Pursuing a Career in Communications? Evaluate Your Social Media Feeds

By: Blaire Knight-Graves, DePaul University web content producer

What used to be a wild and vast frontier of aliases, browser histories that could be scrubbed, and avatars as personal representations has shifted into a world where personal branding on social media and public identity are an essential part of the professional toolkit—even as early as your career begins in the entry-level space. If you want to pursue a job in one of the various fields held under the umbrella of communications, consider taking the opportunity to evaluate your social media feeds based on the following personal social media skills.

Clean up the feed.

It goes without saying, but our feeds are generally filled with memes, viral videos, long sentimental posts, pictures of food and entertainment, and articles dissecting pop culture, politics or local events. Personal feeds may also feature something deeper—pictures of raucous parties, angry rants, opinions from five or more years ago, and diverging opinions on even the blandest of topics. Both of these feeds are intrinsically tied to your name when someone decides to look you up on a search engine. Believe it or not, hiring managers pay attention to this stuff, and make informed decisions based on personal research during the candidate selection process. I can think of at least three separate instances where I didn’t take on an intern because I didn’t like what I found on his/her Twitter or YouTube accounts. Brand perception now runs deeper than the messaging and marketing itself—in the eyes of the public, employees can — and often do — represent the values of a business, and a business needs to have digitally exemplary employees. So, when you’re applying to jobs, ask yourself if your feed can be used against you, and clean up accordingly.

Learn to lurk and digest, then react.

The Internet is a hot bed of opinions. Discourse is encouraged on most platforms—Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and even the comment section of your local news source. But as discussed above, sometimes it’s best just to pay attention to the discourse and nod or shake your head as you scroll through your feed instead of reacting, no matter how tempting the topic may be. If you really want to join in on the conversation, force yourself to sit on your idea for 15 minutes or longer before typing a response to or “liking” someone else’s post.

It’s also worth mentioning here that the groups that you belong to on Facebook can sometimes be viewed publicly, or your comments in “private” groups can still be screen grabbed and posted for the world to see. Keep that in mind before taking part in difficult discourse.

If you’re going to post, pick your personal niche and stick with it like it’s a brand.

Finding a little niche on the Internet and sticking to it is my most recommended method of personally using social media. Whether you love food, television, film, travel, fashion, makeup or power tools—pick a hobby and have that dominate the posts you put in your feed. Now, of course your personal brand doesn’t have to exclusively feature stylized photos of pasta and smoothies, but once you’ve picked your niche try to keep your posts in that realm 75% of the time. My personal niche is my love of television and film, and all things geek culture, but yours might be fitness and nature. Whatever you pick, try to make an intentional effort to stick with it for at least six months. Not only will you be playing it safe, you’ll also start building a community with the same interests and learn some additional branding skills along the way.

Don’t “Vaguebook” or “Subtweet.”

This rule is short and simple. Don’t vaguely post your bad thoughts about other people while omitting their names, and consider not posting bad thoughts about anyone at all. You never know if you’re going to hurt someone’s feelings or if you might be eliminating an opportunity to network in the future. Professionals who pay attention to others in their field won’t want to take the risk of networking with you if they fear you’re a busy body on the web. I’ve said no to coffee with other professionals over subtweeting because I didn’t think it was worth the risk of ending up in their feed, and you don’t want that to happen to you.

A picture’s worth a thousand words, and so is your avatar.

There’s a balance between being professional and having a personal life. You shouldn’t feel like every profile photo has to be you’re LinkedIn headshot, but you also shouldn’t post a profile picture with anything that could be deemed controversial. Think about your profile picture or avatar within the context of your personal story, and what that tells the world. You could be in a blouse and slacks while at a cocktail bar, hiking with messy hair and an unwashed face, swimming in the lake, or maybe you’re kissing your significant other on the cheek. All of these tell the outside world something about how you live your life, and none of them are bad. In your profile picture you should look warm, welcoming and as though your interests matter to you. Having clean social media doesn’t mean that you can’t have or project a personal life with your own interests, and an avatar is a perfect place to start.

DePaul Diaries: Life as a PR & Media Relations Intern

By: Lucil Macwan, DePaul University public relations and advertising major ‘17

DePaul Diaries is a day-in-the-life blog series written by DePaul students. The series unveils DePaulians’ experiences as interns in their field of choice. Students share their honest thoughts about their experiences, what they learned as an intern and advice for students who are interested in the same field.

