The College of Arts and Letters hosted JMU alumni to speak about the skills and ideas they learned in the workforce and not in the classroom at their virtual career fair last month.
The event was moderated by Eric Fife, professor and director of the School of Communication Studies, and was driven by both preset questions and questions from attendees. Alumni were asked about work after college and the experiences JMU never gave them.
Katie Bowles (’11) started off the discussion by giving her post-graduation story.
“When I was in school, I had no idea what my thing was,” Bowles said. “However, I learned I could do a lot with my English degree; I could write all the time.”
Bowles explained the versatility of her English degree, which she said could get her far in many industries, including marketing, sales and literature,
Jessica Raines (’10) shared her experiences with teamwork that her psychology and justice studies degrees never taught her.
“Where you are working and what are you doing are as important as who you are working with,” Raines said.
Raines explained that her success comes from building connections with her team members and becoming friends with them, rather than just colleagues.
Mia Brabham (’16) said the biggest thing she learned from her work career is to jump on every opportunity made available. She emphasized the importance of building relationships with bosses and encouraged students to find the right one.
“That’s one of the most valuable things right out of school: to have someone invested in your growth instead of someone who doesn’t care,” Brabham said.
Adam Slayton (’08) talked about the skills he didn’t realize he had throughout college, but was exposed to once he started his career at Dominion Energy. Slayton said he worked many different jobs, but they all used his writing skills in some way.
“I am like a writing chameleon,” Slayton said. “I’ve been writing software requirements for the last three or four months, and it’s something I would have never learned at JMU.”
Slayton said that the writing skills he learned at JMU were the basic requirements for his job, and he learned many different styles of writing as he went on.
All the panelists agreed JMU has a plethora of opportunities to further students’ studies and provide “resume boosters” that not only educate students, but build connections to people in the workforce to ease the process of finding and acquiring a job post-graduation.
Bowles spoke about her time at Bluestone Communications, the student-run public relations firm, as both a copy editor and eventually co-Editor in Chief. She said the skills she learned from Bluestone helped her managerial skills and boosted her resume.
“A really cool thing I could put on my resume was that I oversaw the staff and editorial board and all the content designed for a 300-page book,” Bowles said.
Brabham’s time at JMU was spent at many different organizations, including the Student Government Association (SGA) and the University Program Board (UPB). She primarily worked on the social and communication committees in both of these organizations. These organizations sparked her career in communications and helped her promote her freelance writing.
The panel ended with the Fife asking the panelists to share one piece of advice for students entering the workforce.
“I think some people have the mindset that it didn’t happen in the classroom, so it doesn’t matter,” Bradham said. “No, that needs to go on your resume, and you will see the importance of that as you get into the workforce.”
Contact Michael Staley at firstname.lastname@example.org For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.