By THOMAS HARTWELL

KENNESAW, Ga. – Panelists at the “All-Star Alumni” breakout session shared their insight on entering the digital job market and urged students to follow their passions, Thursday, during Kennesaw State University’s 3rd annual Communication Colloquium.

The panel was made up of five Kennesaw State alumni who have excelled in their careers and had much to say about the variety and change in the communication field. Panelists, first and foremost, urged students to be determined in searching for employment after graduation.

KSU Alumni panelists prepare to speak to students and staff at KSU's Communication Colloquium. Pictured left to right: Billy Berger, Kecia Jones, Michelle Babcock, Ashli Davis, David Kirkland. Photo by Thomas Hartwell
KSU Alumni panelists prepare to speak to students and staff at KSU’s Communication Colloquium. Pictured left to right: Billy Berger, Kecia Jones, Michelle Babcock, Ashli Davis, David Kirkland. Photo by Thomas Hartwell

“It took 150 applications in 2012 — when I graduated, every single print publication, newspaper, magazine, they all had my résumé,” said Michelle Babcock, online marketing specialist for Northwest Exterminating. “I heard back from five, and I know a lot of students who graduated with me, they put out five, 10, 15 résumés to different newspapers and magazines, they didn’t hear back and they gave up. I was like, ‘No … I’m doing it.’”

Babcock said it was her determination that landed her a job at the Cherokee Tribune, a local daily publication, which lead to a position at the Marietta Daily Journal and, eventually, Northwest Exterminating.

Panelist Billy Berger, TV personality and web entrepreneur, attributed his success to following his passions, no matter how many he had or how unique they seemed.

“I just followed what I enjoyed doing and did what I enjoyed doing, and that’s what I focused on and developed,” said Berger. “And some of the things that I do – like how to chip an arrowhead out of a piece of stone – seems today to be one of the most useless skills anybody could have, but I was fascinated and I wanted to learn how people did this.”

It was the development of his passions, said Berger, that led him to publication in several magazines. As he learned new skills and developed old ones, Berger sent articles about his techniques and experiences to various outdoor magazines, which began paying him and publishing his work. Berger has since developed his own YouTube channel – to which he partly credited KSU’s audio/visual courses — and appeared on shows like “I, Caveman” and “Naked and Afraid,” as well as in movies, including the “Hunger Games” series.

As the discussion continued, the panelists turned to focus on the mentors that they had through their life – some, they said, they didn’t even know they had.

Underneath all of the information that seemed boring as a student, said David Kirkland, KSU professor and instructional designer for the school’s Distance Learning Center, was a wealth of knowledge. Kirkland cited his advisor during his academic career, Dr. Womack, as responsible for much of the information that still helps him through his work to this day.

David Kirkland tells about his KSU mentors and challenges students to listen intently in school. Photo by Thomas Hartwell
David Kirkland tells about his KSU mentors and challenges students to listen intently in school. Photo by Thomas Hartwell

Kecia Jones, success coach and public speaker, agreed with Kirkland, “There are things that you may not think that are important right now, in terms of learning, but if it keeps coming up, pay attention to what keeps coming up,” she said. “I would say, also, people who are doing something similar — study them.”

The panel concluded with student questions, one of which sparked discussion of mobile and online influence in each of the panelists’ careers and what the future holds in digital communications and media.

“I think digital and technology is incredibly important,” said Ashli Davis of Type A Consulting. “What will never go away is [the need for] the ability to build relationships.”

Davis said that her largest source of clientele is her LinkedIn profile, which, she stressed, she religiously updates. Social media, she said, is imperative.

“All I do is online,” said Babcock, continuing the social media focus. “As far as journalism goes, which is still what I have the most experience in, a lot of it was moving online … Facebook was the main way we got stuff out.”

While it might be frightening to think about consumers getting their news from Facebook, said Kirkland, it has become a successful tool for dispersal.

“It might be scary in some ways – yeah, you’ve got some people posting some weird stuff – but   [Facebook] is a side door that can lead back to that legitimate news agency,” said Kirkland.

“I’ll be honest with you,” said Berger. “When I went out to get the trash today, there was a newspaper in my driveway, and I don’t have it — it went right into the recycle bin, because I wasn’t seeking news at that time. If I want to seek news, I can get online and look it up. It just seems that’s the way the paper is going.”

Billy Berger and Kecia Jones talk to a small group of students following the "All-Star Alumni" panel at KSU's Communication Colloquium. Photo by Thomas Hartwell
Billy Berger and Kecia Jones talk to a small group of students following the “All-Star Alumni” panel at KSU’s Communication Colloquium. Photo by Thomas Hartwell

Kecia Jones outlined her own opinion of the importance of digital and social media proficiency before closing with encouragement of students to explore their talents.

“Recognize what comes easy to you,” said Jones, inciting cheers of agreement from the small group of faculty audience. “The thing that comes easy to you, often times, you don’t even value because it’s so easy, but that’s your wealthy place.”

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