Sunday, April 17, 2011
Your Career and You: "Minorities, Masses and Internships"
Yep, it's that time of the year again when the soft breezes waft gently, squirrels play "chicken" with oncoming cars, and students get all googley-eyed at the thought of summer... as well as, for some, their future.
The inspiration for this week's ruminations was a chat I had with a student in my "Principles of Public Relations" class at Curry College where I oversee the COM Department's public relations concentration and teach most of the PR courses.
This particular student...a sports-enthusiast (no surprise there)...had learned of possible job openings at ComCast SportsNet in the communications area (BIG surprise there).
He's a senior. I've known him for about a year. Never a peep about interest in communications as an actual career field.
How can this be, you ask?
Easy. Not everyone who pursues a Communication major actually plans to work in communication. That's the beauty of this particular major...the knowledge and skills that you acquire in the process prepare you for an amazing variety of work environments.
You pick up, of course, writing and speaking skills. You learn the intricacies of interpersonal communication. You fine-tune your presentation skills. You learn how to communicate both in a business and a social environment.
Take all this and combine it with that particular area of professional life in which you truly have an interest...finance, education, criminal justice, you name it...and you have a leg up on your entry-level competitors who specialized in just one of these areas with no communication exposure.
But, back to my student. He indirectly was asking if I would grease the skids on his application for a marketing position reporting to a friend of mine. I didn't have a chance to grill him on his motivation, but I fully intend to do so.
Why? Because he will have zero qualifications other than a diploma and a love of sports and hasn't done anything to differentiate himself from the herd of other applicants who will be vying for this very same position.
It's a smidge late in the game to turn the clock back and start all over again. Other folks have been racking up internship after internship, homing in on their strengths, preferred work environments, areas of interest, etc.
And it's not like I haven't been yammering on and on about the importance of internships in all my classes.
That's how I got my start in public relations...as a Public Affairs Intern working for the US Army Training and Doctrine Command at Ft. Monroe, VA. Learned virtually everything there was to know about the career field. Took to it like a duck to water.
I was late to the game myself, having entered the world with an English degree and an unnerving interest in 18th century British literature.
Eight years in the Air Force had given me a chance to (accidentally, I hasten to emphasize) develop basic PR skills including writing, public speaking, event planning and management, crisis communication, and a myriad others. Thus to the Army as a civilian public affairs guy.
So, back to the student. I have to get clear in my own mind what it is he hopes to accomplish here. Does he think he is going to waltz into an interview armed with a shiny-new sheepskin and a smile and nail a coveted entry-level job?
I obviously don't have the answer to this puzzle yet, but I will have before I offer to intervene on his behalf with ComCast SportsNet.
But this episode lends even more credence to my ongoing mantra of "internship, internship, internship." Why?
> The economy is still faltering along...optimism is dawning but not fully in place.
> Competition even for entry-level jobs...especially for entry-level jobs...is brutal.
> You have to differentiate yourself from the rest of the flock.
> Successful internships make a difference...a big difference.
I hope I will be able to report in a future post the successful resolution of this situation. I'm not filled with great hope, but I'm also not always right. Fingers crossed on this one.
"Minorities are individuals or groups of individuals especially qualified. The masses are the collection of people not especially qualified."
Jose' Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses , prologue