Alumni Connection Panelist: Jenn Korail

J. Korail headshot

Jenn is a 2005 alumna in Communication Studies. Currently, she stands as an Account Director at Airfoil Group in Southfield, MI. She began her tenure at Airfoil directly out of college as an intern in the company’s research department. Now a nine-year Airfoil veteran, Jenn leads and executes communications and marketing initiatives across the company’s diverse client portfolio and supports the professional development of many of Airfoil’s staff. Her specialties include national media relationship building, messaging, executive coaching and crisis communications.  A few examples of her current clients include tier one automotive supplier Faurecia, Altair Engineering, and Creditera.

Q: Tell us a bit about the path you took to get where you are.

Jenn Korail: My path was somewhat non-traditional, as it relates to geography. Before I hailed from U of M, I was a Southern California native. While I have family in the state of Michigan, I chose the University sight-unseen for the academics, for the sporting teams I loved, and for the opportunity to experience something new. I was fortunate to find a strong and promising career nearly right out of college despite the ensuing economic and automotive downturns, and I have never looked back. To this day, anytime I introduce myself to someone, I inevitably get the question, “What are you doing in Michigan?” In many ways, though I beat myself up right around February of every winter, I feel a little sense of pride knowing that my individual path bucked the trend of individuals leaving the state of Michigan for other opportunities. Many of my colleagues and I have worked with automotive companies over the last decade, and it has been very eye opening and humbling to not only survive, but thrive during a time of uncertainty.

Q: When did you know what field you wanted to go into? What experiences led you there?

JK: I knew early on that writing was one of my strengths and in high school, had considered journalism. One of the experiences that led me to public relations and marketing was through the Michigan Association of Communication Studies (MACS), where I was able to network. We had an informal panel speak at a weekly meeting, and I met someone who worked for Airfoil. I was immediately drawn to the company. Thanks to her encouragement and advice, we eventually became colleagues. Never underestimate the possibilities in meeting someone new and asking for help, advice or insights, especially through the U of M network.

Q: What UM classes or extracurricular activities did you find particularly helpful in your job field?

JK: Personally, maintaining the right balance when managing responsibilities across school, work, extracurricular commitments and social activities prepared me most for my job field. My biggest piece of advice is to take a chance on a minor or a few classes outside of the norm that offer diversity in life experience. Two of my most memorable classes at U of M were a Russian Cinema course and an independent study where the students had to take on the roles of real life politicians in an online government community. Things I learned in both of these classes still come up for me in my field, and in life.

Q: Describe a day-in-the-life at work:

JK: No two days are alike in the communications field, especially when working with a variety of clients. The beauty and the chagrin of PR and marketing is that you could have your entire day planned out and everything can change in one moment, sometimes sooner. Working with a number of different clients, industries and people, however, means more opportunity for variety in daily and ongoing work, ability to gain expertise across more than one field and chances to advance when things change. On any given day, someone in an entry level position could host a media briefing for a client, lead a brainstorm for a potential new business opportunity, craft a social media content calendar, research data points for the development of an infographic, and/or pitch a trend story to a reporter.

It’s definitely an ongoing exercise in prioritization, organization and self-management, but it has helped me understand the difference between being responsive and reactive, two very different ways of managing any situation. And most importantly, it encourages collaboration among teams and clients, and leaves no room for boredom.

If it’s possible to manage along with class and extracurricular activities, spend some time working in a service industry – whether it’s at a restaurant, in a retail store or other similar environment where it’s important to manage expectations, work with a diverse set of people and serve others.

Q: What is one of the best, as well as one of the most challenging, aspects of your work?

JK: One of the best aspects of my work by far is the daily interaction with my colleagues and clients. I’m fortunate to work with some of the smartest, most creative and strategic people in the industry, and while the work is challenging by design, we have a lot of fun together.

Q: What is one of the most memorable moments you have had at work?

JK: It would be near impossible to name one moment, but I would say it involves a series of moments in time that have made my entire work experience memorable. Singular moments like being a part of a team that wins a significant new piece of business, coaching a global company’s top executive on how to deliver a key message to a journalist or analyst, and landing a national story for a client are always particularly memorable. The moments I have cherished the most long-term have involved my personal evolution as a professional over time, and building relationships with clients and influencers who are important to them. Some examples include helping teach someone skills I have learned, witnessing a client’s “a-ha” moment when they start to “get” how PR and marketing works, learning to incorporate strategy into all elements of communications, and becoming more content-marketing focused as the world of PR transitions to a more well-rounded integrated communications field. Finally, managing others’ career paths and having the opportunity to be involved in someone else’s professional growth and achievement have been the most rewarding, exciting and meaningful parts of my job.

Q: Provide a piece of advice for students working towards internships and full-time opportunities in the communications field.

JK: Try everything once. Raise your hand to lead something, even if you’ve never done it before. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. Involve others where you think they can help. Show people and clients that you care. Take the time to help and teach others what you know. Approach all situations with the potential for coming up with a solution. Be willing to truly accept criticism and feedback. It will always pay off because there is always an opportunity to learn from the experience.

These might be no-brainers, but they are the elements that make up a professional with the ideal approach and disposition anyone would want on his or her team.

Finally, find someone you can consider a mentor or example who takes an interest in your growth as a professional. I have been incredibly lucky to have colleagues, managers, coaches and even clients who took interest in, or simply took a chance with me. Whether it meant helping me learn the ropes on an assignment, speaking the truth, giving me advice and feedback, or serving as my advocate, it has made all the difference in my career. This will only work if you pay it forward, and I make a point to try to serve as an advocate or example for someone every day, no matter how large or small the action.

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