I’m working as a graduate assistant at the university that I’m attending. When I first decided to do this, it was just a way to make extra money and reduce my tuition costs. I found myself working for the marketing department, helping manage a work study project for nine undergrad students, and despite my expectations, I’m finding I really love my job!

The work study project is a new way of handling Integrated Marketing Communications curriculum. I’m excited to create and complete tasks related to my job, I spend time every day thinking about how to do things better, thinking of things we need to teach these students to get them prepared for creating content in the real world.

I think there are a few reasons I’m so excited about this work.

This is the way this class should always have been taught.

I took Integrated Marketing Communications as an undergrad as a marketing elective, and while the class did provide useful information and skills, the only practical experience we got was creating an integrated marketing communications plan, with a few digital assets.

In the work study version, we’re helping a team of students put together a real content campaign for a real client. This means that they’ll learn a lot of skills they’ll need as a marketing professional, and they’ll learn it by doing. I’m actually a little jealous of them. I’m trying to give them access to the skills I would’ve liked to have had when I started out creating content.

I’m learning too!

Another thing that’s really great about this job is that I’m learning too! I’m looking for and putting together resources for the team, and a lot of it is about stuff that I’m not an expert at, like SEO. Not only that, but I’m learning more about how to manage a team at the same time. 

I am passionate about learning, and one of my ongoing projects is to teach myself the skills that I didn’t get from a traditional marketing program. A lot of this material changes so quickly (like SEO) that it’s difficult to create curriculum that is evergreen, so I think a lot of it gets passed over. The program also dedicated so much time to theory that there wasn’t a lot of room for practical skills, so this gives me dedicated time to teach myself these things.

I like my team.

I’ll admit, I was kind of dreading working with undergrads. I just remember the intense frustration I experienced trying to work with my peers in undergrad; they didn’t care about performance or learning or intellectual rigor. They did all the work at the very last minute. They didn’t bother showing up to meetings (or class) on time, and I longed to be around people who took their education as seriously as I took mine. This is one of the things I love about grad school: people are there not because they feel like they have to be, but because they have a goal they want to reach, and they’re willing to work for it.

But the work study team is so small, and it’s full of people who want to be there. It’s a job as well as a class, so there was a selection process. I don’t know what that process was, or how many applicants there were originally, but these folks had to apply, which indicates they’re here because they want to be. So far, and it’s early in the quarter, nobody has had to be pushed to do their work. Nobody has balked at receiving feedback. A student even asked to have a meeting with me about the project. It’s fantastic.

I like my boss.

So far, and like I said above it’s early in the quarter, my boss and I have a great working relationship. I actually took the old Integrated Marketing Communications course from him, so we’re familiar with one another, and I think that helps. He treats me like a partner, a peer, rather than like a subordinate. He tells me what we need to get done, and we do it. I tell him something I’d like to do, and he tells me it’s a great idea and I should do it. In fact, I have a hand in shaping how this project develops.

I don’t know if I’ve ever had that kind of creative (and it is creative) freedom in a professional capacity before, nor this level of responsibility, and honestly I’m thriving. I’m excited about the work, I’m eager to handle tasks and assignments, I’m happy to engage with the students. I love it. I get up excited about the work I’m doing, and that’s a rare feeling for me.

My boss and I think similarly in a lot of ways. Not all of them, and I think that’s part of why this works. I think we’re complementary in our communication and work styles, and we’re both willing to put in extra work to make sure this is everything it can be, and that’s a wonderful environment to work in.

I’m passionate about the subject matter.

As I’ve said here before, I love digital content. It’s my favorite part of marketing. It’s a part of culture, it influences and is influenced by culture, and in that sense, it’s similar to my other love, fiction writing. I love how the internet has  democratized content, even though the results of that are sometimes suboptimal (hi, white supremacists).

So I’m able to approach the subject matter with all that passion and excitement, and I hope that I get to excite our students with my approach to the subject as well. And that’s aside from the fact that I get to help with something I love. And I get to immerse myself in learning and doing something I love. It’s really a win-win situation.

It’s the real world.

My experience with the prior Integrated Marketing Communications course was good, but the end result of the class was an IMC plan and a few digital assets for a fictional organization. The fact that this work is being done for a real client in the real world, the fact that we’re developing real assets and real content that will be available to the public, in fact intended to be distributed to the public, really excites me.

But on the other side of the coin, because we’re all doing this in the context of a university classroom, we have our training wheels on. The lower risk means that we have the room to make mistakes, to fail upward, as it were. This gives us the freedom to try things out, see if they work, and learn from them. We can take safe risks, and risk is vital to creativity. Risk is vital to learning.

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