I had a vivid flashback last week.
It was the second semester of my senior year. I was 22 years old, facing the end of college, and hearing the words “job search” made me tremble with fear. I remember asking:
- Where do I start?
- Will the communications classes I take actually be applicable in the real world?
- What are the skills that I’ll need in order to make a good career for myself?
I had plenty of questions, but not many answers.
Flash forward about 10 years, and with some experience and hindsight under my belt, I found myself answering, not asking, those same questions. It was part of a fantastic experience at Syracuse University’s Newhouse school and the W2O Group Center for Social Commerce.
W2O formed the Center for Social Commerce in November 2012 to focus on this emerging communications and marketing field. As traditional marketing, advertising, and public relations collide with massive amounts of data and digital and social media, anyone entering these career fields needs to develop new, dynamic skills to avoid being left behind. Simply put, social commerce means we must evolve and adapt quickly or sit on the sidelines.
Over three days at the university, my colleagues and I had the opportunity to see first-hand how committed students at the Newhouse School are putting social commerce into action. From PR for real clients via the university’s PR agency, Hill Communications, to PR and advertising research and planning, we left feeling confident that the future of our industry is a bright one that will benefit from their drive and passion. Their smart questions, desire to learn and unbridled enthusiasm was inspiring and refreshing.
In speaking with students and faculty, I did observe a few themes from our conversations which are worth summarizing here:
After college, focus on getting a job. Period. By this, I mean that where you work doesn’t matter. Don’t focus your efforts on working at a big agency or corporation. Those jobs have their benefits, and I’m proof of it. But what’s more important is having a job that lets you define skills you’ll need for your whole career: leadership, collaboration, adaptability. Oh, and being a good writer doesn’t hurt, either.
Data is everywhere, but finding it isn’t enough. It’s what you do with it that matters. Many students were fascinated by the ability of data to understand online conversations. But to be successful, you have to think critically about what that data means and how it helps clients meet communication and business goals.
Be curious, and have a point of view. Torod Neptune, vice president of corporate communications at Verizon (client) said this during his presentation to students, and the points really stuck. Learning doesn’t end once you graduate. It’s probably even more important in your career. Everyone also needs a point of view when it’s warranted. Even if that POV differs from others, being able to express it clearly will take you far.
I’m looking forward to seeing how our emphasis on social commerce informs and infuses students’ learning at the university. And hopefully, in 2024, some of these students will be W2O employees and back at their alma mater, answering the same questions they had in 2014.