Preparing for the Howard University School of Communications Career Fair involves networking with key players in the communications field. For the past few years, Publicis Groupe, an international advertising and public relations company, coordinated a networking reception the night before the career fair to bring recruiters, Howard alumni and students together. As students who attended raved about how beneficial the event was this year, many of them overlooked the fact that it was planned by one of their fellow Bison, a student named Safia Hurst.
With internships at top advertising agencies under her belt, Safia is well on her way to leaving her legacy in the advertising world. The senior advertising major at Howard University is currently the President of the Howard University Student Chapter of the American Advertising Federation.
During the Publicis Groupe networking reception last year, her growing connections in advertising introduced her to a recruiter at Leo Burnett, one of the world’s top advertising agencies with high-profile clients including The Coca-Cola Company, McDonald’s and P&G. The introduction, in addition to Safia’s previous work experience and undeniable passion for advertising, landed her a summer internship at Leo Burnett in Chicago.
Safia’s life-changing experience as an attendee of the Publicis Groupe networking event last year and on the student planning team, encouraged her to pay it forward. She lead the student planning committee for the event before this year’s career fair in hopes of encouraging other students to take advantage of the opportunities in front of them.
“The Publicis Groupe networking event is championed by Howard alum who are currently working there. Essentially everyone who was on the student planning team got an offer for employment or an internship with Publicis. More than likely they got that opportunity through the Publicis networking event so they are expected to be on the team the following year,” said Safia. “But it was also a personal obligation for me because I wanted to help recruit talent just like someone recruited me.”
This year the Publicis planning committee added a panel featuring Howard alumni who worked at various advertising firms under Publicis Groupe. In addition to organizing the networking event and coordinating classroom presentations for Publicis representatives, Safia moderated the panel.
“Being heavily involved with the Publicis planning committee and leading the student team was an opportunity for me to add value and leave my legacy,” said Safia. “It was a great turnout and I received excellent feedback from recruiters, Publicis reps and students. Hopefully I am able to pass my responsibilities to another bright Howard student who will help make next year’s event even better.”
Safia’s major accomplishments early on in her career is a result of her passion for her craft and unmatched work ethic. But another factor in her success is her ambitious spirit and desire to take advantage of the opportunities that are available.
Safia launched her career in advertising by leading a team of four students in the DraftFCB Adopt-A-Team Professional Development Program at Howard University. The program, which also has partnerships with various communications companies including Interpublic Group and Constituency Management Group, allows students to network with key players in the communications field. The DraftFCB Adopt-A-Team program was more than a networking opportunity as it gave Safia and her teammates the chance to create a mock advertising campaign for one of DraftFCB’s clients. They also organized a DraftFCB recruitment event at Howard where representatives gave a presentation to students and conducted on-site interviews the next day.
Safia’s leadership on the team landed her an internship with DraftFCB the summer after her sophomore year at Howard. While DraftFCB’s internship is usually for juniors, seniors and recent graduate students, Safia’s tenacity earned her a spot in the internship class.
“That summer, I was recruited to intern at DraftFCB and another Howard student was hired as well. It is gratifying to know that people might not have gotten the exposure or opportunity to meet advertising recruiters if it wasn’t for the work that I did to organize the first DraftFCB recruiting event at Howard.”
Interning at DraftFCB was an invaluable learning experience for Safia and her first introduction to the agency life. She quickly fell in love with the laid back and fun culture of advertising agencies yet their ability to produce award-winning campaigns. While the classroom educated her on the basics of the industry, her internship at DraftFCB helped her see how advertising all came together. As a team member of the United States Postal Service account, Safia learned the skills to become well-versed in the advertising world. She also discovered the entrepreneurship spirit found in advertising when she presented about advertising to the African American demographic to the president of the company.
Safia’s internship at Leo Burnett the following summer continued to mold her into the advertising guru that she aspires to be. At her internship, she was on the P&G account where she learned how P&G brands are advertised at CVS and Target stores and online.
“One thing that I loved most about both of my internships is that I felt like a team member. I was assigned to important things that impacted the success of the project. My internship at Leo gave me a serious bootcamp on how to work for a client. I was also assigned a competitive auditing project that is still used for the P&G teams. It is an honor to know that I left a piece of my work behind that my team still finds valuable.”
Safia admits that she wouldn’t be as well versed in the advertising industry if she didn’t intern at an agency. She understands the value of internships and case studies where students can understand every aspect of advertising. But in addition to getting internship experience, Safia encourages students to just be themselves.
“Advertising is the type of field where you don’t need to be an ad major to be successful. But you need to be yourself. It is a competitive industry so you have to connect with people and show them who you really are. Show them your unique perspective and what your passions are. These are the things that shape your view and add value to the workplace.”
In the future, Safia sees herself navigating through the agency side of advertising. She hopes that the things that she sees and experiences within the next few years will help her find her passion and ultimately become a better ad professional.
It seems like just yesterday when Safia typed “words” and “images” into a career-finder website and “advertising” came up in the results. At the time, the senior at Tri Cities High School in East Point, Georgia was uncertain about her career path. But less than four years later, Safia has already achieved great things before graduating from college. Her recent success is only a snippet of the monumental things that she will accomplish.
“I’m very optimistic and excited about the next chapter of my life. But I’m also very anxious as well. This nervous energy is a positive motivator that encourages me to finish my senior year strong and become the person that I want to be.”