Careers in communications / social justice
July 22, 2014 12:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm going back to school for communications in the fall. I'd like to start gathering career ideas now so I know what to look for when I graduate and also so that I pick the right courses for my career path. When I went in to my undergrad in 2007, I had no idea of what I would do upon graduation. So, I'd like to gather some ideas now and tailor my course selection towards potential career options.

I'm doing a 1 -year graduate diploma in communications (in Canada) starting in the fall. I'd really like to orient my career towards social justice in some way, but obviously this is an extremely broad goal. I am not by any means an activist. But I guess you could say my main political passion would be combating economic inequality, the ways in which poverty intersects with race & gender, . . . i would love to work towards changing public perceptions of government policy so that we elect politicians that actually want to improve social conditions... but I don't have any degree in economics or Poli Sci... and I suck at public speaking.

Some of my dream job ideas are:
- doing communications for a political party (ie: the NDP)
- working on documentaries (though everything at CBC is being cut, d'oh!)
- working for some other type of non-profit or government organization related to the arts (right now I work for a media-based trade association which is work that I really enjoy)

- I don't want to work in academia and I doubt I will want to go for a Master's degree any time soon. I generally don't really like being a full-time student.

My undergrad was in music/liberal arts and I didn't take much politics or economics (though I did do the very basics in my CEGEP Social science diploma).

So I guess, what I'm looking for is:

1) other ideas of career paths that are appropriate for someone with a background in the arts and a grad diploma in communications (which includes sound and film production courses) and who is also a lefty (Sorry if this is a Tall Order, and I know that a lot of social justice work is unpaid as well so I'm not looking to get rich off of this. Also, I am aware that I might not get my Dream Job and most likely will have a day job and "pursue my dreams" on the side... so ideas about what that Day Job should be are welcome as well)

2) Since I have not taken many courses in Poli Sci or economics-- is there any way I can make up for this using my elective courses? A lot of the program's course offerings are politically- oriented and deal with Media and Gender, Globalization, Alternative media, etc.

3) While doing a graduate diploma, is it wise to get involved in a lot of extra curricular activities, or better to focus solely on my studies? Part of the program includes an internship, which will take up some of my extracurricular time, but should I also try to be involved in things like writing for the school newspaper, volunteer work or I do have about a year of entry-level work experience in this field already, so i want to make sure I make the most of my time back at school.

Thanks for your help!
posted by winterportage to Education (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I know someone who is doing nearly the exact thing you are talking about (in the U.S.A.). He got a master's in multimedia journalism in 2008, and then got an M.P.A a few years later. I'm not saying you have to do both, but that's the background he's working with.
posted by jgirl at 2:18 PM on July 22, 2014

I think an obstacle to answering these questions is that your aims and objective seem rather vague at the moment.

I guess one option might be to look into gaining experience in the charitable sector, bearing in mind the usual caveats?

Charities rely on good / effective communications so tend to invest heavily in this sort of stuff and would mesh quite well with your interests ethos and background too possibly.

Having said that, big charities tend to be rather corporate in their outlook and very professional in their approach, the place I worked having promos designed by the best ad agencies in the land, they did invest heavily in in-house communications too.

The thing to say though is that communications in these sorts of things often isn't all purely ideological but also about generating revenue, so also has quite a hard headed target driven business side too; and which can be slightly counter-intuitive.

As an example a charity I worked for example knew donors wouldn't give to any campaign fronted by a male, but saw their response rates jump markedly when they put blond females on their appeal letters - just as an example!

However with the move to take things online / into social media there's the opportunity to create new content, and engage with people and generally to try new things too, and most places are getting quite innovative in this sort of area, which might be interesting to you.

That said there's lots of opportunities to do "communications" at various levels and audiences, and rather than purely cause campaigns / passion projects tend to offer proper staff jobs.

However the trend inside a lot of organisations is towards a lot of collaborative working, like creating events, opening new markets / developing new audiences and operating events, and a whole raft of other stuff which blend communications / marketing / pr and events, so if you ever wanted to learn to organize a marathon this would be a good place to learn to do it, and really useful and transferable in terms of skills when you want to move on to something else.

Perhaps a good use of your time would be to volunteer / gain experience in these sorts of orgs and see if it appeals? My advice would be to find a cause you understand and engage with and see if you can intern / get involved with this sort of work in communications / pr / fundraising some way and build a network from there as a concrete way of working toward your goal?
posted by Middlemarch at 2:41 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I do online communications for an advocacy nonprofit in the US. This is something you should look into - it's a rapidly-growing field with a lot of opportunity. People in my field write lots of content and manage strategy for email, social media, SMS and web for advocacy orgs and political campaigns.

The good news is that your undergrad degree doesn't matter at all. I majored in women's studies and history. I didn't take any communications classes in undergrad OR grad school.

The flip side of that is that potential employers won't care all that much about your coursework. For that reason, I would suggest you put a LOT of effort into into your extracurriculars, especially the internship. Make sure you get plenty of experience creating solid writing samples and getting experience writing for a specific audience.

Feel free to PM me if you have more questions about this career path.
posted by lunasol at 6:17 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I don't know if this will help, but friends who've done stuff for parties got in by proving their worth doing grunt work over an election campaign, and options opened up after that (though not in communications, in their case). If that's a way you want to go, since there's probably an election next year, it might be good to apply to volunteer now (here, or better yet, walk in to the office in your local riding and do it in person).
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:03 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

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