By Katelyn Bosch (Strategic Communication, '16)
“A public relations professional is essentially a story teller,” Joe Sonheim (Business Communication, ’11) said when describing his career at Lamberts, Edwards, and Associates, the largest public relations firm in Michigan. As a public relations professional, Sonheim’s job is to sort through brands and to determine how to best tell the story of his client. He has had the opportunity to work with a diverse set of clients ranging from automakers to ice cream companies to sponge manufacturers.
Sonheim specializes in the digital field. His department pitches companies to bloggers, develops social media branding, and works in design and film. One of his favorite things about his job is how it is never the same from day to day. “What makes [my job] interesting is that it’s always new,” he said.
An important part of his job is keeping fresh ideas flowing. “I just love being creative,” Sonheim said. He believes that even if nine out of ten ideas are shot down, it is worth continuing for that “one home-run idea.”
Sonheim always had a passion for filmmaking. Already in high school, he was making videos for fun. When he came to Calvin, he knew that he liked film, but he wanted a more general major. He chose the Business Communication major (now called Organizational Communication) with a Media Production minor. He ended up putting his film background to good use. “It’s cool that that passion is now my vocation,” Sonheim said.
After graduation, Sonheim experienced a period of trial and error. He began as a waiter. Although he loved the relational aspect of being a waiter, he wanted to do more. This led him to start his own film production business. This was a time of “feast and famine” because business was inconsistent. He felt unprepared to maintain his own business, but remained interested in the start-up world. He got involved in a start-up company called Food Circles, which is a for-profit business that is working to change the way people eat food.
These experiences led to a meeting at Lamberts, Edwards, and Associates for a specific project, leading to a job offer. The ups and the downs and occasional failure were educational and overall beneficial. “Now I know that if something I build doesn’t work out, well, that’s just ammunition for me to know what not to do the next time,” he said.
Looking back on his own journey, Sonheim has constructive advice to offer current CAS majors: “Use Calvin as a home-base.” Branch out and explore who you are and what you are interested in by getting involved in other ways, he said. He also encourages students to not be afraid to ask questions. He said that if you are interested in something someone is doing, you should ask to hear more about it. Overall, Sonheim believes that building relationships is extremely important. He thinks taking the time to get to know people teaches you to listen better and makes you a better person. And companies are always looking to hire good people.