Fine arts major detours from Broadway dream to Nebraska job
By Alyssa Theilen
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Jeanne Schieffer is proof that picking a versatile major is a key to success.
Her fine arts major from the University of South Dakota didn’t get her exactly where she had planned, but she is glad it got her to Columbus, Nebraska, where she is the corporate communications and public relations manager at the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD).
Initially, Schieffer dreamed of going to New York City to put her love for English and theater to work after college. But the reality of a big city made this South Dakota native timid. Schieffer decided she could put her major to use somewhere other than Broadway.
After graduation, Schieffer was offered a job as an English teacher in Norfolk, Nebraska. The pay for teachers was much higher in Nebraska than South Dakota, so she took the job. After seven years of teaching, Schieffer decided teaching wasn’t fulfilling enough for her and she needed a change. She had previous experience publishing small pieces for students and freelancing for a small advertising firm. But she realized she was far too busy doing it all as a mother of two.
Toward the end of her teaching career, Schieffer toured the power company for a school-related event. It had a communications position open. Her love for creativity and wish to use writing in a dynamic way drove her to apply.
NPPD is the state’s largest utility company providing electricity to 86 of the 93 counties in Nebraska. More than 2,000 employees in over 30 facilities in the state serve over 600,000 Nebraskans. Its revenues total about $1 billion a year.
Being the corporate communications and public relations manager, while leading a team of 17 people, keeps Schieffer busy. Her team members are media specialists. Schieffer uses social media, such as Facebook, daily. Her team creates advertisements, generates press releases and produces a daily newsletter.
“An open door policy is very important to me,” Schieffer said. She likes to be visible to her team and available to advise, to answer questions, and to approve a video or story. Before 8 a.m. and after 6 p.m. she makes phone calls, replies to emails, and keeps organized to be as productive during business hours as possible. No work day is normal for her; every day brings new tasks.
Schieffer has seen major changes in the industry since she first began her communications job in 1995. Now more than ever, Schieffer said it is important to show you can balance life, jobs, clubs and school all at once. If you cannot show this to potential employers, finding a job upon graduation will be difficult.
“Be willing to show initiative,” she said, “and always go beyond the required.”