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Career Development: Communication Professionals Share Important Traits

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Communication professionals from a variety of fields mentor students at George Mason University’s (GMU) annual communication forum. The forum gives young communicators direct access to industry experts.

Amid power failures and microphone mishaps, GMU’s fall forum succeeds in bridging the gap between students and professionals. For two-and-a-half-hours, students met for six 20-minute mentoring sessions with their choice of 19 different mentors. A far cry from last year’s forum, the emphasis this year was on these mentoring sessions, eschewing the panel discussion from years previous.

The insights from these sessions range from appropriate conduct in the workplace, cultivating business connections, and building a professional mindset. Here are ten traits for professional success from professionals who’ve lived them – though there are so many more.

Enthusiasm

“Be the person who is willing to do anything,” said Bill Lord, former general manager at WJLA and WRC. Bringing a positive attitude and willingness to work hard is instrumental to success in the workplace. Part of those ideals must come from a love of the field according to Lord. “If you don’t love [you field] then you might as well sell insurance. You got to love it and have to make to make sacrifices for it,” he said.

Sales Ability

“The number one skill everyone needs is some kind of sales-ability,” said Suann Lee, senior account manager at WTOP and Federal News Radio. According to Lee, an employer judges a candidate within three to four minutes of meeting him. An applicant should put his best- foot forward, highlighting key strengths, a drive to improve, and doing anything to stand out. “Everybody has a resume so something that you can mail to them, something with visuals, something that’s going to stand out, that’s going to take you to the next level,” she said.

Persistence

When applying for jobs, in addition to sending out resumes applicants should also call potential employers and “keep calling because if you don’t someone else will,” said Lindsay Czarniak, sports reporter and digital content producer for Joe Gibbs racing. It’s easy to get discouraged after multiple job applications turn up nothing. Early in her career, Czarniak sent out over 20 tapes of her demo-reel before receiving any call-backs. Success takes persistence and Czarniak encourages young professionals to never give up.

Getting Used to Rejection

Rejection whether it be professionally, romantically, or otherwise is a part of life. After graduating, Lord drove around the country begging for jobs at local media stations. “Get used to rejection. Everybody gets rejected,” he said. The discouraging sting of rejection proves a choke-point for many people. Positively dealing with and persisting against it are part-in-parcel to professional success and success in general.

Adaptability

“It’s not the smartest who succeed, it’s those who adapt best to change,” said Paige Healey, an internal communication manager at Northrop Grumman. Adapting to changes in job responsibilities and the work environment are integral to professional success. In communication “you might do a little graphic design or you might do a little event-planning, be prepared for that,” she said. High adaptability, particularly in communication fields, makes good employees great and sets them apart from the rest.

Ambition

A few years ago, Healey worked at a winery and noticed typos on their menu. She took it upon herself to correct them and thus, got her foot-in-the-door for communication work. Echoing this idea, Amy Derrickson, HR manager for Hill and Knowlton strategies said “Do work for the job you want. Don’t wait for permission.” Employees should showcase their talents and interests to employers by delivering above the ask. Doing so demonstrates ambition and drive to employers which can pay off in the long run.

Be Humble

Early on, Lord said “you’re never too good to be an a-hole,” imploring applicants to deflate their ego and watch their behavior. While this statement is about workplace conduct, it goes further than that. Early in her career, Angie Goff, broadcast journalist for NBC 4, took a job in D.C. doing traffic. It wasn’t what she wanted, but she found it humbling and was a building-block toward the job she wanted. Don’t be too proud to accept an undesirable job. It could sow the seeds of a wonderful career.

Going Beyond Comfort Zone

Change can be scary. Applying for jobs is one thing, but getting accepted and going to work is another. “Your goals, passions, and next steps should be exciting, but they should also scare you,” Goff said. A lot of people never realize their full potential because of a fear of change or failure. Effectively dealing with these feelings can mean the difference between self-actualization and stagnation. “If you can work when you’re uncomfortable, you’ll be unstoppable,” she said.

Confidence

Belief in one’s self might be the single most important tip for career development. Czarniak constantly said “bet on yourself,” and this mantra pulls her through the toughest decisions of her life. Confidence goes a long way and trust in one’s abilities lay the foundation for career success. Second guessing and anxiety often lead to inaction and stunted growth. Goff encourages to assert themselves and fight for what they want. “You don’t have a chair at the table for me? Let me pull up my own,” Goff said.

Networking

While not a trait, building connections is key to landing a job. It’s easy to send an application via email but taking the time to foster a personal relationship with company staff elevates an applicant and increases the chance of being hired. “I can’t tell you the preferential treatment referrals get,” said Derrickson. In leu of a referral, applicants should reach out directly to company recruiters and follow-up a few days later.

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