It’s November already?!

Prior to the start of this year, anyone that I had talked to who had been through the iMedia program would remark on how quickly their time flew by. As I flipped my calendar to November this morning, I thought to myself “boy, they sure weren’t kidding!”  Just yesterday members of our cohort sported some creative costumes in celebration of Halloween, and now today we begin the month of November.

Halloween

iMedia students Kyndall, Kendra, Kaylin, Amanda, Kelsey (me), Tip, and Sarah gather for a photo sporting their Halloween costumes

Though fall break was only two weeks ago, I find myself thinking back to it as though months have passed! Just yesterday we received an email from Dr. Lackaff regarding our pre-proposals for our research paper, an assignment that seemed months away when we learned about it in our final days of our Theory and Audience Analysis class with him just three weeks prior. And to top it all off, next Thursday we register for classes for our spring semester. As such, we are all starting to excitedly plan our next semester. With class options like Virtual Environments, Digital Brand Communication, Game Design and Development, and more, it’s hard to narrow it down to just three elective classes, in addition to our capstone course. Some students will pursue a professional apprenticeship in place of one of the electives, gaining real-world experience in a field that is especially of interest to them. Others will pursue an independent study to learn more about a specific topic with a faculty member that has expertise in that area. No matter which direction we go, our options are exciting and I think I can speak for everyone when I say we are all greatly looking forward to what the spring semester will hold.

Trey working on a project

iMedia student, Trey, working on a class project in our beautiful common space

It’s both exciting and terrifying to think about how far we have come since we started our iMedia journey at the end of July. It’s exciting to think about our future after iMedia, as we have already learned so much and the knowledge we accumulate continues to grow each week. Yet it’s also scary to think about how little time we have left to continue to learn and take advantage of the incredible resources we have at our fingertips in this program. Receiving a master’s degree in just 10 months is an incredible benefit of the iMedia program, yet for those like myself who are interested in such a wide variety of topics, determining a direction in such a short amount of time is without a doubt quite a challenge, though it sure is not a bad challenge to have and one that I continue to embrace as the weeks continue on.

To alumni that visited campus and our new home in Long last week for Elon Homecoming 2017, we enjoyed saying hello and soaking up the advice you offered for the rest of our time in the iMedia program!

Early mornings

Early mornings before the sun has risen in our new home in Long.

 

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Eyeing the future

Nine months behind us. One more to go.

It almost doesn’t seem as if much time has lapsed since that first week of iMedia boot camp, when the class of 2017 gathered in the classroom of our home base, the second floor of Powell. It was during that first week when Professor William Moner asked the class to write responses to four questions on index cards and suggested that what we wrote could later serve as a point of reflection. Some of us heeded that advice.

Beth Pandone keeps her card on the bulletin board above the desk in her bedroom.

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“I like to write down my goals and go through with them,” she said. “This card seemed like an interesting way to keep track of my goals and how I felt in the beginning of the program.”

Although she describes her responses as “vague and basic,” the goals she described then still align with her current plans.

“I still want to create content that is exciting and creative as well as help others,” Beth said. “I think the program allowed me to build the skills needed to do this, and my capstone, which focuses on education and the environment, shows that my goals and focus have stayed the same through this all.”

Now, Beth’s interests have evolved beyond broadcasting to include digital strategy and UX research and design.

Sam Solomon carries her index card around in her backpack. Sam wrote in now-faint pencil strokes that she wants to design and she loves to be creative. She wants to use design for a greater purpose, to improve eh world. As for iMedia, she wrote in August, she wasn’t sure how it would fit into her plans, but “it is a stepping stone.”

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When the program began, Sam wanted to get better at coding. “I can say that I have done just that,” she said. “(I) still have a ways to go, but I definitely know more than I did nine months ago.”

I am now way more interested in interactive design in  general. Prior to iMedia it was hard to imagine what I could do with a masters degree in interactive media but now my eyes have been opened and my head is full of so much knowledge about interactive design.” You can see more of Sam’s design work here.

As for me, I don’t know where put my index card. Good thing I know myself and that I’m prone to lose things. I’m sure that’s why, after writing my responses, I snapped a picture of my index card with my phone. I had forgotten about the picture until I was scrolling through my library recently and puzzled for a second over recognizing my crooked script. The next surprise was how, before dozens of times when I succumbed to fits of doubt about life after iMedia, I seemed to know what I wanted.

