Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

The topic of discussion was “Careers in Communication” last Wednesday night in New Main Auditorium, as two accomplished alumni returned to West Chester University to engage students with tales of their own success in the industry, as well as offer them tips on how to acquire positions in this broad field of study.Michael J. Mahoney, WCU class of 1982, and Connie Pearson, class of 2004, discussed steps for career success as well as provided students with a picture of “what employers are looking for” in prospective applicants.

Today, Mahoney is president of an information service provider for four major states, which specializes in public record searches and settlement services.

Pearson held several high positions in the corporate world and is currently president and founder of her own event planning company based in Upper Darby.

The program was the second installment of the University’s Professional Pathways series. Dr. Ed Lordan represented the Communication Studies Department as host, while junior Lauren Jumper moderated the evening’s discussion.

One point that both Pearson and Mahoney agreed on early in the program is the important role that good communication skills play in any industry, since they allow a person to “put forth a position with conviction and logic.” Mahoney brought this out when he was asked about the broadness associated with a communications degree and how it helped him figure out what he wanted to do.

“Whatever industry you end up in, whether you end up working for a large company or a starting firm company, you really have to be able to communicate and sell ideas and there’s no better background to be able to do that then the major that you’re in,” he said.

Both Pearson and Mahoney offered a wide variety of views on what employers look for in applicants.

Mahoney said that the key is to have confidence in yourself and know that “it’s okay if you don’t know everything” about a position, but at least be willing to learn.

“People don’t expect you to be able to ‘parachute’ into their back office and understand how their workflow is performed on a daily basis, without some period of training or acclamation,” he said. “But what they do expect is that you’ll be enthusiastic, eager and willing to learn, adapt and perform in that environment.”

Pearson said that a student should try to convey difference while going through the interview process and strive to “go above and beyond” once in the work world.

“Staying an hour late at work to finish something doesn’t make you a kiss-up anymore, it makes you good at what you do,” she said, “I would stay late hours just to read what was going on within the company or try to prep myself for the meeting the next day by reading a little more then that I had to, instead of just enough to get by.”

Work experience, whether it is relevant to one’s desired career field or not, is another necessity that both alumni advocated for college students. Pearson promoted internships, as they not only help college students discover “what they’re good at” but also expose them to career fields which they might not like.

She discussed her experiences interning at a public relations firm in Philadelphia. While she came out knowing that PR “wasn’t what she wanted to do,” the internship helped her realize her true passion for event planning when she got to orchestrate an awards ceremony for their client, McDonalds.

“The one thing that I got of it was ‘this is what I want to do and I’m good at it,’ and I felt good saying that,” she said.

For Mahoney an internship is optimal, but any kind of “real world experience” is valuable, whether it be in taking courses outside of one’s discipline or gaining work experience in the job force through internships.

“The trick is to land that first position somewhere or if you can’t do that to develop some experience- any experience,” he said, “Flipping burgers at McDonalds is better experience then not having any because there is no job that is below your dignity.”

Mahoney also went on to say that while obtaining the first career position in your industry will be difficult, job placement will become easier with the more positive experience you acquire.

Pearson and Mahoney also touched on several other skills used to gain employment such as networking, resume writing and interview preparation.

To both alumni, the “appearance” factor is highly important in the work world as “you will be judged.” Even having a good, firm hand-shake is a way to express confidence in oneself. Pearson encouraged students to dress appropriately for a job interview in order to create a good first impression.

“They will rate you in the first few seconds. How you look is how you’re going to come to work every day,” she said.

Fifty-five students attended the discussion last Wednesday night. Senior Porsha Branson said following the program that she found it “very informative” regarding her career choice.

“I thought it was just very effective the way that they presented themselves,” she said “It made me feel good to be a communications major, as the skills that I’m being taught can be used towards whatever career that I choose in the future.

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