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Rising Stars: Media Specialist Cultivates Caring about Cancer

By Rachel Johnson

Teresa always thought she wanted to be an English teacher...until her final year of college. Left with only a few months to add a new major and break into a new field, she now loves her media-relations job for a national cancer center.

Name: Teresa Herbert
School: University of Oregon
Major: Marketing
Years Out of College: 5-10
Title: Media Specialist
Company: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute?
From Then to Now

Until her fourth year of college, Teresa was sure she wanted to be a high-school English teacher. Only after completing the coursework for her English degree did she start to realize it might not be the right track after all--and in her fourth year at school, she tacked on a major in Journalism and Public Relations. Armed with a new degree and new ambition but little experience, Teresa started out as an intern for Ant Hill Marketing, a boutique marketing and communications agency in Portland. Though she worried about lacking the experience "to break into the communications world," within a few months, Teresa was offered a full-time position as an Account Coordinator. Working at Ant Hill "was a tremendous experience," she says. "At the time we were new and small, and I learned everything I could."

My Experience

After three years with Ant Hill, Teresa knew she was ready to bring her skills to work in a larger organization. So she packed up and moved cross-country to a strange place and a completely new job market: Boston, where she took a job in media relations with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Now, as a Media Specialist, she coordinates interviews and news coverage with local and national media outlets. She has worked with the Red Sox on the Jimmy Fund charity for children, planned a press conference for Senator Ted Kennedy, organized an event featuring Katie Couric as keynote speaker, and directed the news coverage of Dana-Farber's 1000th unrelated donor, stem-cell transplant. Each day demands staying up-to-date on current trends and events. But "meeting patients and other individuals whose lives have been touched by cancer, and then sharing their inspirational stories with the community, is the most fulfilling aspect of my job," Teresa says. "I have seen the difference that the work in the community makes."

Did I Ever Think I'd End Up Here?

"Even as a journalism student, never would I have dreamed that I'd live in Boston and work for one of the most respected cancer teaching hospitals in the country," Teresa remembers. Making the move to a place where she knew very few people was definitely exciting and difficult--it brought Teresa 3,000 miles away from her "home base," where her family still lives. "I had to start all over in terms of work contacts and press contacts."

But now, after making a successful transition, Teresa has tons of advice for others seeking to pick up and move. She recommends getting organized and staying that way: "Make a database of all the potential places you'd like to work; picking up a copy of the local business journal is a great place to start learning about a place you don't live. Start contacting employers, and always keep track of whom you've talked to and what you send. Then, once you've arranged for informational interviews in your new city, don't forget not to be pushy--never ask for a job--and two?listen. People love to talk about themselves, and by listening you may find ways to make other connections!" Finally, Teresa advises, make sure to send a thank-you note afterward (a written card is always better than e-mail).

Advice for Others

While working during the day, Teresa goes to Simmons College in the evenings to get a master's degree in Communications Management. As it turns out, Dana-Farber has been a great fit. She definitely wants to remain both in media relations and in the environment of a teaching hospital or university. But she would like to continue building on her current skills by "adding more elements of strategic and long-term planning to my repertoire." After accomplishing a career change that she was once terrified to make, Teresa says, "I know now that I can move anywhere and be successful. Don't burn any bridges, but I do recommend stretching for your goals. Go after what scares you."

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