Unlikely ways to use your comm experience

By Sarah Vlazny, Account Executive for PSU Engineering Abroad

Most rising seniors who study communications probably hope to get a job in the communications field— whether it be working in public relations, media, or advertising. A select few of us, however, may find ourselves looking for and applying for jobs that aren’t traditionally considered to be “communications” positions.

This was exactly the position I found myself in last fall. I am an economics and public relations double major, and a year ago I decided to apply for economics-related positions for the first time. The internship I ended up accepting was in economic consulting, seemingly having nothing to do with public relations or communications whatsoever. However, what I quickly learned over the summer is that good communications skills are valuable no matter the industry or position. Here are some ways communications students can leverage their skills in any job, field, or industry:

Write a good email. The one thing I’ve found to hold true for any kind of office job is that a tremendous amount of communication is done over email. I’ve also found that writing an email that is clear, informative, and concise is not as easy as one might think. Those who have studied communications have a unique edge in this area— most of us having taken classes like News Writing and Reporting (COMM 260W) that teach us how to determine what the most important ideas are and write about them succinctly and clearly. This is a skill that is valued in any workplace environment, and one that definitely won’t go unnoticed.

Communicate well with your supervisors and coworkers. I think most company human resources departments would agree that many workplace issues that arise are at least partially due to a lack of communication. Maybe a supervisor didn’t clearly articulate what was expected of an employee, or an employee didn’t ask questions to clarify what their responsibilities were. One thing I found to be invaluable this summer was to not be afraid to ask my managers for clarification about any assignments or deadlines, and to make sure they knew what other tasks I was juggling or any difficulties I was having. Those who have studied communications know not to underestimate the importance of open and honest two-way communication.

Understand the importance of a compelling narrative.  One thing communications students learn in almost every communications class is how to “tell a good story”. This applies to news writing, public relations strategy, and even advertising campaigns. I was surprised to learn how well this knowledge translates to other industries outside of communications. My company this summer did mostly quantitative work— interpreting and analyzing data on behalf of their clients. One thing they found was that while it is extremely important to do empirically sound work, it was almost equally as important to be able to “tell a good story” about the quantitative work that they did. Communications students know that most people are more responsive to stories that are compelling and persuasive than they are to facts and statistics. This holds true no matter how quantitative the work may seem, which is why good story tellers are valued in every industry.

Overall, I was surprised and excited to find that the skills and attributes that make a good communications student are applicable no matter what you end up doing after graduation. So for those rising seniors who, like me, find themselves applying to jobs that aren’t strictly “communications” positions, the time we spend sitting in classes like COMM260W was certainly not wasted.

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