Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

The many faces and opportunities of the communications field were on display Wednesday night as the West Chester University Association for Women and Men in Communications hosted its third annual “Communication Career Night” in the Sykes Ballrooms. A panel discussion with seven professionals in various communications positions served as the centerpiece for an evening of anecdotes, career exploration and networking, as students were advised to get involved on campus, pursue internships and make personal connections.

One of the prevailing themes was the need to be enthusiastic not only in the workplace, but in the pursuit of a job. “I’m more excited by the height of your enthusiasm than the depth of your knowledge,” noted Stephen Lipscomb when asked about what assets a successful candidate should display when applying for a job. Lipscomb is a professional speaker and consultant who specializes in leadership development. “[I want] someone who’s intrinsically motivated, someone happy to be alive.”

The panelists also stressed the value of internships as effective means of providing students with real world experience. According to Linn Washington, a seasoned news reporter and journalism professor at Temple University, “Those who did [internships] got jobs as soon as they got out [of school]. It took me a year or two.”

Beyond internships, students were encouraged to get involved in campus organizations as another means of demonstrating initiative when applying for a job. “There are tremendous opportunities at college to get involved with organizations. As a hiring manager, that’s something I’d look for,” said Jo Leonard, who has worked in a variety of aspects of the communications industry and currently trains college graduates to prepare for the job market. “Get involved while you’re at West Chester,” argued Tim Sherry, a 1986 WCU graduate who is currently an account executive at KYW news radio in Philadelphia. Sherry credited his involvement in campus organizations like WCUR as an important step in his career development.

A major theme that was not only discussed during the panel segment, but openly encouraged during the reception that followed, was the importance of effective networking. “[Some] students are paralyzed by the thought of walking up and shaking someone’s hand,” noted Dr. Edward Lordan, assistant professor of communication studies, who moderated the discussion. Lordan, who is the faculty advisor for the Association of Women and Men in Communications, said that networking “has to be considered a valuable asset.” Mary Rucci, who is employed as communications director for Exelon Generation, further stressed the need to be personable. “Personality is so important. It’s important to be positive and upbeat.”

Rucci also added that students need to enter the workplace with basic writing skills, and lauded the benefit of a well-written cover letter. Gail Carter, a graduate of Temple University who is currently the personal assistant to Patti LaBelle, stressed the importance of a concise resume. “It should be one page,” she noted.

“Love what you do,” said Michele Monte, a WCU graduate who works on the television program “Trading Spaces.” Monte echoed an common belief about the communications field that both excites and worries students. “There are so many things you can do with your degree.” As for how to handle the inevitable journey from one job to the next, “Don’t burn bridges,” Leonard cautioned the audience. “It’s hard to go back after a couple of years. They generally think you want something. And generally, you do.” Throughout the evening, the panelists expressed the necessity for realistic expectations and diligence. “I thought I’d be a millionaire by 35,” joked Washington. “But remember, the race is not to the swift or the strong, but those who can endure.

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