9 musts for every communications grad

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Robin Farr

In a recent post, HubSpot blog listed 20 things every marketing student needs to know. Great advice, so we’re going to spin that for all you communications grads about to hit the streets.

Here are nine things every communications grad should know (or do), broken down into stuff for right now, for when you start your new job, and for the rest of your life.

Right now

1. Learn basic HTML. Seriously, it will help you. You’re going to have to build content at some point, or at the very least fix something that’s gone sideways. Years ago, before I even planned to work in communications, I asked my husband to teach me how to make a website. He was a grump and made me learn HTML instead of using whatever website-building program was big at the time, but it’s been a very handy skill to have in my communications work. (Just don’t tell him I said that.)

2. Get active on Twitter. Chances are you’re well acquainted with Twitter already, but if you aren’t, get on there. You’ll find great connections and tons of resources and learning opportunities. A degree in communications from Twitter University is the best pretend degree you’ll ever get.

3. Having a blog isn’t really experience. Having a blog is great for a lot of things—writing, staying up to date on social media trends and technology, making connections, etc.—but developing and promoting your own content isn’t the same as being the voice of an organization.

When you start your first dream job

4. Communication is about more than writing. You have to be a good writer, which I listed as an essential skill for corporate communicators in an earlier post. But I’ve known too many communications newbies who think that working in corporate communications is all about writing. You also have to be able to develop a solid communications plan. You have to roll it out effectively. And being able to handle issues management doesn’t hurt either (see No. 7). Communications is also about more than sharing information. It’s about engagement, dialogue, building trust—all those warm fuzzies.

5. You’re going to hear “no.” And you thought the B you got on your final project was bad. Part of communications is being able to plan (see No. 4), and sometimes your latest brilliant idea will land with a resounding thud when it gets to the desk in the corner office. Sometimes people won’t want to word things the way you do. Sometimes (gasp!) they won’t want to communicate something when you know it’s important. Just expect it (and try not to take it personally).

6. Meet the important people in the company. That doesn’t necessarily mean executives. When you start, figure out who knows what’s going on, who can get things approved fast, and who is a communications champion. These are all very helpful people to know.

7. Proofreading is good for the soul. This is true whether it’s your own writing or someone else’s. Just do it.

For the rest of your life

8. You can never really know how people will react. This ties into the aforementioned issues management part of the job (see No. 4). Companies do things all the time that their audiences—whether employees or customers or the general public—don’t like. The message can be taken the wrong way even when intentions are good, so here’s my advice: Be clear. Be thorough. Be prepared to respond.

9. Don’t be afraid to be creative. I’ve seen way too many communications efforts that are so dull you’ll wish you were back in the lecture hall. Please, please don’t contribute to that. Creative is good, trust me. So there you have it. Whether or not you’ve walked across the stage yet, you’re officially ready for your career in communications. Congratulations, and good luck out there.

Millennials: How are you navigating adulthood?

Jessica Levco

Recently, I was lucky enough to see that classic Chicago sunset from the top of a rooftop deck, right in front of Millennium Park. From a bird’s eye view, you can see how the Windy City is organized on a grid system. I realized that no matter which way you walk in Chicago, you always know where you’ll end up.

If only life as a millennial could be that linear. But as a twenty-something, you’ll find yourself re-routing, doing U-turns, or winding up on dead-end streets. Sometimes, it’s hard just getting started.

One day, you’ve got a job—the next, the Recession forces your employer to lay you off. Maybe you spend all day at work looking at grad school programs in Brazil. Perhaps your degree in Holistic Underwater Basket Weaving isn’t paying the bills. Whatever situation you find yourself in, it seems like the paths are always changing.

You constantly have to ask yourself: “What road do you want to go down?”

Up until college, you didn’t even think about this. The only question you had to ask was, “Should I go to a frat or a house party tonight?” Basically, you knew what was expected of you (and what you expected out of your weekends). Get good grades to go to college; Get good grades in college; and get a good job. You thought were following a grid or at least, a reasonable plan.

If you’re a recent college grad, you might now be realizing that you’ll have to throw your internal grid system away. Part of becoming an adult is figuring out how to create your own path.

Maybe a good strategy is not knowing (or caring) where you’re going. Sure, you might hit a few dead ends and have to turn-around, but isn’t that better than admitting hopeless confusion? If you wander from street to street, you make the decisions yourself. Nobody will tell you what road to go down. Even if they did, you probably wouldn’t listen.

So, that being said, here’s the best, non-directional and most clichéd advice my mom ever gave me: “You never know what’s around the corner.”

That’s true. Even when you’re living on a grid.

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