Alumni Spotlight: Jill Berndtson
Tell us a bit about yourself! What was your graduating year; major; What year were you in Inigo? Where are you working now; What are any interests and hobbies you keep outside of your professional life?
I graduated in May 2020 with a major in Advertising and Public Relations with a minor in sociology. I was in Inigo for three semesters – fall 2017 through fall 2018 (first semester sophomore year through first semester junior year). I’m currently a Digital Marketing Specialist at Avionos, a digital consultancy based out of Chicago. I’m in charge of our content strategy and creation, website edits and SEO, social media, event planning, recruitment marketing and I also help with our marketing automation/email marketing programs. My current job is a direct result of the work I did and relationships I built in Inigo.
Outside of work, my coworkers and I have a podcast focused on women in business called Overworked. I also love volleyball; I’m currently coaching a team of third through fifth graders and play in adult league myself. And anyone who knows me will tell you I LOVE my dog Charlie, an 11-year-old Cavapoo.
How has Inigo benefited you in your professional life?
Put simply, Inigo got me my job. My current boss was my client during my first semester of Inigo. We developed a mentorship that semester and stayed in touch over the next two years. I saw that Avionos was looking for a Digital Marketing Intern in fall 2019 for the spring 2020 semester and reached out to her. I was hired as an intern then and have been promoted twice since (from Intern to Digital Marketing Associate, and Digital Marketing Associate to Digital Marketing Specialist). She still talks about how impressed she was with Inigo during our first semester of client work. Skill-wise, there’s so much that Inigo teaches that carries into professional life. I would say time management, clear and effective communication and the importance of reflection are the top three.
When you’re in Inigo, you’re essentially balancing being a student and a student-worker. You’re trying new and exciting things while also making sure you’re dedicating enough time to your other classes too. Having good time management skills is beneficial in any industry.
A highly underrated skill that Inigo teaches is how to write clear and effective emails to clients. Knowing how to politely remind someone you need a response or coordinating schedules to book a meeting or (most importantly) how to express disagreement or respond to constructive criticism is rare as a college student. That level of professionalism has helped me in my daily communication.
Being a “learning laboratory” also prompts some self-reflection to evaluate what worked well, where we can improve, and how to be more efficient. Inigo instills a need to reflect after a project (or semester) is done so you can learn from it, and so future agency members can find a better alternative. It’s been immensely helpful to have that mindset after projects and is part of why my coworkers and I have been able to make the positive changes we have internally. You can’t improve if you don’t reflect.
What is one piece of advice you would give to the students in Inigo while they are in the program. What was one thing you learned or that helped you along the way?
Inigo gives you the opportunity to network with some of the brightest minds in the industry. Stay in touch with them (and start by connecting on LinkedIn) - you never know what useful resource or job posting they may share. Also, never underestimate the value of a single 15-minute coffee chat. Now having graduated, I realize that the majority of professionals are happy to be asked (you’re not bothering them). Also keep in touch with your Inigo friends because they’re the future frontrunners in the communications and marketing industries.
One life lesson I still think about is, “perfect is the enemy of done.” Being a creative person and a perfectionist myself, I could spend weeks of time tweaking and re-tweaking any piece of content I make but working in business also means working under deadlines and needing to be efficient. Of course, check for low hanging fruit like typos, formatting, etc. But from a creative standpoint, there comes a point where no one is going to notice if you move that one line a half an inch to the right or change the shade of blue to something darker. Some projects benefit more from being completed than meeting the exact image in your mind. That’s not to say don’t be creative, there’s absolutely a need for it. But know when to push the envelope and when to let it seal.
What is it like being on the other side of Inigo now as the client working for Avionos?
To be completely transparent- it was a little bit of an adjustment for me at first because I know some of the internal conversations that happen throughout the semester. But I also think with Avionos’ industry being so complex, my perspective on what I knew a few years ago as a college student helps me direct Inigo to pieces of content that are digestible. I’ve always been impressed by the work Inigo h as done, and how Inigo has been able to build on that reputation to obtain the client portfolio it has now.
As a client, it’s been cool to see the impact Inigo does have on the businesses it works with firsthand. The work is so helpful, especially to our small team. Plus, having seen and heard from other professional colleagues, I have an even greater appreciation for the caliber of work that Inigo does. There’s a reason Inigo is Chicago’s first and only student-run communications agency. I’ll always be its biggest cheerleader.