Professionals from Amazon, KUOW, Pyramid Communications, Geekwire and WONGDOODY spoke at a panel discussion February 11 on Careers in Media and Communication, hosted by the UW Career Center. The panelists offered advice on finding jobs in media and communications, and talked about how they found their own jobs.
KUOW and Geekwire were the only strictly journalistic companies represented, but most of the event’s panelists had a background in journalism, and several panelists said the storytelling skills of journalism are very applicable to PR, advertising and social media work.
For instance, Chris Nelson, Arts and Culture Director of Pyramid Communications (a communications firm exclusively for nonprofits, which does work for environmental and Tribal causes) was once a music journalist who wrote for outlets like the New York Times and Rolling Stone.
Nelson said students entering media and communications fields should be able to find the heart of a story, tell is compellingly, and succinctly. Having these three skills will make you valuable to employers, he said. When he’s hiring someone, Nelson looks for good writing, regardless of whether this means a personal blog or the Seattle Times. Get that Seattle Times clip if you can, he clarified, but the outlet is less important than your writing skills.
Taylor Soper, another panelist, was hired as a staff writer for the technology, science and business news site Geekwire straight after he graduated from the UW with a journalism degree. His advice to students? Work hard, go the extra mile, and have a positive attitude in the work you do. Soper also suggested finding mentors and networking with professionals. Find people whose job you want. Ask to meet them for coffee, and ask them about how they got their job. Soper said he did this with ten or 12 professionals when he was close to graduating.
“It’s a good time to be in communication coming out of school, contrary to what you might hear”
Professionals are usually happy to help a “poor college student,” he said, but this advantage vanished once you graduate. “When I graduated I could feel the change,” he said.
“It’s a good time to be in communication coming out of school, contrary to what you might hear,” he added.
Stephanie Huske, representing West Coast independent ad agency Wongdoody, shared her hard-won insight that, as an intern or someone new in their career, there can be a fine line between asking too many questions and asking too few. Huske said she embarked on a difficult project on her own to demonstrate her self-sufficiency to her bosses, but ended up delaying their schedule instead after she got on the wrong track. Her mistake was in not asking for guidance or questions when it would have been appropriate.
Bond Huberman, social media producer with KUOW, said she was always eager to take on a lot of projects early in her career. She now thinks there are times when it’s important to focus on doing quality work, and being less multi-purpose, if doing so will bury you in work.
The panelists also shared some ideas about where the communications industry is headed, and what skills are useful to learn.
An example of a Tableau visualization, created by Adam McCann
Soper suggested learning Tableau, a free software that can create interactive charts, maps and graphs.
Nelson said being well versed in data and coding is always helpful, and those who aspire to work in media or communications are better off “the more you know about turning numbers into stories.”
Rena Lunak, Senior Program Manager at Amazon, brought up a New York Times piece called Snow Fall, an interactive multimedia piece, as a good example of the future of communications. “That to me, in one word, is where communications is going,” she said.