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.

10 ways to act like a dream intern

Jessica Levco

When you’re in college, nobody tells you how to be an intern.

 That’s too bad.

 Because once you land your internship, your employer wants you to act like one.

 Recently, the career development representative at Indiana University (Go Hoosiers!) invited me and a bunch of A-list Chicago journalists who’ve made it to their tops of their careers in newspapers, magazines, and PR for dinner to pick our brains about how we could help turn J-school students into dream interns.

 Here’s what we came up with:

  1. Work later than everyone else. One woman said she turned her internship into a job because she would stick around until 7 p.m., willing to help anyone do anything—even if it was something as simple as mailing a package.
  2. Ditch the millennial crowd. It’s great if there are young people at your office, but don’t be an ageist. And let’s face it: Those older, mid-level managers are the ones that are going to hire you, anyway.
  3. Pick out an office role model. If you’re unsure of how to “act” at your first job, follow this person’s lede (pardon the pun).
  4. Invite someone out for coffee. Take the initiative to learn as much as you can about the company you’re working for.
  5. Learn new skills in social media. Whether you’re tweeting or adding people to your Google+ Circles, you need to be willing to adapt to change.
  6. Keep up with your selected industry. For budding journalists, one woman at dinner quipped: “They should know Romensko.”
  7. Don’t just be an intern. Be the intern. Especially if your office has a lot of interns, don’t get lumped into one category. Get noticed.
  8. Wear appropriate clothes. You’d be surprised by how many people ignore this clichéd advice. Don’t dress like you’re boozin’ it up with friends on a Saturday night. Class it up.
  9. Interact. Don’t isolate yourself by sitting in your cube all day, listening to Arcade Fire on your iTunes. It’s OK to chit-chat with co-workers who sit next to you.
  10. Say goodbye. Don’t watch the clock and bolt out the door at 5 p.m. Stop by your supervisor’s desk and say, “Hey, is there anything else you need from me today?”

Do you have any tips you’d like to share from your internship experience?