ASK Experience Series: Communication

In the newest HireDePaul Blog series, the Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) Program will be hosting interviews with alumni designed to bring DePaul students access to unique career advice and professional insight. In the first installment, we spoke with Margaret Batkiewicz (‘74) about her career and the importance of good communication in the workplace. 

Margaret spent most of her career in global employee communications, creating internal messaging to keep employees informed and up-to-date. When asked about the importance of effective internal communications, Margaret told us that “a company that communicates well with its employees is going to do better, [improve] morale, and have less turnover.”

This messaging came in many forms, one of which being a regular newsletter sent out to an international audience of employees. With such a diverse audience, it was important that she communicated consciously, ensuring awareness of cultural and linguistic differences. By consulting with company leaders from the various geographic regions she was communicating with and sending out surveys to employees, she was able to successfully navigate this unique challenge throughout her career. With that, however, comes the joy of communicating globally. 

“I met so many wonderful people and learned so much about their cultures,” Margaret said. 

From there, Margaret went on to discuss communication as a whole and how it can make or break a company. 

“Communication is essential to the success of a company,” she said, “whether it does business locally or globally.” 

But what is good workplace communication? Good communication skills vary by industry, position, and workplace culture. However, there are some good practices that can be applied to any professional environment:

Tone and Volume

Be conscious of the tone and volume of your voice when communicating with colleagues. There is some truth to the old saying “it’s not what you say, but how you say it.” Pay attention to your tone, watching out for any unintentionally negative, unenthusiastic, or accusatory intonations. As you get more comfortable in a workplace, continue to practice respectful and sincere communication. 

Be Concise and Definite

Avoid any superfluous information. Communicate with definition, avoiding language that may unnecessarily extend or worsen periods of uncertainty like “maybe” and “probably.” In some instances, informing your coworker that you are unsure of an answer is equally appropriate to providing that answer, as long as you come back to them with that answer once you have it.

Practice Good Listening Skills

Listen closely and attentively while showing interest in the topic and respecting the speaker. Ask questions to clarify information you may have missed. Paraphrase what you have heard and repeat it back to the speaker to ensure understanding. 

Give and Receive Feedback

Be descriptive and clear, while avoiding judgmental language. Be open to receiving feedback without defensiveness, allowing for the other person to address all of their points before responding. Remember: address modifiable, not unchangeable behavior. 

For more information on career readiness, make sure to explore the HireDePaul Blog. To connect with alumni like Margaret and practice your communication skills online, check out the DePaul ASK Network!

Cover Letters: Media, Communication, Arts & Entertainment

By: Michael Elias, Media, Communication, Arts & Entertainment Career Community Advisor

The idea of customizing a cover letter to each individual position you apply to can feel like a daunting task, particularly if you want to cast a wide net and apply to multiple roles.

For students with an interest in Media, Communication, Arts & Entertainment, cover letter writing can feel especially tedious when, more often than not, a portfolio or demo reel is also required. Your resume highlights your career history, the portfolio/reel provides concrete evidence of your work, and the cover letter can be a space to fill in any relevant gaps that those materials don’t convey.

Advertising, Public Relations, and Digital Marketing

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Professionals in these industries are going to expect some level of creativity in applicant cover letters, even if you’re not applying for copywriting roles. One of the best ways to do this is by grabbing their attention in your opening paragraph, ideally by telling a story. This story might express your enthusiasm for the specific company, highlight relevant skills, and/or emphasize your passion for a relevant cause.

If you’re stuck, review some of the campaigns that firm or agency has developed. Do any of them inspire you? Does your individual writing style match theirs? Are there specific values evident in these campaigns that align with what you want to convey in your work? Any of these can be a strong starting point to tell a relevant story and make a direct connection to the company.

Arts and Arts Administration

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For students seeking opportunities in graphic, photography, and/or studio arts, your creative portfolio will do much of the heavy lifting. Your cover letter, then, can be used to make a case for how your aesthetic sensibility aligns with the studio you’re applying to, and/or what inspires you about the work being done by that particular artist. Behavioral attributes, such as the ability to provide and receive constructive criticism, are worth mentioning as well, particularly if you can provide an example of how you’ve demonstrated these in the past.

If you’re looking to break into arts administration, your task is two-fold.

