Consuming these kinds of media could help your future career

If you hope to land the perfect job after graduation, it's important to invest in your classes, internships and club or community activities. But there's something else you need to do as well - immerse yourself in your field.

While your courses provide a solid foundation and internships build strong networks and offer valuable experience, chances are your future employer will want to know that you can also stay up-to-date with the latest issues and trends. What are other professionals in your field talking about? What innovative ideas can you capitalize on to grow your company?

If you can demonstrate that you are not only knowledgeable about the fundamental best practices of your discipline but also committed to learning and improving your own understanding of the field, employers are likely to see you as a potential asset to their organization.

How should you go about immersing yourself in the field? There are lots of ways to accomplish this, and some of them vary based on your particular career interests. Here are a few options to get you started:

Blogs
Following the blogs of experts or leaders in your industry is one of the best ways to stay current and engaged. You can use a service like Feedly (available for free as website or app) that will allow you to set up RSS feeds for as many blogs as you like. Those feeds can then be sorted into categories, and individual articles can be saved to "boards." Don't know which blogs to look for? Not to worry! Just search for a keyword related to your industry (e.g. "public relations") and Feedly will provide you with suggestions.

Podcasts
Podcasts are a growing media form, and recent studies have shown that approximately 20% of adults in the U.S. consume them (roughly the same amount as use Twitter). What does this mean for you? Well, for starters it means that there are probably a few well-done podcasts available on iTunes related to your industry. It also means that as a communication major, you could consider the possibility of helping your future employer start a podcast. If you're already an avid consumer, you will be more aware of what already exists, what formats work and what niche market has yet to be reached.

Keyword alerts
If you've never set up a keyword alert before, now is the time. With the proliferation of information published every minute on the Internet, it's impossible to monitor everything as thoroughly as we need to as communication professionals. Thankfully, you can set keyword alerts using Google, Feedly (the same way you follow blogs) or even workflow apps like IFTTT. What keywords should you use? If there's a particular organization you want to work for, be sure to set an alert for when it is mentioned online. You can also set alerts for specific topics that interest you (e.g., health communication, national park service, or social media training).

Books
This suggestion may be old-school, but it's still relevant. You've probably had assigned readings in your classes, but don't assume that you shouldn't be looking for other books as well. What areas of your discipline do you find most interesting? What do you want to learn more about? Once you have a general idea, see what books are available on the topic! You can do a basic search on Amazon, read reviews and purchase or borrow material from the library once you've found something that looks promising.

Consume, consume, consume!
Last but not least, don't underestimate the importance of consuming the kind of content you want to create. Want to be a documentary filmmaker? Great! Watch as many kinds of documentaries as you can get your hands on. Rent classic films from the library, check out what's on Netflix and look at what digital media like Great Big Story are doing. More interested in becoming a social media manager? Follow the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts of several different organizations. Monitor their activity and decide what they're doing well and what could be improved. Consuming content in this way will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of what other people in your field are doing while also helping to hone your own skills in critical thinking and campaign evaluation.

A great degree, internship experience and organizational involvement all look great on a resume and will probably help you make it to that big interview. Once you're in the room, however, the ability to show that you are already well-versed in the latest developments in your field will make you stand out as a serious, committed professional.

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