A professor once told me that public relations is what keeps the world informed. During my last four months as a PR intern for DePaul, I learned that this is quite true. So, what do PR professionals do? Let me give you a glimpse of what you can expect when you begin your own adventure.

As a transfer student coming into DePaul, I didn’t have much time to apply for internships before graduation. Fortunately, I was offered a position at the very university I attend; from the time when I started working in the DePaul Office of Public Relations & Communications (OPRC) in September to now, I have grown to have much respect for the profession.

Being a PR intern, I quickly learned to create engaging and interesting content for the DePaul community by writing about upcoming events, feature stories and press releases. In the beginning, I was writing press releases that informed the public about exciting campus events. Our goal at the office is to provide public service by keeping our audience informed and spotlight DePaul’s great professors, students and achievements. This experience allowed me to research and strengthen my writing and communication skills.

As I adjusted to the company culture, I was given more responsibilities that provided opportunities to conduct one-on-one interviews with people whom I was writing a story or press release about. This was my favorite part about the job because it allowed me to become educated around topics I previously didn’t know much about. In the four months that I have been a PR intern, I have written about Shakespearean plays, medical research, movies and more.

Though PR consists of a lot of writing, refinement and research, you also have to have good communication skills; being able to talk to team members about ideas, feedback and planning is important. Each one of us at the office works as a unit to ensure DePaul is represented in the best way possible.

From my experiences, my best advice would be to not worry so much about having all the skills when applying for internships; you will learn and acquire skills as you progress through your career. When I was applying for internships, I often felt very intimidated by long job descriptions, but I soon learned that work ethic and a willingness to learn goes a long way with employers. As a PR intern for DePaul, I learned to effectively communicate with a team, to conduct research and to navigate the ins and outs many software programs used in the PR world. Not knowing everything is okay, but curiosity to know more is what matters.

I also highly suggest creating a portfolio of writing material that you have done in or out of class, as it’s a good starting point for recruiters to get a sense of your writing style. Remember, when you write, your audience may or may not know much about the topic at hand, it’s your job to make it as accessible as possible.

Now that you have an idea of what it’s like to work in PR, are you ready to take the next step?


Email Etiquette: When & How to Use Exclamation Points

By: Gracie Covarrubias, DePaul University organizational and multicultural communication major ’18 and Career Center communications assistant

Email etiquette can often make or break your professional presence in the workplace. Most standard guidelines can be found on the Internet or taught in the classroom. However, there are still unwritten rules to uncover. Among the unwritten is when to utilize exclamation points. The exclamation point itself is a powerful force in punctuation and must therefore be used with great caution.

Here’s our guide to mastering exclamation points in the workplace:

1. Go ahead, give opening and closing salutations an energetic tone

Many people will kick off an email with an energetic greeting such as, Good Morning! And, similarly, will close with a, Have a great day! Both of these salutations are common and are minimally distracting to the reader.

2. Show appropriate enthusiasm in response to affirmations or congratulatory statements

There are some points in an email when not using an exclamation point may come off as rude. For example, if a coworker or boss shares exciting news with the team, a Congrats! message comes off as genuine enthusiasm as opposed to, Congrats, which makes it appear as though you aren’t excited about something truly noteworthy.

3. Stray away from double, triple, quadruple (you get the idea) exclamation points

There are no exceptions to this rule. Double exclamation points mean double the trouble. Trust us on this one, just don’t do it.

4. When in doubt, let the other person lead

Just as in the art of conversation, you are expected to match the tone of the person you are speaking with; the same goes in email conversations. Make the effort to match the tone of the email that is being sent your way. For example, if you receive the email message, Thank you for the coffee! An appropriate response would be, You’re welcome!

5. Ration your exclamation points in general

If you’re new to a professional workplace and still trying gage the enthusiasm levels of your colleagues, it’s best to air on the side of caution. ASK Associate Director Leslie Chamberlain suggests following the “once a year rule.” Leslie shared, “When crafting your email, imagine that you are allowed one exclamation point for the entire calendar year. Then ask yourself, is this exclamation that monumentally necessary?”

Emails are tricky, and with the ever-changing social norms it is a daily challenge to keep up with the times. We hope this guide will serve as a staple in your exclamation point usage endeavors. At the end of the day, keep these tips in mind, but remember to trust your instincts. No one knows your workplace better than you.

