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Sell your work, not your grades

Take advantage of the opportunities Brockport has to offer outside of the classroom

On April 26, 2012

Every college student has dreams or aspirations for what he or she wants to accomplish or become once out in the "real world." Whether those thoughts are big or small doesn't matter as long as he or she does what is needed to make that step possible.

If you want to be the next Albert Pujols, you'd be expected to take swings at the plate. If you want to be the next Picasso, you should probably have experience with paint and a brush. But if you want to be the next Howard Stern or Woody Paige, that job will simply fall in your lap right?

This is the expectation many communication students have while attending the College at Brockport - that you don't need to have experience under your belt in order to be considered for a job or internship.

There's this stigma within the classroom and on campus that if it isn't required for our degree then we simply don't have to do it. We sit in classes the entire year with dozens of students who say they want to become a sports writer or a broadcaster on ESPN's SportsCenter, but very few actually do the work outside the classroom to make that possible.

It seems students believe the piece of paper we receive in May will speak for itself and act as a free pass to the professional world, when really, if you don't work beyond it, it's nothing more than a simple piece of paper.

Many other majors require a set number of work hours or internships before they can graduate, because the only way to truly be prepared for what a real job is like is to gain the experience of actually doing it. Nursing and teaching majors are required to complete a certain number of hours of work and experience outside the classroom setting so they are prepared for the future. Even sports management majors are required to complete two practicums and an internship to get their degree. Yet, in communications, nothing is required so many don't do anything outside of the classroom.

When a future employer asks what experience we have in the field coming out of college, it's vital to show we were active in the community and on campus. Between The Stylus, 89.1 The Point and Brockport Television club (BTV), there are several opportunities for students to do just that. But sadly these are opportunities only a select few take advantage of.

Many students believe their first experience will come when their degree is completed, but that's not true. Most internships look for people who have some experience in the field before they make their selection, let alone offer an actual job.

College media is an opportunity for us to become better in the field and even make mistakes before we enter the world, where thousands are watching or reading, instead of only our peers and teachers. No actual media outlet will allow a student to be published or aired if they have no experience doing what their degree endorses.

While teachers give us as close to the real experience as possible in the classroom, no future employer will accept your word document or hypothetical story as actual work experience.    

Communications is a field where you're only as big as your name. You make yourself a desirable asset by establishing your voice and credibility with decades of experience. If you're an average writer or announcer, your paycheck and position will probably reflect that. While some majors benefit from accelerated degrees, such as a master's degree, communications is all about experience in the field.

It may be surprising to some, but media outlets will likely hire someone with years of experience in the field over someone with years of "experience" in the classroom.

It's not exactly ideal to take on added work that will take time from our personal lives. Yet, when an employer asks what you've accomplished, you need to have something to hang your hat on. College is an opportunity to grow and mature into a professional. If you graduate and the only lines on your resume are a degree and a decent GPA, then you truly wasted the experience you should have taken advantage of.

Coming from a Division III school certainly doesn't make things easier on us either. We're competing against students who graduated from Ivy League schools, such as Duke and Harvard. These colleges hold a more prestigious name than Brockport. Therefore, the work you do outside the classroom is vitally important to marketing yourself to an employer.

If your idea of a dream job is continuing your blog from your mother's basement, ignore this editorial. But if you want to become somebody people know and recognize, get to work because nothing is given in life.

The professional world won't care about the grades you pulled in the classroom. They care about the real-life skills you've acquired along the way.

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