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Our class was the second one asked to complete the index card activity, which is meant to help students to start thinking about their progression toward completing a capstone project and post-grad life.

Students often come into the program with more ambitious projects in mind, Moner said. “The reality at the end of the program doesn’t always match, but the intent is still there.”

Looking back at the index cards helps foster a sense that students really accomplished what they wanted initially wanted to. “It might not have been the exact outcome, but … you were going in the right direction,” Moner said.

When I applied to iMedia, I was all but certain I wanted to find some way to launch my own hyperlocal journalism startup. I knew I needed to learn to code, and I felt confident I would master it even though I had already had a series of freakouts while attempting to learn Javascript. I didn’t know there would be so, so many more to come. Even then, I knew I wanted my work to have a broader impact, which is also something I love about journalism. My plans and interests shifted a bit quickly after starting classes last fall. I became interested in content strategy and – another surprise to me – branding. My post-iMedia plans now align my interest in writing and journalism with my newfound interactive skills. I’m excited about what’s next.

Sometimes you have to look back to move forward. Hindsight sharpens the recognition that how far you’ve come makes it easier to complete the journey ahead. Sure, that’s a little cliché, but it’s an idea I’m trying to focus on now that I know the finish line is rapidly nearing on the horizon, but all I see ahead of me is a hill of work I have yet to complete.

“It’s never as bad as you think it is,” Moner said. “And by that I mean, when you’re sort of in the crucible that’s all you can think about, right? But from our perspective, what we see as faculty is a tremendous amount of growth, both in the skills that you have and in the perspective that you bring to new projects and challenges.”

It’s tough to focus on what’s next when you’re still mired in coursework, the job hunt, and piecing together what’s next. Still, in-between hours of studying and working, we have formed lifelong bonds with at least a few of our peers. Maybe more than we can articulate to anyone else who has never experienced this program, we learned to problem-solve and persevere.

Things have worked out for me better than I imagined. I hope that’s true for the rest of iMedia ‘17 or that it will be in the near future.

May the darkest times be when we shine brightest. May we look back on these times with more fond memories than adverse ones. May we find ourselves in the middle of a reality more rewarding than what we ever dreamed each time we reflect on the point when it all started to become possible.

Final(s) Words of Encouragement

There are only 10 school days left of the semester, andspongebob-brain-fire the iMedia hallway looks a little something like this…

Okay, so that’s a little dramatic. But with looming fly-in prep plus projects, papers, and presentations ahead with so little time to complete everything, overall morale is much lower than usual. There’s no doubt in my mind that undergraduate students and professors are feeling the exact same way!

For my last post of the semester, I want to reach out to anyone experiencing the chaos and stress of finals week with some words of encouragement and tips on how to make it through.

  1. Pick a positivity mantra or motivational quote and make it your desktop and phone background. Every time you see it, take a second to breathe and internalize those words. My personal favorite is “Get up. Get coffee. Get on with it.” I need to give myself a little tough love to get crankin’!
  2. Make a master list. And then a mini list. Make a list of every single project and assignment that is due before the end of the semester. Then, make smaller to-do items under each that outline your plan for getting it done. Every item you check off will pack the motivational punch you’ll need to power through the rest of the semester!
  3. Know you’re not alone. As I said earlier, there are millions of students experiencing the stress and deadlines and pressure you’re experiencing. Reach out to a classmate or professor and grab coffee with them. Talk about your plans for Winter break or even your plans for the weekend. In other words, get school off your brain for a bit!
  4. Try to eat as healthily as possible. Avoid sugary drinks and too much junk food – you’ll zap your energy and feel too sluggish to focus. Snack on apples, oranges, or carrots with hummus for a crunchy, hydrating energy boost!
  5. Keep the big picture in mind. I know that in six short months I will have my Master’s degree and a year of intensive learning under my belt. I’ve met so many amazing people through this program and learned so many new skills. While the end of the semester can feel like the end of the world, there are so many positive memories to reflect on and even more to be had in the future.

Here’s to the next two weeks – we can do it!

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Lessons in the struggle

I really thought iMedia would be easy. (I’ll wait a moment for the explosion of laughter to subside.)

Seriously, though, I entered the program thinking it would be a breeze compared to the work I’ve done before. I spent years working as a journalist at newspapers in Virginia, Mississippi, and most recently, North Carolina. There were days when I worked almost literally from sunrise to sunset or even later, not leaving the office until after midnight. I’ve turned around three or more news stories in one day. Some assignments involved not only writing, but also live tweeting and shooting short videos. What else could be more exhausting than that, right?

