To The Future Communication Majors

Note: My academic adviser had put out a request to graduates to share why we chose a Communication major and why others should consider it. While I missed the deadline for the project that was being put together, I figured there’s never a deadline for advice itself. Below, I’ve included my responses to the questions provided.

What’s Your Story?

Name: Fetesha Downs
Degree & Specialization: Public & Professional Communications
Graduation Date: May 2009
Current Position/Title & Company: Marketing & Development Associate, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago

Best memory as a Marian Student.

Thankfully, there are a few. Since this is focusing on my Communication major, I’ll share that story instead. I was originally an Accounting major and Theater minor because I was planning to go off to film school after I graduated to purse a career as a film producer.

When I shared this with my Theater advisor, David Schimpf (still as awesome instructor at Marian), he sat me down for a meeting. He was clear that he didn’t want to tell me what to do with my life, but that a Communications major would probably align more with what I wanted to do–especially since I could still take Accounting courses as electives. I thought hard about it, spoke with my parents and decided it was the right move to take.

After reviewing the different Communication tracks I could take with Mary Klein, Public & Professional Communications seemed the best fit. I have never regretted my decision afterwards.

How did your communication degree help you get your first job?

Due to the recession, I ended up taking temp assignments after college–in everything imaginable. The last assignment I landed was actually with my current employer. It was administrative work for a month-long contract. However, when I found out there was a permanent job opening as a database specialist, I mentioned my Communications background a long with many social media side projects I had taken on while looking for employment. I applied and got an interview. The rest was history.

How does your communication degree help you in your current position?

I was promoted a year ago and now work in Marketing & Development (our department name has since changed to Strategic Engagement). While I still do database management, I also manage our social media accounts, website updates, and help with in-house graphic design and email campaigns. I think most Communication majors would agree that it’s an ideal environment. Certain areas of study I hadn’t been able to use in my previous position are now useful daily.

Just a few months ago, I spoke at two social media conferences–@Midwest down in Normal, IL and Social Media Week Chicago. College projects like the senior seminar final presentations prepped me for comfortably speaking in front of a large group for an hour.

Why should someone major in communication?

Today’s job sectors all involve some knowledge of Communications. While the stigma of a Communication major being an “easy option” or “for the undecided” continues to fade, it’s a hot commodity in terms of job options. Whether you want to get into the tech, nonprofit or corporate sector–your skills will be utilized. The for-profit and nonprofits sectors are starting to blend best practices.

You need to be able to speak articulately in front of a crowd, understand how to write to engage and stay up on trends–regardless of the field you choose to pursue.

Why not major in the field? If you also want to pursue something else, you can also double-major or event consider a Communications minor. I can tell you from experience that it’s not hard to do. I didn’t lose credits changing my major (just had extra electives knocked out). And even today, I’m still working with our in-house accountants due to the database work I mage.

What advice would you give today’s college student?

I know how intimidating it can be to have all of this debt, even if you don’t realize how it’ll affect you in the future.

You’re suddenly in this moment of your life where you only have a few more year’s of school left and all sorts of daily decisions to make. It can be exciting and depressing at the same time.

While I was in school, I was working multiple jobs on a full-credit load. I maxed out with the intent of graduating as fast as possible. Even though I stayed on top of my work as I went above and beyond to keep ahead of the syllabi–I missed out on some events that probably would have done me a lot of good.

No matter your chosen major/minor, GPA or financial status–work as hard as you play. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

You need a healthy balance in your life. Spending the weekend in the library on a project due a month later can be as unhealthy as partying non-stop and neglecting your work. It’s okay if your change your mind about what you want to do or still don’t know.

I can tell you now I never expected I’d be doing the work I am today or working in the Chicago Loop. As I stated before, I was going to be a film producer in Hollywood. Junior year I was considering going on to graduate school to major in East Asian studies and continue the band promotion I did between classes. Today, I’m working hard to get further into the tech sector.

Expectations change as fast as skills. Just make sure you aren’t making yourself stagnate. Even when it doesn’t pay–take the opportunity. Volunteer in whatever interests you at the time. My résumé is a mix of paid and voluntary jobs. It all makes you well-rounded.

Finally, build your network. Feel free to reach out to me and others you discover as you shift into the workforce. Many of us have been in your same shoes–whether as a student or life in general. Try. That’s all you need to do and it’s a step closer to where you want to be.

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