They Did It, So Can You: A Letter from Ad Club Alumni

By Courtney Lang

Dear Current and Future Seniors of Grand Valley,

It keeps getting closer and running is not an option. That’s right, your graduation day is upon you and chances are that you are scared, even if you don’t want to admit it. Thinking about what you’re going to do and where you will end up is honestly terrifying. I’m here to ease your mind and tell you that it will be okay.

I had the privilege to interview two recent Grand Valley alumni (Michelle Marinos & Ben Kaluski) to see what they have been up to since they’ve stepped into the real world of advertising:


Ben Kaluski


Michelle Marinos



1.      Can you give me a brief description of your current job?

I’m an Account Coordinator at MRM/McCann in Birmingham, MI (on the east side). I serve as the liaison between the Account team and other departments throughout the agency i.e. Creative, Copy Edit, Legal, Product Information, Production, etc.  Our client is General Motors and I am part of the Vehicle Purchase Program (VPP) team. We target 6 different audiences: College students, Military, Employees, Suppliers, Educators, and Dealers. I assist the account team to ensure all deadlines are met and get to monitor each project from start to finish. – Michelle

I’m a Content Manager for Freshwater Digital in Grand Rapids. I manage overall content, projects, and scheduling for our digital signage networks. – Ben

2.      How did you obtain your current job and about how long did it take you to land it after graduation?

One of my friends at Grand Valley actually gave me the recruiter’s contact information. I sent her an email including my resume and expressing my interest in the company. She contacted me the next day for an interview. I got this job a month after graduating. I had an internship at a smaller agency in Grand Rapids right after graduation, but decided to move back to the east side once I got the offer! – Michelle

For this position, I applied online and had two in-person interviews. After several opportunities, I gratefully accepted my position at Freshwater Digital and started September 1st. I wasn’t a traditional student in the sense that I had a previous career as an EMT in Chicago for many years. I also had several years of retail management experience which directly related to the work I currently do at Freshwater Digital. My experience may be different from those who took the traditional route through college. – Ben

3. Going into your job, what were some aspects of it that you did not expect?

I always heard in college how fast-paced agency life is, but I’m amazed every day at how quickly projects need to be turned over to the client. I also didn’t expect how many times a project need to be reviewed before we see the final execution. Each project I monitor typically needs to route through around 10 to 15 people before it is approved. I also learned how important it is to be able to work well with different people. You need to have tough skin in this industry because everyone has good and bad days, as well as different working styles. I know it’s nothing personal, but it did take some time to get used to. – Michelle

I didn’t expect within the first few hours at Freshwater Digital to be emailing with clients, filling out briefs, and having meetings. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way as I prepared myself and was eager to get started. – Ben

4. What is the most valuable piece advice you have ever received from someone? This can be your current boss, past teacher, etc. that you feel has helped you the most in your current career.

As cliché as it sounds. I think the best piece of advice that I received over the years is “it’s all about who you know.” I personally got all of my jobs in the field of advertising strictly from my connections with friends and other people in the industry. I heard back from these places after contacting them directly rather than applying online. My current supervisor recently passed on another piece of advice to me: “always keep looking.” Even though I have a great job right out of college, she said that I should continue to look for even better opportunities that might come along down the road. – Michelle

I don’t think I can pick a specific quote or experience. For me, it was doing several internships, jobs, and absolutely maxing out my time at GVSU. However, I wouldn’t be where I am today without Adrienne Wallace, she was my mentor and helped guide me through my non-traditional college experience. – Ben

5. Is there a project that you worked on that you are especially proud of that you want to share with us? 

I recently was given my own project to manage! It was a welcome banner that was displayed in the Renaissance Center downtown Detroit that honored the USS Detroit.  I got to kick off a creative brief and work directly with our creative team to make sure everything was executed the right way. Unfortunately, I’m not able to share a picture, but it was cool to get a taste of what it’s like being an Account Executive. – Michelle

We do incredible work at Freshwater Digital. We create and manage digital signage content for several clients in West Michigan and the United States. Next time you’re grocery shopping take a look around at the digital displays (Entrance screens, TV’s, Endcaps, Menu’s, etc.) and you’ll see the incredible work that we do. This is a form of advertising, marketing, and communications that’s not discussed enough in our curriculum and it’s growing exponentially. – Ben

6.   Anything else you would like to add that you feel like anyone interested in advertising should know?

Enjoy the work and assignments you are given in class because you get to show your creativity and elaborate on your own ideas. It takes some time to work your way up in the industry, so enjoy these classes while you can. Also, don’t be afraid to take risks and share ideas. People in this industry love it. I used to never like sharing my ideas in class, but they definitely encourage it in the real world. – Michelle

My biggest piece of advice is to soak in all the information and experience you can while in school. The real world is much faster and you’d be surprised how much of your education you’ll use on a daily basis.  All ad club members are welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn as well. – Ben

As you can see, Michelle and Ben are doing amazing things out there in the real world. Don’t be scared of what is yet to come, be excited! Jump for joy as you are about to enter the creative, memorable and fast past world of advertising.

So to all you current and future seniors of Grand Valley, take a deep breath, you got this!  


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