Last month, I was invited to give the keynote address at Prairie View A&M University’s Communications Week. Rather than delivering a traditional speech, I was interviewed by two-time Emmy-award winning journalist and CBS producer/editor Charles Williams in front of a live audience at the school’s TV studio. This gave the students an opportunity to ask me direct questions about my career. However, it wasn’t until I met with many of them afterward, in an intimate group counseling session, that I realized how worried they were about entering the real world. They expressed the same fears that I had eight years ago when I was finishing up my undergraduate degree in Media and Communications at SUNY Old Westbury. To say I could relate would be an understatement.
After listening to their concerns, I offered the same advice that I would give my 21-year-old self. Here are a few of the tidbits that I shared with the students, which can be helpful for any student graduating with a degree in journalism, media, or communications.
1. Finding A Job
Brace yourself, because it’s going to be tough.
Even though I graduated at the top of my class, I had to settle for two unpaid internships while working in retail on the weekends for months until I got a job in media–and that job was only part-time. I continue to work as a freelancer and contractor before I finally landed a full-time positionÂ here at Black Enterprise last October.
My advice for graduating seniors is to start looking for work now.Â Also, be aware that it’s much easier to land an internship than it is a job. So, if you happen to be interning at the moment, go the extra mile and try to work your way up into an entry level position. You should also reach out to the contacts and employers you’ve interned for in the past, to see if they can help you secure a job.
2. Prepare to Pay Your Dues
Oftentimes, college seniors are highly respected by lower classmen, professors, and faculty. In turn, they leave college feeling on top of the world. However, once you enter the workforce, you will likely have to start at the bottom of the totem pole. Realize that you will be working and competing with journalists and media professionals who have years of knowledge and experience. So, be humble and use every chance you get to learn from them.
3. Take Advantage of Every Opportunity
If you have to take an unpaid internshipÂ after college like I did, then take full advantage of the perks and opportunity that come along with it. Try to build relationships with your co-workers and senior-level managers. Take advantage of any opportunity that could help build your portfolio and don’t be afraid to askÂ for career guidance, a review of your resume, and mentorship.
4.Â Create Your Own Content
During my keynote address, I had asked the students to raise their hand if they had their own blog, vlog, or web series–and I was taken aback when I discovered most of them did not. Â I advised them to start their own thing and take advantage of the resources that their college provides–like a fully equipped TV studio, radio station, and guidance from professors. This will give you an apt opportunity to create and build your voice, hone your craft, and build your portfolio and resume. It may also give you an opportunity to make extra moneyÂ if you can monetize your skills. That’s what I have been doing with the radio show I started in college, which I still executively produce and co-host with aÂ team of professionals to this day.
5. Believe in Yourself
The real world is hard and scary, but I reassured the students that they’re going to make it, just like I did. They may have to start off working for free (like I did), and they may even get fired from their “dream job” (like I did), but that doesn’t mean that they won’t reach your goals (like I did.)
Setbacks and failures are a part of the journey–they’re not there to tear you down. Rather, they are stepping stones that help you learn and grow alongÂ the way.
Below is the introductory video that was presented to the students at Prairie View A&M University.
Selena Hill is the Associate Digital Editor at Black Enterprise and the founder of Let Your Voice Be Heard! Radio. You can hear her and her team talk millennial politics and social issues every Sunday at 11 a.m. ET.