring of 2006. I’ve found the amount of information available to be the most valuable part. When I was stuck on a problem in my internships or coursework, I would consult the various message board posts or articles in the newsletters to spark an idea. It was always interesting to read other peoples’ ideas and suggestions.
Q: What sort of internships have you had and what surprised you about working in communications?
A: I’ve had a variety of communications internships over the past few years ranging from motion picture distribution, public relations, marketing and employee communications. I took advantage of my time at USC to experience as many opportunities as possible.
What surprised me the most was how involved the communication departments were. I know that sounds obvious, but it’s one of those things that doesn’t truly click until you see it and do it for yourself. The communications team needs to know what everyone is doing and how to keep everyone on the same page. Working as a part of those teams provided many valuable learning experiences.
Q: Can you tell me about an unusual experience you’ve had at one of your internships?
A: A few years ago I was happily working as a production assistant on an independent feature film when, just a few days into shooting, the director announced that he needed me to act as the second assistant director (AD)! In case you don’t know, the 2nd AD sets the production schedule, reports progress to the producers and ensures everything is ready for the next day’s shoot. As you can imagine, it’s a pretty high-stress position that involves keeping track of a ton of details and coming up with solutions to problems on the fly. Not to mention dealing with some interesting personalities on the set.
At first I was terrified. Why would these professionals listen to or even talk to an undergraduate who was just a production assistant two days ago? Fortunately, I was able to turn on my charm and develop a good relationship with them. In the three weeks that I served as 2nd AD, I got a crash course in working as part of a team, communicating in a variety of ways and putting out unexpected logistical fires (last minute changes are a way of life on set!). I hold this experience close to my heart because it reminds me that I can always rise to a challenge and work successfully with even the craziest personalities.
Q: What area of communication interests you most? In other words, what career path do you want to jump on?
A: My overall goal is to manage internal and external corporate communications. Growing up, many of my family’s friends worked in a variety of industries and I always enjoyed listening to them talk about the different ways they handled communication issues – I enjoyed it even before I decided to pursue communications as a career.
Q: What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your job hunt?
A: There have been two fairly big challenges. The first is finding the type of job that will give me the necessary experience in corporate communications. The second challenge is timing – finding the job at just the right moment.
Luckily, I’ve met some great people through school and IABC who have been very helpful and candid in their advice and support whenever I have a question in this area.
Q: What are some of the reasons a company should hire you?
A: I think my breadth of experience is valuable in a profession where a one-size-fits-all strategy doesn’t work. I’m able to quickly process information, effectively communicate a story or idea and handle pressure with poise. These skills have come in handy in the past when I’m filming a movie, or more recently with pitching a media plan or talking to employees about a recent merger.
Q: What are some of your hobbies?
A: Thanks to my education, I have an avid interest in entertainment, media and the latest communications tools. I also follow politics a bit too much for my own good, but I have no aspirations of ever directly working in that field.
It sounds cliché, but I mostly enjoy spending time with my friends and family. Sometimes that involves going on vacation, hikes, out to see a show or a quiet evening at home. As long as the company is good I’m up for anything.