Media and communications
Communications and media careers transcend industry. Nearly every organization, whether for profit or nonprofit, needs media, communications, advertising, marketing, public relations or journalism professionals. Media professionals and communicators generate billions of dollars in earnings each year. The sector as a whole is expected to grow in some areas while declining in others.
As technology continues to impact our lives, media and communications have to adapt to keep pace. With that in mind, career opportunities in more traditional media, such as print, are expected to decline over the next several decades. At the same time, career opportunities working with emerging and nontraditional media are expected to explode in the future. As the field evolves, many professionals find themselves practicing their craft outside of the structure of an advertising agency or traditional news organization, and instead are working as freelancers.
The Vault Guides offer information about communications and media careers. Each guide gives, among other valuable information, an overview of the job and entry-level requirements. You’ll notice that some jobs may overlap with a variety of majors or industries.
Use these and our other job search tools to explore opportunities:
- American Press Institute
- Poynter News U
- VCU Advertising Facebook Group
- The Hodges Partnership
- Delucchi Plus
- CreateAthon on Campus VCU
- Martin Agency One-week Summer Program
- VCU Student Media
- VCU Ad Club
Professions to consider shadowing
- Common career paths
- Copy editors
- Editorial and research assistants
- Fashion photographers
- Fashion writers and editors
- Film and television producers
- Food photographers
- Food writers and editors
- Foreign correspondents
- News anchors
- Newspaper editors
- Online journalists
- Online producers
- Photo editors
- Political columnists and writers
- Political reporters
- Public opinion researchers
- Radio and television producers
- Science and medical writers
- Sports broadcasters and announcers
- Advertising and marketing managers
- Art directors
- Business managers
- Digital advertising and marketing workers
- Digital designers
- Fashion photographers
- Food photographers
- Graphic designers
- Internet marketing and advertising consultants
- Marketing consultants
- Marketing research analysts
- Media planners and buyers
- Media relations specialists
- Public opinion researchers
Skills pay the bills in media and communications. Your ability to think strategically or produce incredible content plays a large role in your career success. At the same time, media and communications are people-focused industries. Soft skills such as communication and teamwork are equally important to long-term career success. Many media and communications professionals have these soft skills:
- Time management
- Critical thinking
- Critical observation
- Customer service
- Conflict resolution
Practical skills are an essential part of positioning yourself as a highly-sought-after candidate. VCU has a partnership with LinkedIn Learning, formally Lynda.vcu.edu, to provide free skills training for VCU students. Consider taking some of these recommended courses as a part of your training.
- Adobe Creative Suite
- Social media metrics
- Google analytics
- Graphic design principles
- Shooting and editing video
- Color theory and basic design principles
- UX design
- Online marketing
- Growth Hacking
- Video storytelling
- PPC Content marketing
- Google Adwords
The key to writing an effective resume is to demonstrate as efficiently as possible that you have all of the skills needed to fulfill the company’s need. Most hiring managers are trying to answer the following three questions while reviewing your documents:
- Can you do the job?
- Will you do the job?
- Will you fit in?
Think of the resume and cover letter as your opportunity to answer these questions while showcasing your different skills and talents. Most media and communications organizations are looking for people with the following skills.
- Life experience
- Unique point-of-view and can handle and appreciate the viewpoints other than your own
- Creative hybrid with an area of focus
- Can lead and follow
- Handle uncertainty
- Always learning and inspiring others
- Technical skills
- Pitching skills
When it comes to choosing a format, some organizations may be more tolerant of design-heavy resumes that use color, graphics, or otherwise veer from the traditional one-page resume. It would seem logical that a creative job needs a creative resume. This is not accurate. Most hiring managers are interested in quality content than an over designed document. Keep it simple and save your creative chops for your portfolio.
Think like a recruiter
If you want to communicate well, think like a recruiter. A recruiter will spend roughly six seconds looking at your resume. During that six-second scan, they will search for the following:
Recruiter’s resume checklist
- Contact information
- Portfolio URL
- Is there a body of work with creativity?
- Does it have quantifiable content to forward to the appropriate hiring manager?
- Do they have an ideation, design and client-centric process to understand a brand’s voice?
- Do they have an awareness of industry and design, web, mobile, UX, UI trends?
- Are they someone I would want to work with?
- Do they have collaboration skills and social grace to work with clients?
- Is there a story I can remember about this person?
Quality content is more important than design
When it comes to choosing a format, some arts or media organizations may be more tolerant of design-heavy resumes that use color, graphics or otherwise veer from the traditional one-page resume. Keep in mind that regardless of the audience, the interest is in quality content over a highly-designed document. In fact, some may view overly-designed resumes as a tool for masking a lack of experience. Use work samples and your online portfolio to show your design skills so you can keep your resume content-focused.
