Another ComArtSci alum has turned their passion into an award-winning career. Journalism alumna Thea Neal, who works as a social media leader at Hallmark, was just named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in the Marketing and Advertising category. Forbes’ annual list highlights the brightest young entrepreneurs, leaders and stars.
In her first year at Hallmark, Neal generated more than 50 million impressions and three million user engagements. She also hosts an online show, Party 101, that has attracted over 200,000 views and has increased sales by more than $25,000 for Hallmark stores.
A Typical Day at Hallmark
Most social media managers understand the importance of keeping up with the latest trends. Neal is no different. She spends her days analyzing data and figuring out which types of content will inspire Hallmark’s consumers.
“My typical day is spent finding ways to innovate how Hallmark Gold Crown retail can evolve their social media to meet a variety of customer segments,” said Neal. “In regular terms, I am constantly looking for ways to get our followers to buy things on Instagram.”
Though Neal loves working with social media, it’s the people at Hallmark that truly make her jump out of bed in the morning. She encourages young people to find a workplace that’s full of influential, inspiring people. Neal knows that your job can take up a lot of your life, so it’s imperative that it’s in a place you can thrive.
“I work with some of the smartest people in the business,” said Neal. “Whether they're e-commerce geniuses or talented card designers, every single day I learn from my co-workers at Hallmark.”
Many students often wonder what path they should pursue after graduation. Should they find an internship, a full-time job, go to grad school or even take a gap year? For Neal, it was turning down a full-time role for an internship that led her to her current success.
“I had an offer at MSU for a full-time job after undergrad, but turned it down to be a Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities intern at the USDA Forest Service in Washington, D.C.,” said Neal. “It can be terrifying to turn down a full-time role in return for an internship, but it ended up being a much better career path for me.”
Less than a month later, Neal was accepted to Duke University for grad school, and spent the next two years working remotely in North Carolina for Forest Service, while still spending summers in D.C. She notes that this opportunity wouldn’t have presented itself if it wasn’t for the internships she had during her undergraduate career. For Neal, internships were a crucial part of finding success after graduation.
Reflecting on ComArtSci
It wasn’t that long ago that Neal was taking classes she hoped would give her the experience she needed to find her dream job. Neal speaks highly of a handful of ComArtSci professors, L.A. Dickerson and the late Bonnie Bucqueroux in particular, and believes she wouldn’t be where she is today without their influence.
“L.A. introduced me to some amazing job shadow experiences and was crucial for building my experience beyond The State News,” said Neal. “Bonnie Bucqueroux was such an inspirational girl power professor. My undergraduate years were very crucial for building out my worldview, and Bonnie left a lasting legacy on how I see the world.”
When it comes to professional advice, Neal would advise all students to focus on internships. By utilizing the resources ComArtSci has to offer, you’ll be able to put yourself in a better position post-graduation.
“Get as many internships as possible. Differentiate yourself from the competition. Be eager to challenge the status quo and get busy,” said Neal. “And, of course, go to all the home football games. You'll miss those when you're older.”
By Katie Kochanny