Daniel T. Richards

Daniel T. Richards

Digital Strategist & Rhetorician

Simple Career Advice for Communications Students (And Maybe Everyone Else)

Lately, I’ve been participating in LinkedIn’s Career Advice feature, where people who want to work in communications can message me to ask for suggestions on what they should study, finding a job, what employers look for in a candidate, etc. It’s a rewarding experience that not only helps an eager student but also gives me an opportunity to reflect on what “worked” for me when I was starting out.

Last night I gave some general advice to a student in a master’s program who wants to increase the likelihood of getting a job immediately upon graduating. The advice I gave felt obvious to me…now. But I can’t recall anyone explicitly laying out these three simple points of career advice when I was in school, so here’s what I said…

Do Things

Focus on building a strong portfolio of your skills. Employers want to see that you can *do* things. In fact, there’s a certain approach to make your portfolio stand out from your peers. As much as you can, do pro bono or discounted work for local charities or small businesses. Student projects are fine, but having items in your portfolio that resulted from work will *real* clients under *real* circumstances that helped them achieve *real* goals will give you a portfolio that employers can’t ignore. Most charities and small businesses are in desperate need of help with communications and are more than happy to work with students. An added benefit of doing work for real clients is that it can also lead to word-of-mouth recommendations for jobs.

Meet People

If there’s a specific field you want to work in, find ways to meet people in that field. Attend happy hours, meetups, conferences, seminars, etc. Get involved with professional groups like the Society for Technical Communication, the Social Media Association, the Public Relations Society of America, etc. These groups often have big discounts for students. Ask members about their work and tell them you’re interested in working in their field.

Learn Stuff

Constantly add to your skill set. Lots of communications jobs now are a mixture of social marketing, paid advertising, writing, graphic design, etc. You can add to your value in the marketplace by being able to do a little bit of everything. Even if you’re not an expert, having a broad skill set will help you intelligently evaluate the work of contractors or direct reports. Don’t rely on your classes to hone your talents. Make it a habit that you learn something new—or a new aspect of a current skillevery quarter. (I still practice this habit almost ten years out of school.) And don’t neglect to learn timeless principles like classical rhetoric, of course. 🙂

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That’s it. Simple, perhaps obvious, career advice that helped me after graduation. What advice would you give to eager students? Tweet @DanielTRichards and let me know.

The 3 Rhetorical Appeals

Ethos, Pathos, Logos: OneThink about the people you know and what it takes to convince them. (I’ll give you a moment. …) You probably know a guy who needs an argument spelled out step-by-step. And you definitely have a “tug-at-their-heartstrings” acquaintance. And you likely have a friend who will “take your word for it” because she trusts you.

You naturally approach these folks differently, probably without even realizing it, because you’re familiar with them. But if you take a moment to think about it (I’ll give you a moment …) I bet you can identify patterns. Aristotle did. He realized there are three primary appeals when you’re trying to persuade: Appeal to logic, appeal to emotion, and appeal to character—logos, pathos, and ethos respectively.

We use every rhetorical appeal in every argument, but knowing when to shift the emphasis of your argument appropriately—from emotion to logic or from logic to character—can be the difference between convincing or repulsing your audience.

Sometimes it also means knowing where your argument will thrive and where it won’t. Here’s some advice for using each appeal and a social network to hone your skills…

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