Baillee Furst ’20 had a plan for her future when she enrolled at Simpson College. During her first semester on campus, her plans changed. With assistance from the Office of Career Development, Baillee aligned her values with a career path that would provide the best outlet for her creativity. Multiple internships and leadership roles helped prepare her for her role as the marketing communications and event planning manager for the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce.
Job Title: Marketing Communications and Event Planning Manager, West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce
Hometown: Boone, Iowa
Majors: English, Public Relations
Minor: Political Science
Involvement at Simpson: Career Development UGA, Firm Director of C Street, President of PRSSA, Softball (manager), President of Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), Sigma Tau Delta, Pi Sigma Alpha
Exploreships at Simpson: Marketing Communications Intern at Cemen Tech, Communications Intern at Your Clear Next Step, Digital Marketing Intern at Iowa Farm Bureau, Spring District Ambassador with PRSSA National, Runner for NBC/MSNBC (during 2020 Iowa Caucus coverage)
As the marketing and communications and event planning manager for the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce, what does your job entail?
My job at the Chamber looks a lot different now than it will in the post-COVID world. Right now, I plan and organize our events, which we've transitioned online until August. I definitely didn't expect to be working my first job from my parents' house in Boone, but I'm lucky to be part of such a great team. For the other half of my job, I coordinate our marketing, including administering our social media, creating and sending our newsletters, writing news releases and more.
Why did you choose this line of work?
I decided at the beginning of my senior year that I really wanted to work in the nonprofit sector after graduation. I knew I wanted a job that would allow me to wear a lot of different hats to figure out what I really enjoy doing. I also wanted to work for an organization making a difference. Luckily I got just that with the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce. Even though we've been virtual, I interact with people every day over email and meet new people multiple times a week at the Chamber's virtual events. These virtual events are more important now than ever because so many people are still isolated because of COVID. By hosting events, we provide a little bit of reprieve from that isolation.
This isn't the career path you had in mind you first enrolled at Simpson. How did you discover your passion?
During my first year, Bobbi Sullivan and Laurie Dufoe with the Office of Career Development came to my colloquium class and led a values sort. At the time I was planning on being pre-law. I quickly discovered based on my values that law wasn't going to be the field for me. I met with Laurie at least 10 times that first semester, which consisted of me taking personality tests, navigating career sites and ironing out a four-year plan. That process helped me decide my value for creativity would be utilized best with public relations and English majors. Laurie also pushed me to get my first internship in November of my first year. I really knew it was the career path for me after taking Principles of Public Relations my second semester.
You enjoyed lots of worthwhile experiences outside the classroom, including multiple internships. How do you feel those internships impacted your ability to find a job?
Internships are one of the most important experiences you have during college. They're heavily pushed, especially in the public relations/communications/marketing world, and most places will not hire you if you haven't had an internship. My internships helped shape who I am and my college experience. They make you accountable in a way classwork doesn't — at least mine did. Especially in regards to my internship with Iowa Farm Bureau, I had a lot of freedom in deciding my hours, pitching ideas and executing them. I felt like I was part of the team, and that experience is so important when you're in a highly competitive job market.
It sounds like you spent a lot of time in the Office of Career Development during your first year. Did you utilize the office's services after that?
Yes. I pretty much lived there throughout my time at Simpson. I utilized the office a lot my first year when I was still figuring out my major and career path, and then my sophomore, junior and senior years I was an undergraduate assistant with the office. I can't say enough good things about Bobbi and Laurie, they're truly an underutilized resource and the hidden gem of the college.
What kind of support did you receive from faculty and staff during your time at Simpson?
I was lucky to have support from so many of Simpson's professors and faculty. My advisors, Brian Steffen (professor of multimedia communication) and CoryAnne Harrigan (professor of English) were integral to my Simpson experience and both served as references for my current job. Former professor Jane Murphy was the advisor for PRSSA and C Street for three of my years at Simpson, two opportunities that were vital to the professional experience I got while at Simpson. Professor Courtney Shaw took over for Jane this last year, and she was a mentor for me regarding the professional world. Brent Matthias, head softball coach, gave me the reigns of the softball team's social media, which really helped me to develop a craft and love for it. And of course Bobbi Sullivan and Laurie Dufoe played very important roles in supporting my professional goals, from resume help to mock interviews to just being people to vent to.
What will you miss most from your time at Simpson?
Leaving Simpson is really bittersweet, especially considering the way things ended. The thing I will miss the most is the people I got to see every day, including my friends, my roommates and Simpson's faculty and staff. I'll miss not getting to wake up each morning and see so many welcoming faces during my walk across campus.
Why did you choose Simpson in the first place?
I chose Simpson because of the connections I made with the professors. I ended up participating and majoring in different things than I intended when I first committed to Simpson, but I still remember feeling so excited receiving postcards from the faculty I spoke with after each of my campus visits. It's those extra things, like postcards, phone conversations with a professor, comments on social media from the college, that led me to choose Simpson.