If you need a recommendation for anything – anything – Brafton’s Kari Kennedy, Associate Manager of Social Media, has your back.

“I won’t make a recommendation or suggestion unless I know the person is going to love it,” she explained. “It’s based on that person. I’m good at deciphering what people need.”

Her talent for identifying what people need and want has guided her through college, graduate school and into her career – even though she didn’t always know that she wanted to go into social media and marketing.

Pursuing a new passion

Kari began her college journey with one goal in mind: to become a counselor. She wanted more than anything to help people work through problems. But during her junior year at the University of New Hampshire, she realized counseling just wasn’t for her.

So, as she embarked on her senior year, she realized she needed to make a choice about her future.

Having dreamed of an easy final year of college, she had set aside a lot of space for electives. Now that she was looking at a new path, one she knew would be focused on public relations, communications or media, she filled her schedule with related courses and began searching for the right grad school.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in human development and family services, she continued her studies in a year-long accelerated master’s program at American University in Washington, D.C. She graduated with a degree in strategic communications and several internships under her belt. Though her internships weren’t exactly related to social media or marketing, she learned a lot about her career aspirations.

She had been an admissions intern at the University of New Hampshire, where she got to tell incoming and prospective students the many reasons she loved her university. Then, she was an intern working for New Hampshire Senator Lou D’Allesandro. In this role, she loved seeing and contributing to the behind-the-scenes aspects of campaigning and promoting causes.

Because of these experiences, she knew she wanted to work in a field where she would craft and communicate messages for others to enjoy and learn from. After all, identifying what people need and want, then turning that information into a valuable recommendation is what she does naturally.

Jumping into agency life

When she began her job hunt, Kari had two requirements: She wanted to work at an agency in Boston.

“I knew when I started my career that I wanted it to be as fast as possible so I could learn as much as possible,” she said. “I knew an agency was the way to go.”

She also sought out an environment where she would be able to see every problem and obstacle a company might have in their communications plan, and see the ways they overcome them. Kari found Brafton, and joined the social team as a social media strategist.

Like anyone on their first day of work, she was nervous to begin her first career-related full-time job. But, she was pleasantly surprised when the social team gave her a warm welcome.

“That made the transition that much better,” Kari said. “It was in a field I really enjoyed, but I also had a supportive team.”

She melded with her team right away. Soon, Allie Stone, Brafton’s associate director of social media, and Mike Murphy, senior social strategy architect, tapped Kari for an in-house project to revamp Brafton’s own social media strategy.

“Allie and Mike brought me on because they noticed in me a real drive for creativity, to think outside the box,” she explained. “When I was working on it, I got that in-house feel, like I had the best of both worlds. I also got to know people from other teams, like consulting and design.”

Rising up the ranks

Kari’s ingenuity and innovation helped her quickly rise up within Brafton. Now as the associate manager of social media, she’s diving head-first into Google AdWords and seeing how strategies become successful.

“I’m nerdy into data analytics, getting into the mind of the consumer,” she said. “When I find a pattern, it’s the best feeling!”

She’s also identified what it takes to be a great social media strategist. The top must-have quality?

“You have to really like being on your phone!” she laughed. “That idea of connectedness, because you’re online all day, reading comments and checking ads.”

She also noted that you have to be willing to get creative. In her role, she helps her team come up with innovative ideas and get inspiration for their clients’ strategies. She lamented the common misconception that working in social media is monotonous and dry.

“A lot of people think it’s really mundane and repetitive, like you’re just tweeting and retweeting,” she said. “In reality you need to think bigger and think broader, get into the consumers’ shoes.”

Getting into the shoes of the customer is something Kari excels in – and what makes her a valuable contribution to Brafton’s social media team.

Molly Ploe is a senior writer at Brafton in Chicago. When she's not writing, she spends her time reading, going on walks and drizzling honey onto ice cream.