prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

What do you want to do when you grow up?

Posted by prof e on February 17, 2009

I had a very interesting discussion yesterday with the father of a current student. The conversation quickly turned to a discussion of employment opportunities for his son after graduation.  With the economic forecast what it is, I’m surprised that more students haven’t been asking similar questions about the odds of securing a livable wage working in the media industry. Believe me, salary has never been the primary motivator for mass comm students. If it were, they’d have changed their major to business or pre-med long ago.

As mass comm faculty here at CSU-Pueblo we feel an obligation to make this clear to new students who often show up expecting to land a major-market anchor position with a six-figure salary soon after graduation. Before they get out of the introductory courses, mass comm students know that earning potential takes a back seat to  “opportunities for creative expression” when it comes to the benefits of working in the media industries. While every sector is affected by the slowdown, the media industries are feeling the pinch because of their reliance on advertising revenue. There’s very little good news coming out of that department and even less hope for a quick turn-around.

But enough gloom and doom. What can you do if you’re a couple of semesters away from graduation and the proverbial “real world?” For starters, be proactive. This is a competitive industry and opportunities have to be hunted down, lassoed and hog-tied (my apologies to those of you on the rodeo team). Start networking now, and don’t be timid about it. Sell yourself to everyone on every occasion, even your current classmates. They may be in a position to recommend you for a position if they get hired before you do. Don’t burn  bridges by letting petty arguments ruin relationships. Volunteer and intern as soon, and as often, as you can.

I know you’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating…manage your online presence. Create a LinkedIn profile for your business networking and make sure that your MySpace and Facebook profiles don’t “undo” the professional image that you’re working to create. A few months ago I was contacted out of the blue by a guy wanting to sell some used professional video gear. I “Googled” his name and company, and the first webpage I found contained a picture of him throwing up into a toilet in a public restroom…no exactly a reassuring image. The only thing worse might have been a mug shot or warrant for his arrest on embezzlement charges!

I would also recommend that you keep your skills honed and polished. Want to write for a print or online publication? Write every day…and put it out there for public consumption and criticism. If you want to be a writer, you should have your own blog or website and be self-publishing now…not waiting until you graduate. Want to be radio or television talent? Work on the Rev or for KTSC-TV or CNM Production Works. Borrow a video camera and shoot and edit stories on a regular schedule, all year long…not just for assigned class projects. Do you want to work in promotions or advertising? Find something that needs to be promoted or advertised and work up a campaign. And don’t forget software competencies. Photoshop, Dreamweaver, InDesign…mastery of any or all of these apps will make you more marketable.  If you want to work in design, push yourself to learn Flash or After Effects. The software is available in our BCC lab and there are books and websites that will provide all the information you need. All you have to bring to the mix is the desire.

And remember, just because you’re enrolled in classes doesn’t mean that you have to wait for your professors to assign projects. Push yourself and develop a work ethic that sets you apart from your competition. Prospective employers will take note and it will make a difference when it comes to filling the position.

If you learn to market yourself, to sell your talents, and to delivery high-quality media content on deadline you will have something that employers want, even in a down economy. And perhaps even better, you’ll have what you need to start your own business and be your own boss. If this sounds like too much work, then you don’t want it bad enough and you ought to consider changing your major to accounting. With the amount of money that will be spent by government in the coming years, there will be plenty of jobs for accountants!

In closing I should mention the other alternative (besides moving back in with mom and dad). Perhaps you should consider graduate school. Earning an MA or MS degree will put you into the next tier and narrow the competition. If you have the grades, and the intellectual curiosity that grad school requires, give it some thought. You won’t be the first person to ride out a down market by spending the time adding another level of education and expertise.

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2 Responses to “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

  1. Audrey said

    Im going to be a writer since Kindergarten all I’ve wanted to do is write fiction. Could I ask to starve any more plainly? With the current state of the media my chances of achieving this goal are slim but well worth giving it a shot and if worse comes to worse I can always teach high school english

  2. Lynnea Phillips said

    I appreciate that in this post you sound like an advisor, what students need is someone to give them real world advice on what to expect when they’re slapped in the face after graduation by the real world. It seems to me that a lot of the people that work on this campus are, themselves included, living in a fantasy world & passing that knowledge & mindset (or lack thereof) onto their students. As a student & orientation leader, I’m all about encouraging my peers to become involved with activities & causes on this campus, while making & maintaining contacts, that could prove to advance them in the future. While my first major & love was Business Marketing I decided to change it to my second love & major, which was History; throughout my last two years at this University I have heavily been involved with & fighting myself on majoring in Mass Communications (Public Relations, in particular). The three “jobs” that I’ve held on campus have all been involved with Mass Comm in one way or another & I’m glad that I finally decided to give in & do something that I’m in love with. Working for Athletics allows me to learn while working & I’m so greatful for the opportunity that I’ve been given through that. I feel that one of the most important tools involved with Mass Comm is electronic media & I’m priviledged to be able to be hands on with that aspect of the Athletics Department.

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