Classes, essays, projects, and tests are not a bad way to drill a subject into a student’s head. There is an important aspect to being at school and learning from your professors and textbooks. However, travelling to a new place and experiencing first hand how to put that knowledge into action, is not just as valuable, but much, much more.
In just 20 days on the East coast, we learned invaluable lessons about where our degrees can take us, and the professionals who were at one time in our shoes – young college students, unsure, and unknowing where life would take them. While I will remember the companies well, I will remember the people more. The stories they told, the advice they gave, and the example they set for where this major can take you, will forever remain in the back of my mind.
The lessons I’ve learned are countless, and the knowledge I have after this trip is immense. I wish that everyone could have this kind of opportunity, but because that isn’t the case, I have decided to share my top five lessons with you, as a guidebook, of sorts, to the ever-expanding media world.
Lesson 1: When first starting out, it isn’t about what you know; it’s about who you know. Networking is key in a successful job search.
As a sophomore in college, I was not excited to learn this lesson. It’s easy to think that because I am getting a degree from an accredited and fairly prestigious, private university, I should be able to get any internship or job I want upon graduation, right? Wrong. If I learned one thing on this trip, it’s that there will always be someone with the same (or better) degree, the same (or more) experience, and the same (or bigger) passion, than myself.
Often times the only thing that will set you apart from your competition is a reference from someone connected currently or previously to the company to which you are applying. From our very first meeting with Ketchum Public Relations, to our final meeting with Paula Kerger, president of PBS, the importance of networking was drilled into our brains. In a meeting over coffee with Brendan Buglione, an advertisement sales executive with NBC sports, we heard first hand how knowing someone within a company can put you one step above your competition, and land you your dream job. Buglione helped a family friend get a job simply by calling his previous employer with which she was applying, and stating that he would put his own reputation on the line if they were to hire her.
Finding people like Buglione to give you a reference could just be the thing that ends your job search. While this was somewhat of a discouraging lesson to learn, it makes sense; especially in the communication field, which is one of the broadest and most acquired degrees you can get, it is invaluable to make connections along the way that someday may be the key to getting a job.
Networking is all about opportunity. From taking down someone’s name, email, and phone number after a career oriented conversation, to connecting through family friends, to staying in contact with past employers or professors; the opportunity for networking is always present. You never know what relationship, however small, may come in handy some day. Keeping positive, professional, and respectful ties with those you come in contact with, could the edge that puts you ahead of another job candidate.
Lesson 2: Journalism is like a crocodile.
According to Mark Jerkewitz, associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism at PEW Research Center, journalism is not dead, as many would like to believe. On the contrary, it is an always growing, ever expanding, and constantly changing art form.
As Jerkewitz so eloquently described, Journalism is like a crocodile. In prehistoric days the crocodile lived amongst the dinosaurs, however it was a much larger animal, more prominent, and populated more areas. Upon the extinction of the dinosaurs the crocodile did not disappear. Rather, it adapted, by becoming smaller and more densely populated in fewer areas. The crocodile made room for the growing population of mammals.
In the same way, journalism has done just that. In a world of expanding technology and the growing amount of people, educated and uneducated, who feel entitled to sharing their opinion through social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogging, journalism has adapted to let these new outlets find their place in the world of reporting and discussing current events. Like the crocodile, journalism has reshaped itself in order to stay alive.
When I tell people that I am majoring in Journalism, I often get skeptical responses. People tell me that I will never find a job, I won’t make enough money, or that there is no room for me to grow in such a field. After this trip, I know that that is not true. Visiting multiple companies that are expanding in the media industry, such as Bloomberg, C-Span, PBS, and the Associated Press, gave me hope that not only will I be able to find a job doing what I love, but that there is an endless amount of possibilities to grow and career options I haven’t even dreamt of. The innovation I saw in these companies through reporting, use of social media, and broadcasting, reassured me that journalism is not dead, just forever changing and expanding in ways previously unimaginable.
Lesson 3: It’s okay to not know.