We all know the answer.

My automatic response to questions about my weekend plans is, “Homework.” I don’t think about what’s showing on TV during the week; chances are I won’t be home to watch it anyway. I’m routinely up early each morning to finish reading or other assignments. I routinely fall asleep while reading or working on my laptop. My life was completely different almost three months ago, but that’s a good thing. Yes, I’m usually exhausted and somewhat overwhelmed, but I generally feel good about what I’m learning and doing. The pain and frustration, generally, are worth it.

I joined iMedia hoping to broaden my career options. I also entered with what I thought was a clear plan of what I wanted to do next. A few days of boot camp made me realize that like Jon Snow, I knew nothing. But that’s a good thing as well. Here’s why: I’m already doing things that were completely foreign to me before I started this program. I’ve actually coded websites. I’m much more comfortable with Photoshop and Illustrator — programs I hadn’t really used before.

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We’ve also had a number of guest speakers, which is one of my favorite things about the program so far. Less than three months in, we’ve heard from a number of iMedia alumni. Other guest speakers include Scott Kelly of the Elon business school and Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Center (who is also author of a book we read in one class). We attended a session with internet pioneer Vint Cerf. I also attended a broader university event with legendary Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward.

Insight from those guests, as well as everything I’ve learned in class so far, led me to toss aside my post-graduation plans. I don’t know what I’ll do then or what I will be capable of doing. While that occasionally sends me into a panic, it also leaves me a little excited about the possibilities.

There’s No Place Like Elon Homecoming 2015

By: Amber McCraw, Assistant Director of Career Services, School of Communications

Elon’s iMedia Class of 2016 is 3 months into the 10 month program and they are doing everything they can to make the most of their “sandbox time” as advised by iMedia alum, Conor Britain earlier in the year.

For those who don’t know me, my name is Amber McCraw and I am the new Assistant Director of Career Services for the School of Communications. My role on this blog is to offer career advice to our students as they progress through their time here. So, it’s only fitting with Homecoming upon us that I offer some words of wisdom about how to make the most of a nostalgic weekend.

Homecoming means throngs of alums will be returning to campus for football, tailgating, and reunions of all kinds. While they may primarily be back on campus to catch-up with old friends, share updates with former professors, and take in all of the changes the campus has experienced since they last returned, they are also here to give back. So, what is my key piece of advice to you before the weekend is over?

Network, network, network!

From a football game to shared meals, a 5K and many impromptu gatherings, take advantage of the opportunities to interact with iMedia and COM alums throughout the weekend. The School of Communications will be hosting several events designed for this opportunity and you don’t want to miss out. Don’t be afraid to step up, introduce yourself, and strike up a conversation because you never know where it may lead. They’ve been in your shoes before, so who better to talk to about your experiences.

If you’re feeling anxious, use the tips below to make your networking experience a success:

  • Find a reason to strike up a conversation. You both have something in common as an alum and current student, so finding something in common shouldn’t be hard. Compliment them, bring up the weather, or crack a joke if you have a sense of humor.
  • Having trouble finding someone to talk to? Find someone standing alone – chances are they are looking for someone to talk to as well. Or, find a group of people where you know at least one person already.
  • Have business cards ready to go when the conversation turns to professional interests. (And don’t forget to ask for theirs in return).
  • Connect on LinkedIn and send a personalized message. Thank them for talking with you and follow-up on any requests.
  • Continue the conversation and keep in touch.

Have any other networking tips that you’ve found helpful? Feel free to share.

Happy Networking!!

the start up

Sophie Waller

Sophie Waller is a 2014 iMedia graduate. Sophie is one of a handful of iMedia graduates who went with a start up following graduation. She had tips and insights to share when we met recently in Raleigh.

“I am the Community Manager at Photofy Inc. For starters I run and manage all social media channels for Photofy http://photofy.com/ This is everything from creating and posting content, monitoring all social interaction, and staying on top of complaints and queries.

Marketing is also a large part of my job. We are at the heart of the company focused on design, therefore we have a lot of ‘Featured Partners’ in our app. Featured Partners are graphic designers / typographers / or illustrators whose designs are featured in our app under their name (or company name).

