Soon-to-be grad’s view: What can your J&PR skill set get you?
So many opportunities that you get to choose or keep them all

By John Riggin

I’m still caught off-guard when the marketing director looks at me, then around to the others at the conference table, and then nods and agrees — “You’re right, it should be a brighter purple.”

The dusty mauve in question was meant to represent “Hope” in Enloe Medical Center’s new ad campaign for its Regional Cancer Center. I started my internship in Enloe’s marketing and communications office this summer and was honored when they asked me to stay until I graduate in December.

Sometimes I still see myself as a 19-year-old kid with a goofy haircut and a mild case of needing to get one’s sh*t together. I sometimes forget that when I play my cards right, the “grown-ups” at the table see me as a hard-working and dedicated, if not over-dedicated, young professional.

At 22 I have a beard and my hair is orange — so it’s inherently still kind of goofy — but when it’s a little more out of place than usual, my bosses at Enloe are gracious enough to understand that it’s probably one of my other three jobs that’s to blame. I also run public relations for The Orion, have a web-commute internship with an alumna’s beauty startup and freelance for the Chico Enterprise-Record.

image of John Riggin

I changed my major and took a semester off after my sophomore year. A few months working at a pizza joint in Seattle reminded me that I want to be an impactful, educated young professional. Upon returning to Chico I started seeking all the skills Tehama Hall had to offer.

The friend I made leading a group in the PR Research class became my editor-in-chief at The Orion a year later. Chief copy editor life was rough, but the paper winning The Pacemaker, “the Pulitzer Prize of college journalism,” was well worth the effort.

Debra Johnson’s Digital Media Startups and Public Relations Publications classes are a doozy to take together, but surviving them has landed me work with startups and post-grad job interviews.

Enloe’s media specialist, Christina Chavira, happens to be both a Chico State and Orion alumna. She’s provided me with invaluable insight about working on both sides of the journalism and PR worlds. She’s also been great about reminding me that the J&PR program has turned me into a jack of all trades, that it’s not so crazy when people listen to me and perhaps best of all — when I look tired.

I couldn’t be happier with the program I chose, and I kind of just fell into it. I wanted to be more than just another writer; I want to convey impactful messages and create more than press releases and news briefs.

After two years dancing along the line that divides the news-ed and public relations options, I still can’t answer “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I do, however, feel confident that I can produce a captivating story that looks great, given enough caffeine and a deadline.