Your cover is meant to achieve two goals:
- To demonstrate your genuine interest in the opportunity
- To explain why you are the MOST qualified person for the job.
Use your personality and tell your own story.
- Tell a story that connects to why you are interested in the position, "which is why I am applying to..." what that position is, and what are some of the qualifications that you have for that position
- Why you like that organization
- Reminding them of why you are a great choice and sharing your contact information (email/phone). If the position does not say "no phone calls/no contact), you can outline a plan for following up with them to inquire about the status of your application
- Keep the cover letter short (less than one page) and written in the tone of the organization
Every industry has its own language and norms. Media and communications are no different. A strong job candidate thoroughly reviews their targets’ websites, social media, learns about their client work, and reads their news releases to gain insight into future projects. In addition, a strong job candidate stays current on industry trends by reading online resources and more technical blogs to make sense of creativity and marketing news.
If you’ve never interviewed before, explore the interviewing page to learn the basics of a successful interview. Nearly all interviews contain two parts, common questions about your experience and situation-based questions to gauge your fit for the position. Afterward, you’ll be given the opportunity to ask questions of the interviewer. Interviews take practice. If you’ve never interviewed before, to learn the basics of a successful interview.
Common interview questions
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why advertising? Why here?
- What technology do you use on a daily basis?
- What do you read to keep current?
- In your opinion, which brand do you perceive as a standout.
- What projects are you working on right now?
- Describe your style | ideation process.
- Where do you draw inspiration from?
- Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult client.
- How do you approach working with others?
- Are you following us on social media?
You’ll feel more comfortable during your interview with a little practice first. InterviewStream is web-based video interface that allows you to respond to a series pre-recorded interview questions from your computer. Afterward, you will be able to review your recording to see how you did.
Have an interview coming up? Practice with one of our career advisors. Schedule a one-hour mock interview and we will show you how to answer likely interview questions and offer tips to help you make an excellent impression. Be sure to bring your resume and a copy of the job description with you to your interview.
A portfolio demonstrates you are skilled at putting together an effective communications package and demonstrates that you can create content and tell stories across multiple platforms and applications. Whether you have focused your education on broadcast journalism and media or advertising, your portfolio should show that you have multimedia production skills. Assemble examples of your best work from courses and internships and include evidence of your signature work in these key areas:
- Fact-gathering and checking
- Photography and videography
- Video editing and production
- Delivering news for multimedia channels for mobile devices
- Social media
Clarify your professional aspirations and then build your digital portfolio with your targeted organizations or roles in mind. When you are researching your target organizations, take notes on their overall presence, website, social media, news coverage and audience demographics.
Once you have researched your target organizations, select your best work to showcase your abilities. If your work is not strong in a key area, consider bolstering your skills be taking a free course through LinkedIn Learning or The Workshop.
VCU students and alumni can use VCU ePortfolio and blog publishing portal at Ram Pages for free, which uses the WordPress platform. The platforms most popular among journalists include:
You'll stand out from the crowd of job seekers by highlighting professional-grade work. Give your work a reality check by getting feedback from working professionals and your professors. Hiring managers will look to see if your work shows emotional maturity, well-formed relevancy, and critical thinking.
General portfolio tips
- Format your name. If you are a William and go by Wills, use William (Wills) Windsor.
- Make navigation easy for potential employers to explore your work.
- A photo of you in action in your professional setting.
- Social media buttons for your LinkedIn, Twitter, and/or YouTube and/or Facebook (if you use this professionally).As an undergraduate just getting started, you can use coursework to show your skills. Juniors and seniors should be working to transform your portfolio with a stronger professional identity with internships and relevant other experience including freelance projects.
- Include a downloadable resume.
- Use your bio to market yourself as a curious and inquisitive person.
- Mentioning personal or side interests can work in this area if they are not political, religious or too personally revealing.
- Being a recent graduate or having a certain degree does not distinguish you. Don't focus on this accomplishment when all of your competitors have the same credential. Focus on your work.
- Proofread your work carefully and get feedback from others, such as a career advisor, professor or internship supervisors. You'll need to continually revise it and keep it up to date to ensure your experience is relevant to the job market. VCU Libraries offers an in-depth guide to developing a journalism portfolio.
Use these and our other job search tools to explore opportunities.
Advertising and creative
- Ad Age Talent Works
- American Marketing Association Jobs
- Talent Zoo
- Authentic Jobs
- Aquent / Vitamin Talent
- Robert Half
- Creative Circle