Education · Higher Education · Op-Ed · Professional Development

Op-Ed: How current events will affect your career

Ever Monday night I teach ORGC 201 Business & Professional Communications at DePaul University.  I have 23 students in my hybrid class this quarter mostly made up of sophomores and juniors in a variety of majors. I’d like to think the students take my course because of the professor’s witty lectures, but the reality is that it’s a required course for most majors.  It’s one of those “life skills” courses combining public speaking with employment interviews that many students wait until their junior year to complete, but wish they had taken sooner. According to the ORGC 201 course description in the DePaul course catalog:

Employers demand strong communication and presentation skills. In order to compete effectively in the job market, students need to acquire and practice the written and oral communication skills needed to interview successfully. Furthermore, as a professional you will not only be expected to be a confident speaker, but also to organize and prepare clear, concise and interesting presentations. You will also need to communicate effectively while working as the member of a team or in other group contexts. In developing the knowledge, competencies and skills needed to communicate effectively in these and other contexts, this course will embrace opportunities for both critical thinking and applied problem solving. (Formerly CMNS 201)

As part of the course, the students can obtain an easy five points of extra credit when they bring in a news article they recently found and present to the class 1) a summary of the news article, and 2) an explanation of how this current event will impact his or her career path.  This is a concept that I introduced to my course when I first started teaching in 2005.  I wanted my students to realize that the current events of today will make an impact on their future career paths.  After taking attendance, I start each class with, “So does anyone have a current event they’d like to talk about?”  This week my students and I discussed a variety of topics from the Iowa Caucasus to the State of Illinois possibly expanding medical marijuana for PTSD patients.

The reason I bring current events into the classroom on a weekly basis is that, while I was a college student, I was greatly impacted by events that happened in 2001 which, in turn, impacted my career path.  In the fall of 2001, I was about to graduate from Eastern Illinois University with a BA in Speech Communication, focusing on broadcast journalism.  With the experience I gained and the amazing resume tape I created at WEIU-TV, I thought I had my job search in the bag.  However, a number of entry-level positions were eliminated from many Chicagoland stations in the post 9/11 broadcast era, including a morning writer position I had my eye on at WGN.

With no job prospects on the horizon, I had to quickly develop a Plan B and found a digital editor position.  I was extremely grateful to a cousin of mine for connecting me with the owner of NuWave Productions in Palos Hills for a non-paid internship opportunity.  My time with NuWave allowed me the opportunity to explore different editing software and even participate in an infomercial.  During my internship I continued to apply for other positions and, eventually, I landed a full-time position as an assistant editor at Daily Planet, a post-production house in Chicago.  I was so excited to commute into the city for a 12 hour work day while making a cool $19,000 a year (ah – young, naive Colleen! She’ll learn).

While my dreams of reporting the daily news were quickly diminishing, I knew another career path would be just around the corner.  Then I was offered the opportunity to help students plan out their own career paths in higher education at Robert Morris University in Chicago, and I had a new calling.  Working and teaching in higher education has been the most rewarding career path that I could have ever imaged!

To remind students that current events are affecting their career planning, I started a scholarship at EIU at few years back which the department still funds.  Per the College of Communication website:

Fashing Speech Scholarship – Established in 2006 by communication studies alumnus Colleen Fashing, this award supports a student who demonstrates strong public speaking skills and an ability to connect current events to a future career. The student receiving the scholarship must complete a manuscript connecting a current event with a future impact on a career and then present a speech to a faculty panel.

With the lack of state funding in Illinois for public colleges, many students are beginning to see the direct impact current events can have on their future career paths and, realistically, their college education, especially students who rely on MAP funding for scholarship dollars.  The students at EIU recently started a social media campaign labeled #FundEIU via Facebook and Twitter hoping to bring a spotlight on the very real impact the state budget is having on their university.

If you’re so inclined to support the students in the College of Communications at EIU through this scholarship opportunity, please feel free to donate to Eastern Illinois University via their annual fund giving page.  Please note that if you are working full time your company may offer a matching gift opportunity for the university.

Take a look back at your own career path to see if you can pinpoint a current event that impacted you.  This might be a topic that you’ve never thought about until now.  Once you can recall this said event that made an impression on you and your career choices, share that experience with a young professional.  Your shared experience will allow the young professional to be aware of current events and how it really can make a different in the career path they choose.

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