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President, TOLO Events, LLC
Choosing a Major
When Shelly enrolled as a first-year student at Messiah College, she declared a major in communication, envisioning herself immersed in the exciting world of broadcast news. While she clung to her dream, college life was gently refocusing her ambitions in a new direction: "Experiences I enjoyed at Messiah gave me insight into a career I would never have considered: fundraising," she reveals. With a new career goal, Shelly wavered between adding a minor either in political science or business administration. "I listened to my parents and minored in business administration. This was a great combination."
The Messiah Experience
Despite her loaded academic schedule, Shelly found time to devote to campus life. She became more involved with her school as the general manager of Messiah's radio station, and she also participated in the student government and volunteered in the Development Office. Her involvement with the office that coordinates the college's financial support pointed her towards her new vocational interest: "It was through the annual alumni phonathons that I learned about the importance of fundraising," she explains, "and that this could be a great career for women."
Career Center Experience
Shelly took advantage of the career counseling offered by the Career Center, taking a personality type test and using inventories to see where her skills meshed with her personality type for "potential career paths." The results of the inventories reinforced Shelly's interests. She was fairly certain of her future career path, stating simply, "I knew the direction I wanted to take."
Every day, Shelly draws on the communication and business administration concepts that she learned in class. "I use my communication and business skills on a daily basis," she says. "Fundraising is concise communication, both in speaking and writing, while event planning is expressing yourself creatively. . . Being able to speak clearly on a one-on-one basis as well as in front of large committees is very important -- and being able to quickly think on your feet is key."
At Messiah, Shelly also learned to be "grounded" in her faith in a spiritually-challenging world, which helps her maintain her morals in the workplace. "Working in a secular environment, it is extremely important to not get caught up in gossiping. My faith also helps me to guide my clients to select themes or ideas that are very tasteful."
What to Do Next
Shelly turned down an opportunity to pursue an unpaid internship with the Pittsburgh Penguins. "My first step after graduation was just to dive in and get the resumes out there. . . While I really wanted that internship, I wanted to get a job as soon as possible so that there wasn't a long gap in my resume after graduating."
Through her volunteer experience in the Development Office at Messiah, Shelly learned of an available position in the department after graduation. This was her initial boost into the career field she had been aiming for.
In a feat of multitasking, Shelly negotiates the many facets of event planning on a daily basis and masters what many people would consider an enormous task list. Never experiencing a dull moment in her schedule and appreciating that no two days are alike, she rests in the certainty that she chose the right career path. "I definitely thrive on deadlines, so this vocation is perfect for me," she states with assurance. Unlike many other careers, event planners work with a rigid deadline; they "must be ready to go and have everything accomplished because there are no extensions to the planning process."
Find out how other Messiah graduates became entrepreneurs:
Profile by Brianna Davidson, August 2005