  1. Make sure you are speaking to relevant attributes outlined in the job description, which may range from advocacy for the arts to building relationships with patrons to event planning to writing funding proposals.
  2. Genuinely and enthusiastically express your passion for the organization you’re applying to. If it’s a children’s museum, talk about your interest in kid-friendly content; if it’s a gallery that specializes in, say, sculpting, describe your passion for the art form. Additional tips and skills for arts cover letters can be found in this post from BalanceCareers.com.

Entertainment and Production

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The entertainment industry can be broadly defined as anything from film/television to music to sports to digital programming. Whether your interests lie in working with a film festival or a music label, you’ll want to spend some time talking about your passion for the projects being produced by these organizations. If there’s an opening with the Chicago Underground Film Festival, express your passion for experimental cinema. If a music label specializes in punk rock, don’t waste time discussing your interest in other genres like country or opera; be sure you’re relating to their unique specialization.

For production roles, the good news is that you can generally keep these short and sweet. Unless you’re applying for a full-time position, many production jobs are going to be temporary or contract-based, and the people who hire for them generally need talent ASAP. After (briefly) summarizing your skills and expertise, use the cover letter to explicitly outline your dates of availability and other practical requirements, such as access to a car, relevant film equipment, etc. These are competitive positions, but a strong demo reel won’t compensate for your inability to arrive on set at the drop of a hat.

Journalism and Publishing

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For many journalism students, strong writing and the ability to tell a story will come naturally and serve them well in cover letter writing. What you don’t want to do is get too long-winded, which can be a challenge when you’ve been trained to write in a particular way. While hiring managers will definitely want to assess your written communication skills, let your writing samples do the heavy lifting here; keep the cover letter short and to the point. For broadcast students, it’s important to demonstrate that you are a visual storyteller and the various platforms you have experience with. Your reels will communicate many of the skills employers are looking for here, but if your samples only emphasize one broadcast medium (e.g. podcasts), use the cover letter to talk about other relevant production skills (e.g. videos, blogs) and other relevant media you may have experience with.

If your interest is in the publishing industry, you’ll find that many of the same tips for arts administration professionals apply here. Specifically, roles in the publishing field may include editing and writing, but also span everything from sales to marketing to legal to accounting. Make sure that you’re highlighting experiences that are directly related to that individual position. If you have a particular passion for the output of the company (be it a publishing house, literary journal, trade publication, etc.), be sure to talk about this, as well.

Conclusion

The above strategies provide insight into industry-specific cover letter tips, but it’s important to be aware of the appropriate structure and format needed for these documents. If you’re writing your first cover letter (or just need a refresher), this online guide provides a great template. Afterward, stop by the Career Center to take advantage of our drop-in resume and cover letter advising service; we’ll help you to become more prepared and confident to take the next step in the application process.

Communication & Media Degree: Career Possibilities for Every Interest

By: Brittany Wierman, DePaul University communication & media major ‘20

Few things are as frustrating to a communication and media student as being asked the ultimate, inescapable question, “what job are you going to get with your major?” Some students have their career goals cemented, but for those of us who are still unsure of how our major will lead us down the path of success, have no fear—the communication and media program is equipped to prepare you for a career in whatever niche fuels you.

So what exactly does a major in communication and media look like? Michael Elias, career advisor for the College of Communication explains, “the major itself was designed so students could experience classes across the entire curriculum in the College of Communication.” Essentially, students in this major can explore all different types of communication avenues including film, journalism, public relations, advertising, broadcasting and more to discover which field suits them best.

…Michael suggests that students reflect on their personal interests and skills to narrow down possible career paths.

Since the field of communication is so broad, Michael suggests that students reflect on their personal interests and skills to narrow down possible career paths. As a communication and media major, you can consider seeking career paths as a reporter, press agent, communication coordinator, event planner, human resources manager, and even a disc jockey, all depending on what peaks your interest.

The possibilities are expansive, which means taking different courses to help you uncover your interests and choose a concentration is key. Even if you have a hard time choosing just one specialization, don’t fret; at the end of the day the development of good communication skills through this program will benefit you in your future professional life. Michael elaborates, “[communication] is the foundation of how we relate with one another… it’s what makes us who we are, the ability to express ourselves.” In other words, whether you’re in an interpersonal, intercultural, mass media, or professional setting, the ability to communicate effectively is fundamental to your success.

For more information on specific career paths, major advising and career planning, check out these major and career guides, and stop by the Career Center to connect with your career advisor.