Chris Richards

marketing | branding | tech | startups

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An Education

It hit me today, after answering the phone for about the 10th time within half an hour of getting to work, “doing business” is stressful! And it’s not the actual work part that stresses me out…It’s the little stuff like always answering with a “smile,” transferring to the correct person, making sure not to put a client on hold, making sure not to DROP a call, that really gets my blood pressure pumping!

Assign me a list of 200 people to call, no problem. Tell me I have half an hour to find out how many newspapers are covering a certain topic; I don’t care, I’ll gladly do it! But, tell me to manage two phone calls at once from a front desk, and I start sweating…too much pressure! That’s not to say that I’m not getting used to it…I am! It just would have been nice to have had some “lessons” before getting thrown in!

My conclusion: if schools really want to enhance their business programs and produce grads that immediately succeed in entry-level positions (because what other positions are there for us?), quit focusing solely on the macro level stuff. So, I can speak Chinese, but why does Client X waiting impatiently on hold care about that? Sure those skills can help make me look good enough to get in the door, but if I can’t perform basic office functions once in the door, what kind of impression does that make??

From my experience at Dickinson, I certainly enjoyed learning about the “big picture” of business, marketing, econ, etc. But in reality, maybe the curriculum should have included something like “business etiquette: 101” or even just gone over what to expect when you enter the business world…Now I know some would say, “that’s what internships are for!” but why limit our education in the classroom to lofty ideas, assuming internships will magically teach common business practice?

I’m all for a liberal arts education. I think it can take you far, and I think for the most part the spirit of liberal arts is what has drawn me toward marketing and PR. In the short time I’ve been in my internship program, I’ve seen the marketing of everything from luxury beds to military grade gas masks. Each client is very different, and each marketing approach, therefore, must be very different…it keeps them on their toes! I think that I work best as a generalist, and while this type of work does require some digging-deep into certain subjects, for the most part you get to jump around and sample a bit of everything. I like it!