SF Bay Area

Graduating to a Career in Communications

A panel of communications professionals divulge their tips for success and starting your career on the right foot 

By Kyle Roe

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, a panel of two full-time industry professionals and one graduating Academy of Art University senior spoke to students enrolled in the School of Communication & Media Technologies (COM). The event provided advice for navigating internships and the workplace, and making yourself a viable candidate for employers.

The panel consisted of Melissa Thomson, university relations and diversity manager for CBS Interactive; Zack Todero, a production manager for PAC-12 Networks; and Garrett Bradley, an Academy student who produces social media content for Combs Enterprises and other clients.

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Photo by Mateo Tayamen.

Each speaker dealt with very different daily responsibilities, and followed different paths to success. Together, their experiences reflected how wide and dynamic the field of communications is. Not to mention that attending students had three new potential additions to their list of professional contacts.

“Every year, we do have about 100 internships going all the way through fall,” Thomson said. “We make absolutely sure we’re helping them [the interns] grow, learn, develop when they’re with us. We also do a lot of social media stuff.”

While CBS Interactive’s internship offerings and coverage are extremely varied, Todero’s employer, PAC-12 Networks, is laser-focused on the sports programs of a dozen West Coast universities. However, Todero emphasizes that his network covers every single sport offered by those 12 colleges.

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Photo by Mateo Tayamen.

“The internships are a little bit different at PAC-12, because we kind of look at it as a way to move the athletes into the network,” Todero said. Essentially, they translate student athletic experience into sports media expertise and insight.

For example, “to be the scoreboard operator for a water polo game, you have to be able to know the timing, the rules, what’s going on, why was this person out of bounds,” Todero elaborated. Though PAC-12 prides itself on employing college athletes, “we hire any student, as long as you’re willing to travel to the Bay Area, or any campus that you’re nearest to.”

A recurring theme was the dreaded process of crafting a well-written and concise résumé that can also clear a new technological hurdle: AI-powered applicant tracking systems (ATS).

“You always want to look at the qualifications and skill sets, and make sure that exact verbiage is on your résumé. Especially with all these ATS systems,” Thomson advised. “It’s only showing me maybe the top 50 percent [of applicants]. So, it’s really important to do that.”

“Second thing is when you guys are listing out your experience, always make sure that it’s relevant to the job,” Thomson continued. “I know a lot of people here say, ‘Oh, I was a dog walker for five years, and it shows determination, because I was doing it for five years,’ and they put that on there. That’s valuable real estate. Don’t put that on there if that’s not the job you’re wanting.”

Todero agreed that résumés should cut to the chase, while containing all of your relevant job experience.

“This is their best foot forward – it is valuable real estate. No weird sentences, only relevant experience,” Todero explained. “You want to show how you’ve grown, where you come from, what kind of equipment you’ve learned, what kind of processes, what kind of audio/video, for example.”

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Photo by Mateo Tayamen.

Bradley’s professional breakthrough happened after cold messaging Sean “Diddy” Combs on Instagram and dropping everything to move to Los Angeles for a fortuitous internship, so he had less to say about résumés and more about making professional contacts and charging in headfirst.

“I don’t really have any set formula for any of you guys to follow, other than just really put your head down and grind,” Bradley said. “How it works for me – a lot of it was just networking. Using social media and all of these new tools that we have been given. There was a portion of time where I felt weird hitting up strangers on social media, or anything, but then you start to realize: you can really find new mentors, new peers, just new inspiration everywhere you look. On every page, every swipe, whatever.”

One of his latest assignments was shooting Cardi B’s birthday party, an opportunity he stumbled on randomly through Combs’ personal photographer.

“You’ve got to know when to say no, but I think there’s nothing wrong with just taking on what comes your way. Just move like water,” Bradley said. “You might fall a couple times. Don’t let that steer you away from doing it.”

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