Journalism alumna talks career opportunities in Washington, D.C.

Natalie Yezbick, SMU 2015 alumna, currently works as a press assistant in Sen. John Cornyn’s D.C. office. She graduated after triple majoring in journalism, public relations and political communications. Yezbick spoke with SMU Campus Weekly about the process of landing the job, her experiences in D.C. and tips for soon-to-be graduates.

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Natalie Yezbick. Photo credit: Courtesy of Natalie Yezbick

Q: How did you land the job in D.C.?

A: “My spring semester senior year, I was only taking 12 hours so I decided to pick up an internship in Sen. Cornyn’s state office. I had applied to a bunch of journalism jobs, but I never heard back. I had put a lot of pressure on myself to get into a big outlet. And with big outlets, it’s not that you’re denied, you just never hear. So seven days before graduation, I got an email from the communications director in the D.C. office asking if I wanted to talk about an opportunity in the press office. When I got it, I had just gotten out of the shower and I started screaming and jumping up and down. I interviewed right after I finished my exams, five days before graduation. I found out 24 hours after that I got the job.”

Q: What do you do for your job on a typical day?

A: “I’m a press assistant. We have a pretty big press shop, just because we’re a pretty big state. We handle a lot. I do pretty much anything that needs to be done. I just support everybody else in the office. Whether it’s doing a first draft on a release, or talking to reporters. I really like talking to reporters because being a journalism major, kind of like the link back to what I used to do. It’s neat that I still get to talk to people in that industry and a lot of them are my friends. D.C. has a really vibrant media, political communications environment, obviously. So it’s really awesome that you can kind of mingle with them.”

Q: What’s the best part of your job?

A: “I would say first the people. The people I work with are some of the best of the best. They’re great to learn from and they’re also really humble. I was told by someone on the Hill that if you talk about how important the work is that you’re do, you might not being doing that important of work. You’ll never hear anyone complain about the hours. They’re all just really happy to be there and happy to help. I’m really lucky to work for a great guy that I believe in a lot. I can’t imagine going to work for someone that I didn’t believe wholeheartedly was doing good things. And I know I come into work knowing – this is going to sound so cheesy – but I know that the country is going to be better off for the work that we’re doing.”

Q: What skill did you learn at SMU that you use most often?

A: “Journalism majors are going to hate this but the teachers will love me for this. AP style. In my office, I am known as the AP style guru. I love AP style. We have long conversations about quotes within quotes within a quote within a subhead. But definitely having that, I feel like coming in as the most junior person in the press office, but being able to say, I understand grammar. I understand AP style gives you that extra edge of ‘Wow. She’s been trained well. She’s confident in what she knows with that.’ And I really credit SMU for that.”

Q: Any advice to soon-to-be graduates?

A: “Your senior year second semester internship matters a lot. So make sure that it’s somewhere that you can see yourself. I would definitely say that if you graduate without a job, you’re not a failure. If you don’t work at a big outlet, you’re not a failure. A career is a long process and eventually you get to where you want to be. I just got really lucky.”

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