One of my favorite parts of the job is to search through Instagram / blogs / websites etc. to find budding typographers or illustrators who are extremely skilled, yet may not have found enough work they deserve as of yet, to be featured in our app. I reach out to multiple designers on a daily basis to set up partnerships and pitch collaborations with them (each are different) and then arrange licensing with them.

iMedia prepared me for my job in a great way, in the fact that, if you looked at my job from an outside perspective, you probably wouldn’t think it would of helped me at all!

Working for a start up there are ten people in my company in total, therefore there is complete transparency when it comes to the design and business of the app. Although my job is social media and marketing based, because of my background, my input and opinions matter as they come from an educated background.

My boss comes to me with wire frames designs, asks me to contribute new design ideas for the app, I understand coding therefore can manage expectations for clients, and because of my understanding and knowledge of these aspects I contribute business ideas on a regular basis because I am aware of what we our capabilities are.

We are a start up, therefore I have a lot of customer / fan interaction on a daily basis. If ever there is something that is going wrong with a customers app, or they want to know a design question, a how to option, I respond to them directly.

I am very big on customer interaction, yes it might be stressful at times, but one of the biggest accolades we can get, and we have gotten countless times again, is how much our customers appreciate our one to one interaction.

When people message us saying, ‘Your app is amazing, and you’re all so helpful’, that’s the best part of my job.”

Sophie has advice for people considering iMedia.

“If you are on the fence about the program, do it. I was probably about 20% sure I was making the right decision when I joined, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Plus, it’s a really cool thing to show off about at parties”.

For students currently enrolled –

“Everybody’s path is different.

Please do NOT put an immense amount of pressure on yourself to be happy, settled and with your dream job a week after graduation, because let’s face it, that does not happen to everyone!

Although it may not feel it at the time, but you are in an extremely valuable position when you graduate.

Allow yourself to know your worth, know how hard you have worked, and know the incredible skills you have learned this year that not many people will have. Take a moment to think about what job you really want, not one you feel like you should have.”

 

 

Finding Direction

By Marianne Brigola, Comm Career Advisor

compassAs you’ve been reading in the fantastic blog posts from our current iMedia students, the fall semester is in full swing over here at Elon. Students are in the midst of class, homework and also figuring out what they want to do with their Interactive Media degree. Everyone is different–there are students who know exactly what it is they want to do after graduation and others who are still exploring different industries and jobs.

I’ve already met with several iMedia students to start helping them plan for their job search in the spring. If you’re still trying to figure out how you want to use your new interactive media skills and knowledge, there are two things you need to do: Research + Network

1. Research. Our graduates go on to work in so many different industries with a variety of roles. Some are in client services roles, others on the creative side. Some work in marketing, others work freelance. A few ago, Katie wrote a blog post about our 2014 graduates and some of the great work they’re doing.

Here are a few other websites that can help you start learning more about titles + their job descriptions:

http://www.firebrandtalent.com/resources/job-descriptions

http://www.aaaa.org/agency/compensation/resources/jobs/pages/default.aspx

http://creativeskillset.org/creative_industries

http://www.paladinstaff.com/jobs/careers/

http://css-tricks.com/job-titles-in-the-web-industry/

In addition to researching job titles, you should be researching industries and companies. Would you prefer to work in marketing, or advertising, or public relations? Is a smaller, start-up agency your dream organization or would you like to work for a larger, more established firm? If you’re targeting a specific city after graduation–what companies are located in that city? A quick Google search can help you start building a list of potential target organizations.

2. Network. We talk a lot about how important networking is as a job search strategy–and it’s also important to help you figure out what you’re going to do next in your career! You can learn a lot about a company or a job by looking at their website or reading a job description, but you won’t learn if it’s a good fit for you until you actually talk to someone working at that organization or doing that type of work. LinkedIn makes it so easy for you to find alumni or contacts in a particular industry or job role. Elon University has over 19,000 students + alumni on LinkedIn. That’s 19,000 contacts you could potentially reach out to!  If you’re just getting started on LinkedIn, check LinkedIn’s tips for getting your profile set up.

Don’t forget to go outside of the digital world too–follow up with guest speakers from classes, attended conferences and expos, participate in local meet ups or networking events. The Triangle American Marketing Association and the Triangle Interactive Marketing are examples of two local professional associations that host many networking and educational events in the area several times a year.

Researching potential career options and networking with professionals are the two key things to helping you determine what you’re going to do with your interactive media degree after graduation! Start now to help you focus your job search in the spring. –MA