By Emma Kirkpatrick
From being senior class president in high school to moving to Chicago right after college and working for Edelman, one of the most esteemed public relations and marketing agencies in the country, Chelsea Gardner, an NC State graduate with a degree in communication and minor in journalism, has never failed to impress her teachers and colleagues.
Attending NC State with a Park Scholarship, a four-year program and full-ride scholarship awarded to accelerated and gifted students who show potential in scholarship, leadership, service and character, Gardner wasted no time becoming involved in various activities, organizations and clubs.
“I am an achiever,” said Gardner. “I want to be constantly achieving, and I am a person who always wants to do things as well as they can be done.”
As president of the Kappa Omicron Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at NC State, president of the W.E.B. Du Bois Honor Society and a member of Lambda Pi Eta Communication Honor Society, Gardner was heavily involved in extracurricular activities, which she attributes to her involvement in high school.
“I came to college with a love for writing, reading and English,” said Gardner. “I became interested in public relations once I realized it combined these worlds. PR joins verbal and nonverbal skills to make an impact and a difference.”
Gardner earned her first internship at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. From media audits to sending office-wide monitoring emails and communicating with different reporters, Gardner fell in love with the hectic PR world.
“Managing up and figuring out how to impress your boss and make him or her look good is a challenge for a lot of interns, but having your work recognized and knowing you did the best you could do is always rewarding,” said Gardner.
After another successful internship at IMRE, a brand communications agency that specializes in social marketing, advertising and media, Gardner began to research different companies and prepare for interviews for jobs after graduation.
“I would advise rising juniors and seniors to take research seriously. Don’t apply to a bunch of companies without researching what they are about and what they stand for,” said Gardner. “Get back up and try again if you don’t get the job you interviewed for. Be confident in your abilities and be willing to put the work in.”
After traveling to Atlanta and attending a mixer for Edelman, a global communications marketing firm, Gardner started a long process of interviewing for the company in February. She then was one of eight prospects to earn a job at Edelman’s founding location in Chicago in late April of 2015.
“I have so many people to thank. I also have a strong faith in God, and I believe everything happens for a reason,” said Gardner.
One professor she credits for preparing her for learning how to work under pressure is Bob Larson. After having three classes with him as an undergrad, she especially remembered her public relations writing course. “Having a new and different assignment every class showed me what it would be like to write on a tight deadline. It helped me prepare for my job now,” said Gardner.
Moving 12 hours away to work for Edelman in Chicago gave Gardner a new perspective on life. “I went from being a southern girl to having to learn to navigate the subway in Chicago,” said Gardner. From shopping, going to festivals and attending movie nights at the park, Gardner is embracing her new life away from home.
“I think taking a career transitions class with Marcy Bullock helped me prepare for where I am now as well. She helped me stop feeling like a broke college student and made me feel employable,” said Gardner.
After being at Edelman for just a short few months, Gardner has already had the opportunity to work on a major crisis communication project, a subject she didn’t know much about. “We had to create a massive communication plan to make sure our client was protected and the company wasn’t subject to any unfavorable media,” said Gardner. “Though the plan had started months before I joined the team, I was able to jump right in and get involved. It was exhilarating and stressful.”
Now looking to finish her rotational program at Edelman, Gardner has a bright future ahead of her. “One thing I love about Edelman is all of the brilliant people who come together to do extraordinary things,” said Gardner. “I want to absorb all the knowledge and skills I am gaining.”