by Kelsey Szukhent
This interview is with Paige Pope, a communications major at Purdue University, expecting to graduate in December 2016. We recently spoke with her and asked her about her experience within her program and what she's planning to do with her professional future.
What has your experience been like at Purdue's Brian Lamb School of Communication?
It has been amazing and more than I hoped for. The classes have been well-rounded and provided me with both the theoretical and practical background I need for a career in public relations. The community, from fellow students to professors to advisers, has made all of the difference. There is such a strong collective sense in the Brian Lamb School of Communication and everyone I have met does such interesting and unique things. This network has opened up so many opportunities for me and given me so many different perspectives on what it means to be a communications major.
Were there other schools you were considering?
I was considering smaller, private schools located in cities. While I liked their vibe, when I visited the Brian Lamb School of Communication I felt right at home and my potential felt limitless. I chose Purdue because I knew from day one I would have a staff looking out for me and providing me with personalized suggestions and opportunities for growth and professional development. I knew I wouldn’t be boxed in here because there is a huge alumni network doing so many different things and the Brian Lamb School puts a focus on innovation and forging your own path.
What influenced you to pursue a major/career in communication?
I hadn’t heard of “communication” as a major when I was in high school, but I understood myself. I love writing, creativity, people and big ideas. I knew I wanted to form relationships at my future job and I wanted to create things, without going into fine arts. I’m also someone with many interests who doesn’t want to be boxed in. When I visited Purdue, I took a chance and say in on one of the communication major info sessions and they handed us a sheet with all of the career options available to communication majors and nearly every single job listed on the sheet sparked my interests. When I realized that all of this was available through this one major, I knew I had found my fit.
What is your favorite class so far, and why?
If I am being honest, I have two. First was COM 353 with Professor Kim Osborne. This was a real-world class where we formed a mini PR agency and worked with our client, The Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship, out in California. Working in this practical environment was so incredibly valuable, and I was very proud of the work my team produced. Additionally, I took a copyediting class that I adored mainly because I think it is such a valuable art that few people take the time to learn. Writing is becoming an increasingly valued but lesser available skill in potential job candidates, so having a strong hold on proper writing is huge in any major.
What is unique about the nature of your major’s classes?
My major’s classes are all highly applicable to the field. Every class I have taken within my major will apply directly to my life after graduation, which always makes it more motivating since it never feels like busy work. Additionally, communication classes really focus on building real-world experience you can present to employers, so instead of just working from a book often times we work with real-world clients, actually create materials and build practical skills beyond just studying. Also, if I am being quite honest the professors, staff and peers in communication are all lively, positive people so it is never dull compared to other majors.
What are the best ways to network with your peers within your major?
Student Organizations such as the Association of Women in Communications have proven great places to meet peers. However, the best way has been through classes. Group projects have naturally connected me with peers, but also chatting before and after class works too.
Have you participated in any internships?
I have participated in many internships throughout my career. From my freshman year until the present, I have interned with Purdue Marketing & Media as a Strategic & Editorial Intern. My communication advisor actually connected me to the position and I absolutely have loved it. Additionally during two summer I have interned with Premier Travel Marketing as a writer and liftUPlift as a Strategic Public Relations Intern. In both of these case Purdue’s CCO helped me polish up my resumé.
What are your future career plans and aspirations?
I am still an open book, but I would love to go into content creation, public relations and branding. This is my general goal, but my ultimate aspiration would be to serve as Communications Director for the National Parks Service or a director of content creation for consumer products. Ultimately, I want to create uplifting content and spread the word about an organization I am proud to work for.
What has been the most challenging aspect of this area of study, and was this something you had originally anticipated?
Oddly enough the most challenging aspect of this study is the vast amount of opportunities. Communication positions can be found in nearly every company and often fall under many, many different titles which can be a bit overwhelming if not confusing when looking for jobs. Overall it is a plus though because more opportunity for all! Additionally, many outside people don’t initially understand the communication field and think it just has to do with talking to people. This comes with some suspicious eyebrow raises or generalizations, but it is just an opportunity to break down the field to someone and distinguish all of the different career paths.
What advice would you give someone else trying to break into this field?
Practice writing. It is a hugely marketable skill in this field. Additionally, say “yes” to nearly every opportunity, even if it isn’t initially paid. So many businesses are looking for campus reps if you are interested in public relations, and so many publications are looking for help writing articles if you are interested in journalism. Seek out opportunities or even ask companies if they want help with writing, public relations, social media, etc. and you will be amazed by the opportunities you will find (many that you can even do on your own time). Even if you aren’t paid you will build a portfolio and build a strong relationship with a company.
Is there anything you wish you had known about this major ahead of time before choosing this career path or anything else you would like to share?
I wish I had been more aware of the value of saving and organizing every single thing I had worked on at the start of my college career. Many of my projects for classes and work are scattered about and now as a senior I am trying to pull them all together in a portfolio. Keeping that all organized from the start would have saved me a lot of time in the long run.
How are you financing your education, and what are your most helpful online resources or tools?
I am financing my education with loans and scholarships. Scholarships have proven to be an extremely effective and shockingly little used resource for me as a college student. Most students apply to scholarships their senior year of high school and maybe freshman year of college, but then sort of forget about them. The Brian Lamb School of Communication, College of Liberal Arts, and Purdue University all offer many different scholarships and the pool of candidates is generally pretty small. It just takes a little extra work for major financial pay off that I am so grateful for.
What resources or information would you like to help you think about your career that you’re not currently getting?
I would be curious to know more about the career trajectories of top people working in my field.
What is the best piece of advice related to your field of study that you have received?
Diversity yourself in as many ways are possible to find what makes you unique in this field. In many fields, it works to be a one trick pony, but in communications those who are most successful are diversified in talent & have a strong sense of self. For instance, if you are a great writer, push yourself to improve your public speaking, your design skills, etc. You can always come back to writing as your main selling point, but having other skills to back it up make you that much better!
Paige's Reading List:
- The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How To Make the Most of Them Now, by Meg Jay -- This should be mandatory reading for everyone in their twenties. It is a beautiful reminder of why and how to pursue the life you want straight from the start.
- Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert -- This is an excellent read for anyone looking to pursue a creative endeavor.