Q&A with alumna Jan Powers

Jan Powers

Jan Powers

Micaela Cashman

Jan Powers owns a public relations firm, Powers of Communication, in Dubuque.

What year did you graduate? What did you get your degree in? Is that the program you originally started in?

[I graduated in] 1984 with a BA in speech communication. Originally, I started in psychology for two years, then switched majors to communication.

Did you go to any other colleges?

Not for my undergrad. Many years later, from 1997 to 1999, I returned to grad school as a working adult and got my MA in public relations from the University of Northern Iowa.

What activities or organizations were you involved in during college? What activities and organizations are you involved in now?

I participated in activities on my dorm floor, Tappan, which was an all girls floor in Barton Hall at that time. I danced in the Dance Marathon and was on a committee for that. At that time, the Marathon supported the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Today, and over the years, I have been involved in many activities and organizations in Dubuque, including the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce, Junior Achievement, the Women’s Leadership Network, the Iowa Association of Business & Industry, the Public Relations Society of America, the March of Dimes, the United Way and have been on several boards for smaller, local non-profit organizations.

What is your favorite thing about Iowa State?

The beauty of Central Campus on a fall day.

What’s one thing you wish you would have done at Iowa State?

I wish I would have taken more classes that would have rounded out my skill set, rather than taking only what I needed for graduation, in order to get out in four years. For instance, I wish I would have taken a graphic design class and a photography class to make me more marketable. I also wish I would have studied abroad for a semester.

What is your best memory of college?

My best memories are of the friends I made while living in the dorms, both girls and guys. The social activities, the volunteering, the parties, they were all great memories.

Describe your career path: Where did you start working after college, and where did that take you?

After college, I moved to Dubuque to follow my fiance. I luckily got a job in 1984, during the height of that recession, when others weren’t getting jobs. I made $4.50 an hour as a telemarketing representative for a small manufacturing firm, and I hated it. I worked there for two years and got a different job at a college textbook publishing firm in Dubuque. I worked there for 11 years, first in sales, then customer service, and finally in corporate communication, which is what I’d wanted to do in the first place. It took me nearly 10 years to get the job of my dreams.

When did you start your own business?

In 1997. It’s called the Powers of Communication, and I offer communication consulting — advertising, marketing, public relations and corporate communications — to businesses, educational institutions and non-profits of all sizes and shapes.

What compelled you to start your own business?

I had gotten downsized from my corporate communication position at the publisher after the company was sold to another company.

What’s the hardest part of having your own business? What’s your favorite thing about having your own business?

The hardest thing is keeping the “pipeline” full of work. When I’m busy, I don’t have time to look for work. But when things slow down, then I need work. I need to be prospecting while I’m busy so that there won’t be a lull once I’m not busy any longer. That can be a juggling act.

My favorite thing about owning my own business is the flexibility I have and the variety each day brings. No two days, months or years are alike. I enjoy working with different types of clients on different types of projects. I also enjoy having a different schedule almost every day.

What’s been your proudest accomplishment?

My proudest work accomplishment was starting my business, going to graduate school and balancing my family life with two small children, all at the same time, within a two-year period. I’m also proud to say that I have kept my business going for almost 14 years, and have been successful and debt-free for all those years.

Do you have any advice for college students?

My advice to college students is to take a variety of classes and work a variety of jobs to gain a wide spectrum of skills and experiences. I know I’m partial to communication, but I think that being a good communicator — speaking, writing and listening — is critical to success for anyone. I would recommend taking classes and getting experiences that hone a person’s communication skills.

What advice do you have for people who want to start businesses?

Be ready to work lots of hours. Be ready to do things you have no clue how to do but need to do at first just to get your business started, like accounting, marketing, hiring and firing, finding a location for the business, etc. Have a year’s worth of money to live on in the bank as a cushion when the business is getting started as not much money may be coming in.

What do you wish you would have known when you were in school that you know now?

I wish I would have known how important it is to develop relationships with people and maintain those relationships. I never knew how to network or really correspond with people in the work world when I was in college. Now, I realize just how important it is to stay connected to people and to network. The larger your network, the greater your chances of making good connections for a career and for moving forward within a career.

Follow Powers of Communication on Facebook, or visit the website at www.powersofcommunication.com.