Portrait of Elisa Thoen


Name: Elisa Thoen
Hometown: Hammond
Majors: Marketing communications, communication studies
Position: Account executive, TurnKey Corrections, River Falls

When Elisa Thoen started an internship last summer for a business that provides security at jails and communication services for inmates, she had no idea it would lead to her having a job lined up nine months before she even graduates from college. 

Thoen, a double major in marketing communications and communication studies at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, started her internship at TurnKey Corrections in River Falls in June. The program gives interns the opportunity to work with several departments for a week each. Her duties in each department were challenging and stimulating, Thoen said. 

"The company focuses on providing services for correctional facilities as well as the family and friends of the inmates. We help the inmates feel a sense of connection to their family members, even though they are incarcerated,” Thoen said. “We also focus on helping the facilities run efficient daily operations." 

Despite her affinity for her internship work, Thoen was surprised when she learned in mid-August that there was a possible job for her at TurnKey. She said she was “so nervous” for her interview. A short time later she met with one of her supervisors. 

“They said ‘So, you want to work for us, or what?’” Thoen said. “I laughed and said 'Yes, of course!'" 

When she signed the contract, she felt accomplished and excited. “I was on the verge of tears of happiness.” 

Thoen’s job starts May 22. As she prepares to graduate from UWRF on May 6, Thoen is especially grateful to already have a job instead of having to worry about finding one amid the stress of finals and departing school. 

“I am definitely relieved,” she said. “I have a lot of friends who are graduating and they are all looking for jobs. The end of a semester is stressful as it is without having to search for a job.”

Thoen feels especially fortunate to have landed a job because the internship that led to that position almost didn't happen, she said. 

One of her communications courses focused on preparing upperclassmen for professional job interviews and a requirement was to research various businesses and attend a career fair. One of Thoen’s friends was interested in TurnKey, and when Thoen attended the fair, she saw TurnKey’s booth and decided to seek an internship. 

“If I wouldn't have been in that Communications 216 class, it wouldn’t have happened,” Thoen said of getting her internship and job. “I would never have gone to that career fair. I would never have gone to (TurnKey’s) booth and met them. It’s funny how things work out sometimes.”

Her experience serves as an example for other students, Thoen said. They should get involved in activities and organizations right away, she said, and be a part of as many internships as they can. 

Thoen also encourages students who did virtual internships because of the coronavirus pandemic to also do in-person internships. She did an online internship but credits her experience with an in-person experience at TurnKey with getting her employed.

“I would encourage people, even if they took a digital internship, don't settle,” she said. “Do an in-person one, too. Use your internship to figure out how to get to where you want to go.”

As a high schooler, Thoen developed an interest in marketing. She spent time job shadowing people who worked in marketing, took a marketing class and worked on an ad campaign for a bank. She is excited to start her new job, but before she goes into marketing, she will spend one year doing customer service work, the same work she has done while working part-time at TurnKey this school year. 

After a year of customer service work, Thoen said she plans to apply for a marketing job with the company. She said she enjoys all aspects of marketing, from social media to designing graphics.     

“I’m not sure if there's anything else that I have a passion for like I do for marketing,” she said. “It’s so fun when you have a successful marketing campaign and see how that positively impacts the brand. I am learning a lot, and I’m excited to learn more.”