“Treat this week like a job interview.”
This advice from Robin Roberts, the founder of Washington Media Scholars Foundation, rang in our ears after arriving to Washington, D.C. for the final round 2019 Media Plan Case Competition.
That may sound like a lot of pressure, and it was. When teams can receive a combined $16,000 in scholarships, a multitude of connections at top-tier media companies, and a greater understanding of opportunities for your media career, the pressure is worth it!
Our Media Scholars journey began in fall 2018, when our professor and mentor, Dr. Linwan Wu (University of South Carolina) shared information about the competition. Entering would be a big decision; we had already committed to participating in the National Student Advertising Competition, which meant we would be taking on 2 competitions with heavy workloads in the spring semester. Our decision to apply meant pushing ourselves further than we’d ever had. We knew we would need to bring our A-game.
Fast-forward to the second round of the WMSF competition. We had learned a lot about policy-driven media planning and political contract campaigns. The casework was time-consuming and intellectually challenging, but it was also interesting and based on real-world scenarios. In April, we received news that our team made it to the week-long finals round of competition in Washington, DC. It was at that stage that we heard, for the first time, “Treat this experience like a week-long job interview.”
The idea of a week-long job interview was compelling and overwhelming. Yet we understood that it meant that the competition would represent a major career opportunity for us. For employers, Media Scholars finalists are vetted entry-level candidates. Even teams that make it to finals but don’t win the competition leave DC in a great position to get jobs and internships through the connections you make. Truly, every finalist team wins.
Our DC itinerary included visits and job shadowing opportunities at a variety of companies including Google, NBC, CNN, FoxNews, iHeartMedia, Politico, Axios, The Washington Post, i360, National Media, GMMB, E.W. Scripps, CoxReps, Centro, to name just a few. With each meeting, our understanding of the professional media landscape grew and we formed new connections. The week-long job interview concept proved true.
After a week of learning, professional development and networking, teams presented their casework to an expert panel of judges at Washington DC’s famed Newseum, before attending a networking reception with over 400 industry professionals eager to meet (and hire) the finalists.
We have 3 key takeaways from the Washington Media Scholars Foundation Media Plan Case Competition.
- The first is that you should seize the opportunity. We experienced the hardest semester of our lives while taking part in this competition. School on its own is hard. But invest in yourself and your future by stretching yourself and going for it. You won’t regret it.
- Second, we learned that there are people out there who are genuinely interested in helping students pay for college, make connections and get hired after college. We found those people at Washington Media Scholars Foundation and we’re thankful.
- Third, and most importantly, we learned that if we can do it, you can too. Give it a try! Who knows? Maybe you’ll even win the thing!
Suzanne Green (USC ’19) is now a digital strategist at National Media Inc. Noah McGill graduates in December 2019. Their team won first place in the 2019 Washington Media Scholars Case Competition.