I’ve always found the relationship between student and professor to be an interesting one. In some degree, they are your academic superior. They hold all the knowledge and are often the medium between what happens in the “real world”, as we often like to call it, and the classroom. However, too often I find that students are hesitant to ask their professors about career advice and what to look for in terms of jobs in their field. I’ve found that my professors are a fountain of knowledge when it comes to their field, and I’ve taken the time to ask them questions.
One of the professors I often find myself going to is Professor Jim O’Connor, who teaches Media and Communications. Professor O’Connor, a former New York Times journalist, has helped me on numerous occasions to find out what it is I want to do, and to understand my field. So I decided to sit down with him, and ask him to give media students, like myself, an idea of what is going on in our field and how to use that to find ourselves a job.
O’Connor started by giving an overview of how the media and communication field is changing.
“There is a paradigm shift happening right now in the world of media,” O’Connor said. “The reason this is happening is because new advances in computing power and technological communication are taking over how we communicate to each other. It’s called creative destruction. This has fragmented the media, and created what is called media convergence. Mediums such as newspaper and radio are being converted into things such as online platforms and social media, which makes the information available to almost anyone at any time. All the information that was once coming from all these different mediums is now converging on to the worldwide web. This is changing how media such as news is delivered in terms of time and speed. ”
Growing up in an age where technology has been everywhere, my generation has seen this change almost without really noticing it. We never really grew up with having to read newspapers to get what was going on in the world. We had it in the palm of our hand, whether it’s in a tablet, or even our phones. So I decided to ask O’Connor why “media convergence” is important to understand when it comes to being a Media and Communications student.
“I mean you guys are the pioneers in this media world. You were born and raised with this sort of stuff around you. So I think important things for people like you to understand is how to analyze the data. You know, there are so many different tools you can use, and there’s so much information available that it’s important to understand what it means and how to analyze it. People in the job market are looking to you guys to kind of help businesses and firms get involved in things like social media because you guys know the language and how it works. And that’s where I think you guys have an advantage because, like I said, you were raised with this stuff. People in my generation are far less removed from this new world of media. So I think if you guys learn how to manage these sorts of things, I think it will help you stick out in the corporate world.”
“Sticking out” in the corporate world seems to becoming a tougher task the closer I come to graduating. I mean I go on LinkedIn and see job positions with over 1,000 applicants. Businesses and firms are using machines to eliminate applications, which is a scary thought to someone who has never experienced the rat race of the real world. I asked O’Connor for the best advice he could give me, or anyone else who is going to be entering the job market in the near future.
“You got to figure, you guys are going to be working for the next 50 plus years of your life, so it’s important to hone in on what interests you and where you want to take your career. You have to ask yourself questions like “Do I like things such as social media?”, or “Am I more of a marketing type of person?” These are the important questions to ask yourself. I think a lot of people your age just kind of settle for jobs because they get so worried about making money right out of the gate. But no matter where you go, you’re going to have to work your way up, so you mine as well find something that you’re good at and that interests you. I think as long as you do that, you’ll turn out alright.”
Professor O’Connor is only one example of how your professors can act almost like mentors in a way. Don’t be afraid to ask them for advice, and look to them to try and find your path. They’re here to help you, and most of them don’t mind taking the time to talk to you and help you find your direction. If you truly want to love what you do, I think it’s important that you talk to people in your field and get a sense of where you want to take your career. No one ever became successful without the help of someone. So don’t be afraid to reach out and gain as much knowledge as you can.