Over the course of the summer, I had the amazing opportunity to dip my toes into the field that I will be entering into upon the completion of my degree next year. Communications is such a broad umbrella, and in my field placement I found that I was carrying quite a large one. My courses had prepared me for some of what I was asked to do, but in other instances I was standing out in the rain – so to speak.
For the tasks that I did have training for, I was confident. I was editing – a skill that has been honed throughout my entire time in university – many documents and am grateful that I was able to continue to polish the skill for a careful and keen eye. I wrote numerous reports that I had to carefully research and then present the information in a orderly and logical manner. Check – done that countless times for my courses as well.
Even though I felt very sure of myself and these skills, applying them to a real world setting proved more difficult than I had thought. There was a learning curve for me as I adjusted to the style that my superiors expected, specifically in regards to the reports. I was thorough in my research for the reports, and wanted to present as many facts as were available to support our aims. I quickly learned that lengthy and detailed reports that are valued in university are not something that general managers and executives have time to read. This made sense to me. The audience for my reports was a group of incredibly busy people. It was not until this was pointed out to me by my supervisor did I think of it.
Not only did this make sense to me, but I had learned it in my courses. It was right there, in one of my textbooks. Goodall, Goodall, and Schiefelbein (2010) note in their section on reports that “few people have the time or the desire to read a long, detailed report” (p. 202). How quickly we forget the things that we take as common sense in our textbooks when the time comes to use our skills in the workforce.
The largest challenge for me was when I was given the lead on the bi-weekly e-newsletter. I was only familiar with the basics of MailChimp and writing for the web. My first few e-blasts were not getting the open and click rates that I was hoping for, and I was determined to refine my strategy to achieve a better result.
The content that I had planned out for the next three months of e-newsletters was good. Updates on the project, new features that were introduced, and promotions that were being offered. I thought this was great information! Why didn’t the subscribers want to read it?
If people were not even opening the email, then I thought that it must be the subject line. Frick (2010) states that “a subject line that is direct, factual, and to the point will get more attention than one that is gimmicky of tries too hard” (p. 172). This is the most useful information I could have gotten. Not taking any journalism courses, I did not hone the skill of writing an effective headline – or in this case, subject line.
This was probably my biggest ‘welcome to the real world’ moment during the course of my field placement. My schooling did not prepare me for everything that I have and will encounter in the workforce. I do believe that the take-home message is that communications is a broad field – not to mention constantly evolving and changing – and we as professional communicators need to evolve and change with it. While my time at university is nearly finished, I will never be finished learning.
Frick, T. (2010). Return on engagement: Content, strategy, and design techniques for digital marketing. Burlington, MA: Focal Press.
Goodall, H., Goodall, S., & Schiefelbein, J. (2010) Business and professional communication in the global workplace. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.