Developing Soft Skills in My Communication Graduate Program

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Chris Burch, Student & Alumni

As an Environmental Health and Safety Coordinator for a manufacturing facility it might seem at first glance that a M.S. in Communication would not be the typical choice for furthering my career.  One would be surprised to find out how even in a nontraditional career path for a Communication Grad student how much the program can help.  

The following are examples how the MS in Communication program at Purdue enhanced my skillset in my career.

Example One: Crisis Communication Skills

The first example of how the M.S. in Communication program at Purdue has helped me is in my role as crisis communicator for my organization.  When things go wrong such as a natural disaster, an inspector at the door or an injured employee is when people are wanting answers and I’m up to bat.  Being able to compose myself and communicate using the strategies that have been a part of the classes within the program has assisted me in maintaining a calm demeanor during these situations.  It has also allowed me to consider all the stakeholders and how to reach each group individually and on their own terms.  

Example Two: Interpersonal Skills

Another aspect of the program that has assisted me is how I now go about interfacing with peers, coworkers and superiors.  The M.S. in Communication program has given me new insights and strategies on how to approach workplace communications.  I’ve learned that strategic communication is not only as much about what to share as well as when and how.  The strategies that serve in more traditional roles of the program such as public relations or media specialist have been useful to me in considering what really needs to be communicated, to whom, how and when.  

Example Three: Leadership Skills and Enhancement of My Personal Brand

Lastly the program has shown me how to present myself in a more professional and polished way overall.  Not only from a more personal level such as a resume, but also from an organizational level as well.  When asked about what I do and who I work for I’ve been able to consider more carefully how to respond to these inquiries.  Selling what I do can seem like a no brainer, after all who would argue against a safety-in-the-workplace program?  One would be surprised by how many times I’ve had to defend not only why we need to invest money into something to ensure safety, but also why we need to concern ourselves with the issue in question to begin with.  

Nothing is given in life or in a career.  I’ve learned two things from the M.S. in Communication program that have really advanced my career.  First, there are beneficial ways of communicating information for all stakeholders involved.  Second, one has to want to and choose to use these same strategies to the advantage of everyone, including yourself.  

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Chris Burch is a student in Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.