Before this trip I felt that I needed to know exactly what I was going to do with my life directly following graduation. Now, I’m not so worried. After hearing the success stories from multiple influential people in the media world, and the often roundabout paths that led them there, I have confidence that I will try many different jobs before landing my dream career, and more importantly, that there is nothing wrong with that.
Throughout this trip I was assured time and time again that I am young, and I don’t need to make any definite decisions about my life just yet. The important thing at this age is to explore all your options, and find the things you are passionate about, and above all else, do what makes you happy, not only what your parents or peers expect of you.
A perfect example of this is Brian Lamb, CEO and founder of C-SPAN. After undergraduate school, Lamb followed his father’s dream for him and went to law school. After just three days, however, he knew that law school was not the right path for him. So he sat his parents down and explained to them his decision to quit and follow his own dream of joining the Navy. Lamb explained that this was the smartest and most impactful decision of his life. Being in the military taught him discipline, and helped him find his passion that eventually led him to founding C-SPAN.
The fact that Lamb allowed himself to follow his own dream, despite the risk of disappointing his father, led him to becoming one of the most successful and influential people in American political broadcasting. As young people, we should follow his example. Because they’re our lives, not our parents’ lives, we must remember that our passion and desires come first. Regardless of the outcome, success will come through making our own decisions, risking our own mistakes, and celebrating our own triumphs. Most importantly, we are young, and we have all the time in the world to find just what those decisions, mistakes, and triumphs entail.
Lesson 4: Find your voice, find your passion.
One life and career lesson that most, if not all of the companies we visited touched on was the importance of finding a passion for life, for your studies, and your career. Don’t get so caught up in making money, or being successful, that you lose sight of what is truly important in life, being happy.
We were encouraged to focus on our free time to cultivate passions and follow our own dreams; to find what it is that makes us happy, and shape a career out of that, rather than finding a career and trying to figure out how it can make us happy.
Every single company we visited was full of countless people who were just doing what they loved. At The New York Times Graphics Department there were people with very diverse degrees, who all came together to put together amazing graphics. At Ketchum Public Relations, they spoke to us about the importance of finding your passion, and marketing yourself around that specialty. Bloomberg employees also had a wide array of degrees that all came together like a finely tuned machine.
Along with finding a passion in what you do, and letting that shape your career goals, we learned from Paula Kerger of PBS how important it is to use that passion through your own voice, not through the mold of your role models. Having role models is important, don’t get me wrong, however, it is more important to be yourself and follow your own dreams, rather than just copying those people that you see as successful.
Use your passion to find your own voice, and base your career off of what makes you happy.
Lesson 5: Go with the flow.
From busy subways, to jam-packed trains, to hectic crosswalks, and long lines, to schedules, and time-crunches, I think we all learned that, especially in such a fast paced environment as the East coast, going with the flow is a key to success. Being flexible, and pushing through the day despite the stress of uncertainty or not enough time, proved to get us from point A to point B, without too much damage.
Flexibility is not only important in every day life, but it is imperative in the media world as well. As a journalist you are constantly working with deadlines, and changing stories. If you have been working on a story for a week but then a national tragedy occurs, you must have the flexibility to put other things aside to go and report on the breaking news. In public relations you are constantly working with companies that want something new and different. In broadcasting rating can dictate what shows, and when. Flexibility plays a key role in all of these media related careers, and is a good life lesson as well. So be flexible, go with the flow, and don’t let anything catch you off guard.
Each of these lessons is a valuable one to keep in mind, and I know I will through the rest of my time at Whitworth, and in the real word in my career someday. Every company we visited left us with a valuable piece of wisdom that will not soon be forgotten. Each person we talked to shared insight into the media world that could only be learned from hands on, face-to-face experience.
I went into this trip thinking I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I had a very narrow idea of what I could do with a Communications major, and thought my life was fairly set in stone. After visiting so many amazing and diverse companies I now know that my life has endless possibilities. I have the room to dream, and to create, and to have fun with my career.
I will take these lessons with me over the next few years at Whitworth, and beyond into my future career, and always remember the 20 days I spent on the East Coast, with 13 amazing people, learning about how to cultivate my passion for life.