By Pama Mitchell, Ph.D., Educator Associate Professor
Near the end of each semester I’ve devoted a day in my Intro to Mass Communication class to what I call careers in communication.
I invite one or two young professionals working in our field to share career advice with my students. And since up to half of this class is not majoring in communication, the guest speakers gear their presentations more broadly toward all undergraduates trying to navigate their completion of college and the Great Beyond of what comes after.
My most effective team consists of Tricia Suit – a former colleague of mine in local journalism – and Ryan Schatzman, a 2010 graduate of our department who was in a couple of my classes. Tricia is now Director of Marketing for Downtown Cincinnati, Inc. (DCI), and Ryan works at the Cincinnati-based website design firm Topic Design as a Content Strategist. Their visit on November 24 was their second joint appearance in Introduction to Mass Communication this year.
Tricia began the class with a clever Power Point that explained her journey from a journalism degree at Ball State University to her present position at DCI. She emphasized that although her career has veered from journalism to public relations and marketing, she learned valuable skills at every point along the way—even at start-up journalism ventures that ultimately failed due to lack of funding. She encouraged the students to do as much writing as possible, saying that “if you can write well, you can work anywhere.”
This emphasis on communication skills, especially writing, was echoed by Ryan. His style is much looser than Tricia’s—no Power Point, and no particular focus to his presentation, but he connects very well with students.
Ryan gave a short narration of his own journey from college to his current position, with the most immediately useful advice being about what he did with his final year as an undergrad. At that time, he was trying to decide whether to take business or writing courses, so he asked business leaders in the city. To a person, they told him to focus on writing: “business students are a dime a dozen” was the bottom line. Ryan’s final year included earning a Professional Writing Certificate, which he credits as “the best decision I ever made.”
Both Ryan and Tricia encouraged students to take advantage of student organizations and student media. They suggested such things as writing for the UC News Record, joining UC PRSSA, or becoming part of a debate/forensics team as activities that will serve them well in the long run.
My favorite part of the class was when Ryan addressed individual students, first asking who had a clear path toward a career, and who felt adrift. [A friend of mine once sat in on a previous visit and called Ryan “the five-minute therapist.”] His one-on-one counseling included a lot of gems that had wide application to his audience. For instance, one young man shared that he was majoring in communication because it was the only major that would take all his transfer credits; meanwhile, he wanted to go into a business career. Ryan told him to stick with communication: if he can write and speak well, work with others, and exhibit leadership, he’ll run circles around those who get the business degrees.
Neither Ryan nor Tricia suggested that finding a path after college was going to be easy for most students. But their practical suggestions for what to do while in school along with inspirational advice about finding what you’re passionate about –what you would do with your days even if nobody was paying you to do it—lit up the classroom. When the period ended, several students stayed behind to chat and pick up Tricia and Ryan’s business cards.
At our next class meeting, I asked students for a written reaction to our guests. Here are a few of their remarks:
- [They] brought some of the things was have talked about in class to life.
- Tricia gave good examples of how the field of communication is changing, and that any skill you can acquire will make you more marketable.
- The story about her career so far was really inspiring. [When] new opportunities come up you have to take advantage of them.
- [Tricia’s talk] made me realize that things may not always go as planned but if you stay positive and strive to get where you want to be, anything is possible.
- Ryan gave me a sense of reassurance about my future career.
- [They] gave me a better understanding of how you can have a career in communication.
- It’s nice to hear from someone who didn’t know what he wanted to do, figured it out, followed his passion, and has now found happiness and success.