Des Moines: A Young, Aspiring City for Young, Aspiring Professionals
“Go up the escalator, take a right, go through the revolving doors, take another right and it should be on your left,” the security guard explained.
After I thanked her, she smiled and leaned back in her chair behind the desk. “I’ll keep an eye out for you,” she assured me, motioning toward the security cameras.
As I began my ascent up the escalator, I chuckled at the thought of the guard watching me make my way through the Ruan Center labyrinth like a mouse in a maze.
Behind the skyscraper’s unassuming rectangular exterior, the interior of the Ruan Center was bustling. I watched steady streams of people exit elevators, stroll down seemingly endless hallways and cross the skywalk as if blood cells flowing from one organ of Des Moines to another.
Just as the security guard had said, I found La Mie Elevate to my left. When I reached the front of the line, the barista behind the counter tilted her head and asked, “Wait, weren’t you here last week with a friend?”
I was surprised, given how many customers she must see every day, that she had remembered us. I was happily surprised when she offered me a punch card along with a sincere invitation to return soon.
Much like how one may overlook the Ruan Center at first glance, so too can Greater Des Moines (DSM) be overlooked. However, as a new DSM resident, college student and aspiring young public relations professional, I came to DSM because of the career and networking opportunities promised by the city and my university. It is DSM’s culture and community, one where people who were once strangers will take the time to offer the “directionally challenged” assistance and unprompted acts of kindness, that make me want to stay in DSM.
Drake University and Des Moines
In 2018, my soon-to-be senior class of 2019 at Eastview Highschool in Apple Valley, Minn. were participating in the American rite of passage of college touring. I began my search at a small public university nestled in a sleepy town in the Upper Midwest. While the university touted knowledgeable professors, a wide array of courses and fancy facilities, a student’s professional and personal lives were confined to campus. There were no national or international businesses operating in the town, nonetheless ones you could network with. And if you hoped to do something fun off-campus, your two options were the local Dairy Queen or to drive to a neighboring town that was miles away.
The next college I toured was a large state school in the heart of a major Midwestern city. While an ideal environment for graduate students and lovers of city life, underclassmen could expect overflowing lecture halls, professors that can’t remember your name and to have zero help in their academic and career pursuits.
Drake University was a happy balance between the two schools I had visited. Unlike the town of the first college I visited, there are a variety of major national and international companies that do business in DSM such as Hy-Vee, Principal and John Deere. And unlike the second college I visited, not only do Drake professors know your name, but they will act as your professional mentors and advocates. My professors have reviewed my resumes, helped me network with alumni and encouraged me to pursue local internship opportunities. When I asked my marketing professor if it would be ok if I missed class to meet with a local public relations professional at the Ruan Center, she cheered me on.
As a member of a generation used to “corporate ghosting,” when you apply for an internship or job and never hear back, it was incredible to be able to meet face-to-face with and receive feedback from a professional in my field. Additionally, I have yet to be “ghosted” by companies whose internships I have applied for using the Career Center on the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s website. Not only have I heard back from and interviewed with these companies, but one employer has reached out to me after he saw my profile on Career Center as well.
Des Moines’ Thriving City Life
Life’s not all work and no play in DSM though. On the weekend, we Drake Bulldogs enjoy meeting at local coffee shops like Mars Cafe in “Dogtown” by campus or Smokey Row in Downtown DSM. In the summer, there’s nothing better than going to the Downtown Farmers’ Market with friends to check out the fresh produce, baked goods, handmade crafts, resident musicians and to see people out and about with their families and dogs. And in the winter, you can show off your ice-skating skills (or, if you’re like me, have fun trying to skate) at the Brenton Skating Plaza.
The region also has a lot to offer art and theatre lovers, from the Pappajohn Sculpture Park to the Des Moines Metro Opera House. On my 20th birthday, I was able to enjoy the comedy stylings of Brian Regan at the historic Hoyt Sherman Place. And my friends and I are ecstatic that the musicals Hadestown and Hamilton will be coming to the Des Moines Civic Center this spring and summer.
Though I’ve already seen and done much as a student, young professional and new resident, there are still so many career opportunities and places I have yet to explore in DSM. As a young Midwestern woman still learning and growing in her professional and personal life, I feel at home in the growing “Midwest Nice” DSM community and hope to remain a part of it after. graduation.
Are you interested in moving to Greater Des Moines (DSM)? Relocation Packets offer information on everything from neighborhoods and shopping to parks and local attractions. Or, kick start your career by checking out the DSM USA Career Center. It has over 10,000 jobs listed!
Named the #1 Best Place to Live in the Midwest and #2 Safest Place to Live, Greater Des Moines (DSM) is a city where you can have it all. Learn more about what it’s like to live here.
Emma Nutter is a student at Drake University studying Public Relations and Communications expected to graduate in May 2023.