Small Business Owner
Jennifer Waisath Harris
Employer: JWH Communications

Position description:
At JWH Communications, I provide strategic communications, social media and public affairs services to a wide range of clients and industry sectors. Day to day, I help build grassroots and key influentials support for my clients' policy and program initiatives. My work involves a considerable amount of writing, media pitching, third party outreach and coordination with other contractors, consultants and lobbyists that form a client's public affairs or external affairs teams.

Photo: Jennifer Waisath Harris
How They Got There

Undergrad degree:  Government (with Honors)

Favorite class in college:  Government courses on Eastern European politics with Dr. Zoltan Barany.

Graduate degree:  Master of Arts (MA) from the School of Journalism (College of Communication).

College to career:  My undergraduate degree reflected my strong interest in government and politics, and it very much paved the way for my initial employment after college. My interest in the field, coupled with paid and unpaid internships during my time as an undergrad, led me to a job at the Capitol, writing and supporting then-Secretary of State Tony Garza.

I chose to pursue a master's degree several years after joining the workforce full time. I was blessed with the opportunity to pursue an advanced degree while continuing to work in a full time capacity.

Career influences:  My undergraduate degree is in government, and my master's is in journalism. An undergraduate internship with a state political party laid the ground work for some of my early professional experiences. I consider fellow UT alum former Ambassador Antonio O. Garza to be a mentor. He's someone that instilled in me early the value of public service as a profession and allowed me to grow considerably while working in communications for him in various capacities over the past 14 years.

The Ups and Downs
Owning your own business and working in public relations and public affairs can add up to a lot of round the clock hours. Much like a health care professional, you're always on call, but I find the work rewarding. Coming from state government, politics and mid-size public affairs firms, I find that working for myself provides ample flexibility and great professional growth potential.

I would urge students today to take every opportunity to pursue meaningful, productive part time employment and/or internships as I think both can prepare you for the competitive workplace. In my case, both my part-time jobs and my internships allowed me to forge networking connections that led to full-time work after college and made meaningful connections and friendships that I continue to enjoy more than a decade after graduation.

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