Old Faces, New Places: Melissa Conlon

By Megan McCormack

Name: Melissa Conlon

Class Year: 2016
College Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a concentration in Advertising and a second major in Studio Art

Current Location: Long Island, NY

What was your first job out of college, and what is your current job?

My current job is actually my first job! I am a Junior Producer for an experiential advertising agency, Grandesign Media.

What do you miss most about Marist (or college in general)?

In general, I miss my life being in one place. In college, your job was your academics so you went to class and since you [lived] on campus there was no major commute every morning and night, and I lived with all my friends so it was never hard to hang out or hard to make time to do something fun in your free time or on the weekends. The work-personal life balance is a learning curve that takes some knack in the real world.

Outside of the close-knit proximity of living among friends and the Marist community, what I miss most about Marist specifically is the Hudson Valley. That view of the river while studying in the library, weekend trips to the Farmers Market and small-business shops in Rhinebeck, and all the hiking trails or historic places you could explore on an afternoon. I may classify myself as a city girl, but I think my heart is more in the open space of the outdoors.

Melissa Conlon, '17. 

Melissa Conlon, '17. 

Tell us a little about your current job and how Marist prepared you for it.

I chose Marist because of its commitment to a Liberal Arts education, and that expansive curriculum has yet to fail me—I doubt it ever will. Those core classes are worth it!

Currently, as I mentioned, I am a Junior Producer in the Experiential Media industry. This falls within the Out-of-Home Industry (think billboards, bus shelters, subway stations, etc.), but we’re niche in what we do. We create and deliver unique brand experiences. From fabricating custom pop-up shops, large scale PR stunts (our agency was recently featured in AdWeek for our work for Kong: Skull Island), and buzzworthy prop installations to custom event creation. So basically, if you’re outside of your house and you run into something buzzworthy that is sponsored by a brand, then it’s Experiential, and that’s what I do. Day to day I am usually diving deep into proposals and brainstorming creative never-been-done-before ideas, and then once a client decides to move forward I switch gears to executing and bringing the idea to life.

For a media that is quite new to the advertising industry, it requires having “a little knowledge about a lot,” as Joanna D’Avanzo, my advertising professor, used to tell us, and that is where my Marist education prepared me. Because of my core classes, various extra-curricular opportunities, and travel abroad experiences, I am well versed in plenty of culture and schools of thought, so I’m always drawing inspiration and support from these for my proposals and projects.

What is your favorite part of your job now?

I absolutely love the unconventionality of my job. Yes, I go to an office almost every day (when I’m not on site at an activation) and answer endless amounts of emails, but the ideas I bring to life and the projects I work on are completely out-of-the-box. Grandesign is about doing the impossible and the never-been-done-before, so I love the open-endedness of creativity that is involved, and that the work we do isn’t passive; people (consumers) actually interact with our work rather than just looking at a print ad, a commercial, or [a] billboard.

Launch of LifeWTR, which Melissa and her team helped produce at this year’s Super Bowl.  Melissa Conlon, '17.

Launch of LifeWTR, which Melissa and her team helped produce at this year’s Super Bowl.  Melissa Conlon, '17.

What’s the best part about life after college? The worst?

The worst part of life after college has definitely been no longer living among my best friends, as I mentioned. The work-life balance is definitely a learning curve, as I mentioned, so even though you’re not committed to homework, studying, or a September to May schedule, you take on bigger responsibilities that require time and effort outside of 9-5 and when you do have free time the people you want to see are no longer just in the next room or next door.

The best part has been actually putting a paycheck to my passions! You spend four years studying, having internships, and building a toolbox of skills and experience, so to have been hired in my industry right out of school has been super rewarding. In my first 6 months I’ve seen my own ideas come to life, and I feel like I’m on the right track.

What’s one thing you wish someone had told you about post-grad life? What’s something surprising?

I wish someone had told me that it gets better sooner than you think. Those first couple of weeks and maybe three months were like culture shock, and I felt lost and consumed with mourning leaving Marist and my comfort zone—I had obviously made it a home and had a great four years if I missed it that much. You feel like you’re out floating between being a college student and being an “adult.” However, once you settle into your new routine, you kind of realize it is not bad at all, and that you’re a “real” person with a sense of purpose and a place to be every day and a drive to contribute to something bigger. There is a feeling six months into post-grad that is along the lines of, “I made it. I am here. Let’s do this.”

Surprising… how fast your student loans come due? (Haha, just kidding…) Surprising would be how prepared you actually are, and that new grads are looked to because of [their] fresh ideas and perspective. You’ll keep learning from your coworkers and the world, but you know more than you think you do when you start working. But never stop looking to those beside you and above you. Ask questions and keep pushing yourself.

Do you have anything you’d like to tell current seniors as they prepare to graduate?

Just enjoy it—I’m truly envious of you! I won’t preach to you about how lucky you are but promise me in the middle of the craziness, the fun, and those last days, you’ll take a moment to look around and take it all in, whether it be from the Adirondack chairs by the library on a random afternoon at sunset, as you descend the LT quad towards the green commencement area, or just sitting at your kitchen counter gossiping with your housemates after a normal day when you should be doing homework. Those last couple of weeks are moments you don’t get back but you’ll relive every day, so commit the moments to memory.

What’s your dream job? 

Chief Creative Officer. I want to one day oversee my own creative team, endlessly collaborate with them, and create something that makes others say, “I wish I thought of that.”

Article originally published on the Marist Career Services website.

Megan McCormack