‘Everyone is chasing your generation,’ says ElonComm advisory board member

Steve Daniels and Lee Rainie, members of the School of Communications’ National Advisory Board, connected with graduating seniors via WebEx on April 23 to offer guidance on employment and today’s job market.

An idea sewn a few weeks ago during the School of Communications’ National Advisory Board meeting came to fruition on April 23 as board members Steve Daniels and Lee Rainie offered career advice and professional insights to Elon seniors preparing to enter the job market later this spring.

During an April 23 WebEx chat, Steve Daniels and Lee Rainie, members of the School of Communications’ National Advisory Board, participated in an informal career counseling session with senior Communications Fellows.

During an evening WebEx chat, the two board members participated in an informal career counseling session, moderated by Assistant Professor David Bockino. Daniels and Rainie addressed topics related to job hunting and identifying ways to be proactive during the COVID-19 pandemic, effective networking strategies, and the value soon-to-be graduates offer employers. A half-dozen Communications Fellows, all seniors, sat in on the 45-minute video chat.

While Rainie, director of internet, science and technology research for the Pew Research Center, acknowledged the challenges job seekers face during the pandemic, he also said he sees opportunity. The former print journalist told the students to look for places locally to expand their portfolio, whether it is working for a nonprofit, a community news outlet, or elsewhere.

He said there are advantages to starting in small organizations, where students will have the chance to be versatile. Rainie implored the students to “be enterprising,” preparing themselves for when the communications industries return to normalcy.

“Everybody needs what you know,” he said. “Don’t just think there is one pathway to an internship or job. We just have to think differently about opportunities right now.”

Put yourself in front of everyone who pays attention to you, Rainie said.

From a local news perspective, Daniels shared that he’s optimistic about the industry referencing the spike in viewership in the past few weeks due the pandemic, and the public’s heightened interest in news.

“There are massive eyeballs on local television right now,” said Daniels, who joined the chat from his home office, where he anchored his ABC11 newscasts last week. “Our ratings are immense right now, comparable to the early 1990s. We are building our brands for the future. Building our connections, our communities.”

“There are stories to be told on every block right now,” he added. “You can (tell stories) right from your own neighborhood, and there are important stories that need to be told. I’m excited for the future of local news … and revenue will follow.”

While the job market has seen significant layouts, Daniels pointed out that ABC11 is still hiring and seeking out talent, especially recent graduates who can utilize technology, analytics and data, and understand younger audiences.

“Everyone is chasing your generation,” he said, noting that recent graduates are often sought after. “Not just your skills, but also your knowledge of the world and how your generation navigates.”

Rainie pressed upon the students that “the market is hungry for people with skills in analytics and data science.” He predicted that understanding AI will be imperative soon, and those who can serve as “translators” between the AI providers and organizations who use those tools will be incredibly valuable. “AI is what social media was years ago,” he said.

Daniels and Rainie explained that students shouldn’t fear contacting professionals in their field and establishing a connection, with both members extending invitations to the students. In fact, professionals are largely happy to assist and talk – especially today, Rainie explained.

“I think there has been a culture shift to people being kinder and gentler right now,” Rainie said. “Plus, some of us have the time now.”

Senior Sophie Eng, a strategic communications major, chimed in that she was initially hesitant to reach out to industry professionals until last week, but said she received a strong reception, hearing back from everyone she contacted.

Daniels did caution that it is important to network the right way. “Find reasonable reasons to stay in touch,” he said, noting that the interactions should be substantive, and an actual conversation. “Practice the ‘fine art’ of staying in touch.”