It’s that time of year – graduation season is upon us, and soon a whole new crop of young go-getters will hit the job market. Many of them have spent the last four years studying communications and will look to make an impact using their newly acquired knowledge in a variety of industries.
I was once one of those folks. I spent the first year after graduation applying to many television stations, video production companies, and marketing firms in the hopes of putting my education to good use. Looking back, it would have been helpful to have had a plan that went beyond just filling out applications. So if there are any fresh graduates reading this, allow me to bestow upon you a few bits of wisdom that I wish I’d received when I was in your situation.
Write/Create Content Regularly
As good of a writer as you think you are when you graduate from school, you can get better. I’ve been writing professionally for… ugh… 16 years, and I’m still looking to improve. The best way to develop is to practice. So find any way you can to write regularly: start a blog, freelance, or write a flyer or other marketing piece for a business you might worked for in college.
This goes for would-be video creators, as well. Make little videos that show off your knowledge of composition, lighting, editing, graphics, etc. You’ll build your skills and your portfolio, so take a break from power watching House of Cards a few nights during the week and crank out some tangible work that potential employers can review.
Branch Out Into Other Media
No matter what your specialty, learn about other forms of communication. If you’re a writer, learn video production and vice versa. Learn graphic design or social media marketing. Communication is a multi-faceted profession nowadays, so make yourself a valuable asset to an organization by displaying the ability to execute in several ways. Being a one-trick pony is the quickest way to blend in with the crowd. Stand out by being a multi-trick pony (that’s a thing, right?).
Work for Free
I know that in a world where Fight for $15 is a thing, this suggestion might be considered blasphemy. But the best way to set yourself apart is to show that you’re so confident in your abilities, you’re willing to work for free to prove your value. If there’s a local business or budding entrepreneur who doesn’t have the budget to hire a professional copywriter, video producer, marketer, etc., this is an opportunity to practice your craft and prove your worth to future employers. In addition, if you do good work, you’ll have some great references in your pocket.
Take a Job You Don’t Want
As I stated above, when I graduated, it took me a year to find a job in my field. Most TV stations were unionized, and it was really difficult to enter most of them. QVC was the only broadcaster in the area that wasn’t unionized. I applied to the Broadcasting Department several times, and always got the “Thanks for applying. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” postcard in the mail.
At that point, it dawned on me: Just get in the company any way you can, and it will probably be easier to get into the Broadcasting area once you’re in. I called the QVC job hotline, and found they were hiring Order Entry Operators. So I applied and was hired for that position. Three months later I was in the Broadcasting Department after applying to an internal job posting.
The moral of the story is that there isn’t always a direct path to the career you want. Sometimes you have to make a few strategic turns. If you’re eyeballing a certain company that has a robust communication department and plenty of potential room for development, find out what entry level positions outside that area might be available for which you would easily qualify. Then keep your eye out for openings in the department in which you want to work. Be patient and look for opportunities. Sometimes they come when you’re not expecting them, and it’s always good to put yourself in the best position possible to recognize them.
For those of you who’ve been in the field for a long time, what advice would you give to today’s up-and-comers? What worked for you, and what did you learn along the way that helped you land that first real job? Let us know in the Comment section below!
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