Dreaming Big

Monday, October 19, 2015

Broadcast student forges her own path in the entertainment and sports media industry through hands-on learning experiences. 

Emily McLanahan has never said no to an opportunity. In fact, this University of Georgia senior’s eagerness and enthusiasm for taking on new challenges—even in the face of impossibility—led her to working for some of the most distinguished companies and celebrities in the entertainment industry for the past two summers in Los Angeles. These hands-on experiences have increased her career clout and employee marketability as she looks for a job in the real world after graduation.

When Emily came to UGA in the spring of 2013 as a deferred freshman, she was unsure of what path to embark on. But once she realized she could pursue her love for sports and entertainment as a digital and broadcast journalism major at one of the top journalism schools in the nation, she began to take advantage of all the opportunities available to her.

Emily has constantly searched for opportunities to diversify her work experience—and her day-to-day life is a reflection of the diligence she applies to all of her endeavors. Her grueling schedule begins with the gym at 6am, followed by filming, producing and editing stories for her broadcast major and sports media certificate. She spends the rest of her day focusing on her duties as president of the Professional Entertainment and Sports Association (PESA), and in between, she finds time to work as a production intern for the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, as a class proctor and game day host for the UGA Athletic Association—a job that gets her on the field for each Bulldog home game—and as a hostess at a local restaurant. All of these experiences have honed Emily’s people skills and helped her stand out in the increasingly competitive field of entertainment journalism.

 “I decided to make it work and make my way. I realized that for what I wanted to do, I was at the best program in the nation to do it,” said Emily.

According to Emily, networking has been the sole determinant of her success so far. She began building her network through her involvement with PESA, a student organization focused on connecting students with entertainment industry professionals. The day that marked the turning point for Emily’s professional career was the first PESA Summit she attended, an annual event featuring panels and workshops exploring business trends and issues within the television, film, fashion, music and sports industries. At the Summit, Emily made life-long career connections. She developed a working relationship with Jeff Cohran, recording artist Janelle Monae’s tour manager, who is now her mentor. She also connected with Nikki Barjon, which lead to an internship with her company, the Barjon Group, a leading PR agency connecting corporate brands with celebrities.

“Networking is everything! But you must follow up all that talk with a strong work ethic to really make an impact,” said Emily.

She has applied that same perseverance to developing a fundamental skillset that she will carry with her throughout her career.

“I knew that for my profession, I was going to have to be a versatile student and candidate for what I wanted to do,” Emily said. “That really motivated me, knowing that in order to be in entertainment and sports journalism, I have to be able to do everything. I pursued everything I could, from writing to advertising to marketing—anything that I knew could eventually help me and make me more valuable.”

Emily’s hands-on learning has distinguished her as a young professional, and her eagerness to learn has allowed her to achieve career milestones even before she has landed her first full-time job. As a public relations intern for the Barjon Group, Emily contributed to marketing campaigns for luxury brands and worked several events with the world famous rapper, T.I. As an account management intern for the advertising agency Walton Isaacson, Emily attended the Black Entertainment Television (BET) awards for the first time and got to see what goes into producing a live awards show. As an intern for the experiential marketing firm, NCompass International, Emily worked directly with the branding department at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con Conference and the BET Awards once again, while also managing the launch of Rihanna’s music video release with “TIDAL.”

 Emily credits her determination, persistence and professional relationships to all of her success, along with taking advantage of all the resources available to her at UGA to forge her own path. 

“Dream big and aim high,” said Emily. “Never be afraid to share your goals and dreams with people you come across because you never know how they can help you.”

After graduating from the Grady College of Journalism in 2016, Emily plans to pursue her dream career as an entertainment news anchor. She has come a long way from her first semester at UGA as a scared, confused freshman deciding what to do with the rest of her life—an experience many of us are familiar with.

“Now I’m a senior and about to take on the real world,” she said. “That’s terrifying, but I’m well prepared because that’s what UGA does for you.”