3 Tips on Career Preparation for Graduate Students in Arts, Media, and Communication

The last couple of years has seen a greater variety of career options for students interested in the arts, media, and communication industries. To explore and prepare for a range of career opportunities, you can start with three tips in mind.

1.      Your degree ≠ all your qualifications

In the past, your degree and field of study may have limited your career exploration to pathways defined by your area of study. For example, someone with a degree in Fine Arts may think that being an artist is their only career option. Another individual, studying Media or Communications may think that their only choices are to work in the advertising industry or a news agency. At the doctoral degree level, one might only explore a career path in academia. While certain careers do align well with specific majors or fields of study your degree should not have the final say.

As your work-related skills develop and experiences accumulate, you can go beyond the pre-defined fields associated with your degree. For example, with strong communication and cooperation skills, you may be qualified for a position such as Program Coordinator, overseeing art programs and initiatives, or if you have strong leadership skills, a Gallery Manager or Art Director may also align well with your skills, knowledge, experience, and training. Or maybe you are passionate about the value of arts education, and you realize you wish to work in the field of arts education advocacy. You might not be getting advocacy experience in your degree program so this is where building additional skills becomes essential.

2.      Becoming a competitive job candidate

Skill building and work-related experience beyond your academic program at UConn are keys to being a competitive job applicant in a wider range of career options. If you review a job advertisement you will probably notice that recruiters look for different skills – some might be acquired and developed through your degree program, while others might need a bit of additional effort to obtain.

Let’s look at a job ad below (adapted from Indeed) seeking an Assistant Public Information Officer. The position values a Ph.D. and master’s degree although they are not a must. Assuming this is the job of your interest, reflect on what skills you are equipped with and what else you may need to continue building to increase your competitiveness when you apply for a similar position in the future.

              The responsibilities of the position include, but are not limited to: performing research utilizing internal and external resources, and presenting speeches and publication materials to the Director of Public Information, Associate Commissioner of Internal and External Affairs, and the Commissioner; reviewing requests for appearances by the Commissioner, researching the appropriateness of requests, and recommending participation/presentation; functioning as point of contact for logistical arrangements for Commissioner appearances; researching and writing position papers, statements, press items, executive proclamations, newsletter articles, legislative hearing statements, responses to correspondence, and other material; monitoring legislative session, assisting in tracking bills and initiatives; assisting in preparation of materials, talking points, and briefing documents; and, as needed, supervising Public Information staff to ensure assignments/projects are accurate, complete, and timely. Must be proficient in PowerPoint, some graphic design experience preferred.   

Some of the preferred skills that the recruiter sought can be inferred from the bolded parts. As a graduate student, you may already be competent in “performing research” and “presenting speeches and publication materials”. Meanwhile, the recruiter also emphasized skills in communication and interpersonal relationship (e.g., “functioning as a point of contact”), leadership (e.g., “monitoring legislative session”, and “supervising Public Information staff”), and technologies (e.g., “some graphic design experience preferred”).

If you feel less confident in some of those skills that are not a part of your graduate training, step out of your department and look for opportunities that would help you enhance your skills. For example, joining a student organization or committee may give you the chance to take the lead in projects or events and polish your leadership skills. Volunteering with a government office may be an option to help strengthen skills related to working in the public service sector. Engaging in strategically selected opportunities, to build and enhance skills and knowledge, can position you as a more competitive job candidate than if you only lean on what you gain from attaining your degree.

3.      Exploring career options

If you are at the career exploration stage and are wondering what jobs are available in the very broad field of arts, media, and communication, here are a few recommendations:

  • Imagine PhD

Imagine PhD is a free assessment tool that includes extensive career path information in its “Job Family Resources” section. There is an entire section dedicated to Communications, Public Relations and Marketing, and there are many other featured job families where if you have interest, gain experience, and obtain skills you could become a viable future job applicant.

  • Husky Mentor Network

Husky Mentor Network is the platform for you to connect with professionals and alumni affiliated with UConn. You can search for advisors whose careers you are interested in learning more about and schedule a one-on-one meeting with them to learn more about their work and career field.

  • LinkedIn

Through LinkedIn, you can reach out to and connect with alumni who are in the career fields related to arts, media, and communication. For tips and tricks about using LinkedIn to find alumni and networking, stay tuned for upcoming webinars on LinkedIn

  • Job boards

Job boards are a great channel to learn about positions and what employers are seeking in job candidates. Media bistro is one of the popular platforms specifically for job seekers with an interest in the arts, media, and communication industries.

If you are curious about different ways to prepare for a career in the fields of arts, media, and communication, consider booking an appointment with a Career Coach at the Center for Career Development to make a plan for your career exploration and preparation.

Photo by texty café from Flickr

By Damiao Zoe Xu
Damiao Zoe Xu Graduate Assistant, Graduate Student and Postdoc Career Programs and Services | Pronouns: she/her/hers