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Meet Kelsey: PR Manager and Professional Dancer

Kelsey and I met at an interesting time in both of our careers- she was in her first role after graduating from college and I had just transitioned from working in politics to the private sector. Honestly we were both a little lost and bonded over our shared feeling of trying to figure out what was next for us. Kelsey’s tenacious attitude has always served her well and I’m proud to call her my friend.

I really appreciated learning from her again and I know you will too. One of the coolest things about Kelsey is that she has continued to dance even though she has a hectic career in PR. She’s inspired me to get back to my hobbies!

Tell us a bit about yourself/your career

I’m a 26-year-old B2B PR Manager at Zillow Group where I handle industry PR. PR as a career landed in my lap after checking a box at some point saying I was interested in majoring in communications/PR prior to college. I went to Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA and because of that check box I landed an awesome advisor in the PR department and found that PR was the right fit for me. I started into the “real world” thinking the agency world was where I’d find the challenging and fast-paced career I knew I wanted.

While still in college, I interned at a large agency in Seattle on food and beverage accounts. After graduating, I got a part-time community relations/event team job run out of a tiny agency, knowing it wasn’t exactly what I wanted long-term, but would be good experience. After that, I heard about a role at a small, young tech PR agency in Salt Lake City (where I met Brittany) through another Gonzaga grad and decided to go for it (I had never spent any time in SLC). Ultimately, I decided that agency at its current growth stage and Salt Lake City weren’t a long-term fit for me and moved back to Seattle.

Next, I spent almost 3 years at a large, mostly tech PR agency working on the Microsoft account, specifically on the Office piece of the business. I was feeling really stagnant in my role and decided to go for an in-house PR Manager role at Zillow, even though the experience on the job description seemed a bit above where I was at. I ended up getting the job and started in November.

Outside of work, I dance professionally with a small contemporary company (Version Excursion Dance), participate in a free fitness movement called November Project, grab happy hour with friends and enjoy exploring the beautiful city of Seattle.

How does your community of women you surround yourself with support you?

I really struggled living in Salt Lake with no support system. One of the best things I did after moving back to Seattle was join a fitness group called Tone It Up that I heard about from a friend of mine in college. It’s this amazing, empowering group of women who support each other in fitness and all other aspects of our lives. I’ve met my best friends and roommates through this group. All of the women are balancing jobs, family, staying healthy and all the other hustle and bustle that life throws our way, and yet take time to support others in the community. It’s really inspiring when you see others crushing it, and that makes me feel like I can do it too.

It’s also how I found balance. It was a way for me to take time for myself and bolster my self-esteem in particular because I had gone from dancing 35 hours or more in college to only 1-2 hours a week. I also felt intimidated by the gym and let’s be real, I was working CRAZY long hours. This community showed me so many examples of other women who were succeeding at work while also taking time for themselves.

What is the most important thing young professional women can focus on right out of college?

Build your network. I credit a lot of the opportunities I have received to the network I have made, much of that through other Gonzaga alumni. I often sit down with current students or recent grads and the thing I can’t tell them enough is go out and meet people doing what you want to do. And, even if you don’t quite know yet, find people in roles that sound interesting to you.

What do you wish you could go back and tell your younger self re: your career aspirations?

I took a lot of risk early on in my career by moving to a totally new city. Because of that, I would go back and tell myself that it is totally ok to not be happy in your first role and for it to not be perfect. I had this image in my head that I would find a great place and work there for 4-5 years at least, and that absolutely wasn’t the case, and it was okay! In fact, I do feel I’m better for taking that risk and learning all that I did from it.

What’s your career-related mantra? 

I love this quote: “To be successful you have to be selfish, or else you never achieve. And once you get to your highest level, then you have to be unselfish. Stay reachable. Stay in touch. Don’t isolate.”

I know some find the word selfish to have a negative connotation, but I don’t take it that way and at 26 I am the first to call myself selfish. This manifests itself in a few ways, but the most prominent being that I don’t work on anyone else’s timeline when it comes to my career. If I’m challenged and feel fulfilled, great I’ll keep on going. If I start feeling like I’m not getting those things, I speak up and try to make it happen. If it becomes consistent, that’s when I’ve looked for and ultimately found new roles.

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