#BeenThereLearnedThat: Baby Steps Count with Christina Gibson
By Kia Robinson
“I work in the beauty industry and I’m doing exactly what I love,” Christina Gibson shared.
More often than not, everyone just wants to find a way to turn their passion into a paycheck. As ideal as that seems, most times the journey is far more complex than the buttoned up outcome and Gibson is living proof.
Gibson serves as the vice president of the brand practice at Edelman, one of the top public relations (PR) firms in the world. In her role, Gibson is able to live in her passion by working with consumer beauty products on a daily basis. During our conversation she made sure to note that this was not always the case. “I think of my career as baby steps,” she expressed when describing how she landed her current role.
Gibson earned her bachelor’s in English from Villanova University and her Master’s in literature from Hunter College. While PR was not the intended route, Christina has made a successful career matching her passion with her innate skill set.
How did you get your start in PR?
I started my career in book publishing. I was training to be a book editor which is something I thought I wanted to do my whole life. That’s why I initially got my master’s in literature. I worked in book publishing for two years and realized it just didn’t seem like something I could do until I retired. I thought about the skills that I had and thought about how I could translate them into a new role and job. I didn’t have any experience in anything other the editorial work but I knew I was good at writing, I was good at talking to people, and people praised me on my leadership abilities. After thinking of career moves, I narrowed my options down to advertising and PR.
Since I didn’t have any experience in those fields, I tried to have informational interviews with anyone that could provide me with some insight. This was way before LinkedIn was an option. Because of those interviews, I was able to land an entry level position at a healthcare PR firm.
You now work with consumer beauty products. How did you make the transition from healthcare PR?
It took a long time. This is the number one piece of advice I would share with people: your first job doesn't have to be exactly where you want to be. I think of my career as baby steps. I started in book publishing and realized I didn’t like it so I took a baby step and went to work in PR. I worked in healthcare PR for many years and was eventually given the opportunity to transition to consumer PR working with laundry goods. That was another baby step. It wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be but it was a baby step in the right direction. After working with laundry goods for a couple of years, I was able to make the transition to consumer beauty which is really my passion. My baby steps led me to where I really wanted to be.
Can you share an obstacle you’ve encountered along the way in your career?
So often in order to get an entry level job, employers want you to have experience but it’s hard to have experience when you haven’t had a job yet. I learned that the little things count! Although I didn’t have any career experience in the space, before working with beauty products, I had my own beauty blog. No it wasn’t popular, no one read it but my mom, but when I went to beauty interviews it spoke to my commitment and dedicated interest in the space. I would encourage people to do anything they can to show that they’re seriously interested in the field they’re looking to enter.
Additionally, if you’re trying to transition from one industry to another, in which you have no experience, thoroughly read up on the industry you’re looking to enter. See how your current skills can translate over. Be sure to speak to your skills and how they can be useful in the role you’re interviewing for.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
I think my biggest lesson would have to be the idea that you can transition or enter any field you set your mind to. You just need to be patient and realize it may take two or three jobs to get to where you really want to be.
What is something you wish someone would have told you as a recent college grad?
I wish someone would have told me the importance of maintaining connections. While I was in college interning, there were bosses that really liked me that I lost touch with. When I was looking for a job years later, I felt uncomfortable reaching out to them for references and help. It could be something as small as an e-mail once or twice a year. Those go a really long way. Also, the world is so small so you just never know who you’re going to see again so it always makes sense to stay in touch.
What are three pieces of advice you’d give recent college grads?
- In a workplace environment, never underestimate the power of being a smiling face around the office. People want to work with people who have a positive attitude.
- Every moment you have with someone more senior than you is an opportunity to impress them. Get out a notebook, take notes, ask questions, and look engaged.
- Financially, realize that most entry level roles are going to start with a truly terrible salary. For my first job, my starting salary was $26,000. Realize it’s ok if you need help to survive when you first start out. In most careers, in a matter of years, you’ll be making a living wage. Hang in there. It’ll be worth it in the end.
What’s something that inspires you?
I’m really inspired by people that are really passionate about what they do. When I meet someone and their eyes light up about the clients they’re working with, or the brands they’re working on, I find that really inspiring. I try to bring that into my life too. I’m lucky that I get to work in the `beauty industry which is something that I’ve always been passionate about. If you get me in a space and let me talk about something like hair care or the latest beauty trends, I’ll probably talk somebody’s ear off. That’s what I call inspiration.
Kia is a recent college graduate that's simply trying to grasp the concept of "adulting". She enjoys hugs, quotes, a good book, and all things motivational. Her favorite book is The Alchemist and she can watch Girlfriends all day long.