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A Boilermaker who...found her princesses

Name: Kelby Hicks

Graduation Year/Major: 2003, Public Relations Current position: “The best job in the world, I run the Indy 500 Festival Princess Program”

“What do you get when you mix 33 beautiful girls with a few sparking tiaras, several huge events, one month of May, 200 laps around an oval and over 400,000 people? Well, in two words: My life.” This week we asked Kelby to tell us about her job, time at Purdue, and struggles with finding her perfect fit. Here’s what she had to say!

Tell us about your job at the Indy 500 Festival Princess Program:

“The 500 Festival’s mission is to advocate and celebrate the spirit, heritage, and legacy of the Indianapolis 500, which is the worlds most famous and prestigious auto race. It is the largest single day sporting event in the world and the 500 Festival is the country’s only festival the stretches over an entire month. With events like the Mini-Marathon (the nation’s largest half-marathon), the 500 Festival Parade (the 3rd most popular parade in the country behind the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade), and Kid’s Day (Indiana’s largest free outdoor festival for kids), the 500 Festival turns the national spotlight on Indy during the month of May!

The 500 Festival Princess Program is just one program of the 500 Festival. Each year, 33 Indiana college-aged women are chosen to serve as ambassadors for the Festival across the state. These Princesses are chosen based off of their communication skills, community involvement, poise, and academic performance. Once selected, these fabulous young ladies go out into their college community, hometown and Indianapolis to spread the word about all of the spectacular 500 Festival events.

As you can probably imagine, my life during the month of May is crazy. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is a lot of planning and organizing the Princess Program before our girls are even interviewed and selected. Even now, I’m working on soliciting sponsors, promoting the Princess application and doing recruitment visits to all of the Indiana colleges and universities. But it doesn’t feel like work. I honestly believe in this program. I am a product of the Princess Program and love the girls who come through it.”

Did you always know this is what you wanted to do?

“When I graduated from Purdue I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Ten years later I am still struggling with that concept. College is a difficult journey. In the mix of all those football games, tailgates, and Den Pops, we are somehow supposed to determine what we want to do with the rest of our lives. It’s a daunting task and I’m completely envious of those who have a clear vision for their career path.

Fortunately, I decided to substitute life experience for a clear vision. After graduating from Purdue, I felt prepared to find a job in Public Relations. Honestly, I can thank Professor Josh Boyd and his senior-level Communications class for that level of confidence. He taught me exactly what I needed to know to enter the workforce and painted a very clear picture of how to succeed in the ever-evolving world of Public Relations. Find a mentor in your career field, whether it be a professor or a professional and ask lots of questions. Learn from their experiences and take their critiques seriously.

My first job after college was as a Communications Specialist with the Indiana State Senate Majority Caucus where I served as the press secretary for nine state senators. It was not my dream job but it gave me experience in writing and managing the communications needs for nine very different individuals. Since then, I’ve worked in politics, non-profit, and higher education. The best part about having a degree in Communications is that you aren’t limited to just one specialization. I’ve written press releases, planned events, done TV and radio interviews, and fund-raised. Through all of these jobs, I’ve found what I love doing and I wouldn’t have discovered that without taking risks in my career and accepting positions that seemed extremely challenging.”

What advice would you give to students looking for jobs after college?

1. “Don’t try to find a career, that will get you nowhere. Instead, take some time and reflect on what you absolutely love to do. Once you figure out what you love to do, work that into your job search strategy. Be open to new opportunities that may be out of your comfort zone.”

2. “Network the crap out of your college years. Get involved in clubs, be a BGR team leader, or get involved in your sorority/fraternity. Take the time to get to know your classmates and roommates, it’s all about who you know, not what you know. You never know when you’ll need those contacts. If given the opportunity, stretch yourself. Apply for jobs that make you nervous and take on responsibility that requires you to think and work hard.”

3. Enjoy your time at Purdue. It goes by in a flash and you can never get that time back. Do all the fun things Purdue offers such as going to football games, going to breakfast club, and staying up will 3:00 AM with your roommates eating pizza. Whatever you do, keep it off Facebook or Twitter. Nothing is personal or private on the internet. Your future employers will Google you and see everything. Don’t put anything online that you don’t want your grandma to see!

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