Get Real With: Family Focus Nonprofit

By: Renee Radzom, DePaul University graduate, former University Internship Program (UIP) assistant

Gettin’ real with Director of Development and Communications Carolyn Nopar of Family Focus. In this employer spotlight post, get an inside look at what it would be like to intern with a small nonprofit organization.

When looking for potential interns, Family Focus Director of Development and Communications Carolyn Nopar has a lot of useful tips for students. Carolyn believes being prepared is a great step in the interview process and suggests:

“As hard as it is, have practice interviews with someone before your actual interview. Ideally this is someone at the career department and someone you don’t know well. Doing so will allow you to have feedback on how well you communicate before an actual job interview.”

Carolyn is really looking for students with stories that illustrate how they have added value toward something. It can be a school project, a past job experience, or a volunteer position. Be prepared to discuss how you identified a problem, the steps you took to solve it and the end result.

Let’s back up. Carolyn’s organization, Family Focus, is a small nonprofit organization dedicated to helping low-income, Chicago-area families give their children a bright start in their lives. Carolyn oversees the communications and development department of the nonprofit, which has a wide variety of projects and tasks for interns. In a typical day at Family Focus, Carolyn says interns will help with the overall flow of the department and the internship is constantly being adjusted to fit the growing needs of the organization.

Carolyn really focuses on the “ability for anyone to multitask,” saying it “is a crucial skill in today’s job market.” However, Carolyn still wants the intern to be able to put some energy on a single project, and gives the example of an intern who created and implemented their entire “Giving Tuesday” campaign that ran in December 2014. Another project involved a student working on outreach to Family Focus alumni through social media. While both projects are for nonprofits, the skills learned are transferable to the for-profit sector.

The ability for anyone to multitask…is a crucial skill in today’s job market.

Regarding communications, Carolyn emphasizes that things change quickly and an intern needs to be able to respond to changing priorities:

“Because we are a small organization, we have a lot of flexibility and are actively seeking input. If an intern comes to me with an idea for a project they would like to work on, we can usually accommodate it.”

Carolyn sees opportunities to work for small nonprofits or other organizations, like Family Focus, as a great start to building your resume and gaining work experience for the career you’re looking for down the road.

Carolyn encourages students to check out family-focus.org if they are interested in working with the organization.

Inspired and interested in finding a job or internship in the nonprofit sector? Check out Handshake for new career listings!

DePaul Diaries: Life as a TV Station Intern

By: Sean Nasi, DePaul University digital cinema major ’15

DePaul Diaries is a day-in-the-life blog series written by DePaul students. The series unveils DePaulians’ experiences as interns in their field of choice. Students share their honest thoughts about their experiences, what they learned as an intern and advice for students who are interested in the same field.

After months of searching, Sofia Figueroa, DePaul digital cinema major, found herself an intern at, not one, but two different television stations, WAPA America and Corporación de Puerto Rico para la Difusión Publica. Sofia found both opportunities through the online market and was able to work near her home town in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. She has learned valuable time management skills while balancing the two positions, which have helped confirm the focus of her studies at DePaul.

“This experience has helped me reinforce my career choice in working in communications and television,” Sofia said. “As a digital cinema student, this is a perfect opportunity to polish my skills and, at the same time, learn new aspects about the industry.”

WAPA is an independent channel that focuses on entertainment, while the Corporación de Puerto Rico is a nonprofit PBS affiliate that focuses on education and culture.

“Corporación de Puerto Rico is a bit more serious, but there is definitely a sense of camaraderie to work for the greater good of the company and its audience,” Sofia said. “At WAPA they are constantly brainstorming ideas to reach a wider audience. There is always work to be done, but there are also always those moments that we just laugh and have fun.”

Sofia’s experience at Corporación de Puerto Rico and WAPA has taught her versatility by opening the way to new experiences. She has even gotten the chance to apply her classroom knowledge to real-world environments with tangible results.

“Not only am I getting hands-on experience, but also all of my work is necessary to the company. It is a gratifying feeling when you know that you are an essential part of the team and that your hard work is out there in the world,” Sofia said.

“It is never too early to get work experience and in the long run it will only do you good,” Sofia advised. She is a living example of how hard work and persistence can pay off in the end.

Sofia reiterated, “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there because everyone has to start somewhere. After you get work experience it will get easier.”

Want to learn about DePaul’s University Internship Program? Check it out, here, or send inquiries to UIP@depaul.edu. Need help finding an internship? Visit depaul.joinhandshake.com, or come into DePaul’s Career Center to meet with an advisor.