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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

Should non-traditional jobs have a place at WSU?

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An open back of a well-packed, rundown van.

Is the contemporary job of brand ambassador, freelance creative marketing, influencer, and related fields a lucrative one?

“It’s as much a lifestyle as it is a job. People get to live a lifestyle they really enjoy and make good enough money while doing it,” said Mark Nimkoff, a Westfield State University Communications professor, when asked this question.

Despite the likely attraction in getting paid for living an ideal lifestyle, “most students I’ve worked with are interested in more stable, less freelance paths,” Professor Nimkoff admitted.

“I’m not sure that a college degree is necessary,” Professor Nimkoff added. He acknowledges there is a “certain amount of privilege that most people who succeed in that space would be coming from,” and that as a result, he “wouldn’t be surprised if most of the people who succeed in that sort of space have in fact gone to college.”

“Today, you need to have a degree in order to advance,” said Giselle Frechette, from WSU’s Career Center. “People have been able to advance in this field without it,” said Frechette, but goes on to explain, “there are better opportunities, a safety net and networking that comes with a college education.” 

“It’s definitely an interesting career that I could see a lot of people doing, if it was publicized as a more stable, dependable career,” said Anna Sellon, a WSU junior majoring in Communications with a concentration in Media Arts and Analysis and a Graphic Design minor. 

“We learn how to record podcasts, edit audio, and write for the ear,” said Sellon, in regard to the Writing for the Interactive Media course she is currently enrolled in. 

“They taught us how to use Canva and Photoshop,” Sellon said about WSU’s Computer Graphics course, “the basics of how to combine multiple aspects, sometimes with texts and images to create an original image and concept.”

Video Production I, Audio Production I, Journalism I, Multimedia Journalism, and Social Media Analytics are just some of the Communication courses offered at WSU that would offer valuable skills for this profession, without even mentioning the Marketing and Arts departments.

Despite WSU students learning these skills, Sellon couldn’t recall a single student who has shown interest in pursuing a career in this field of work beyond interest in starting a podcast as a side hobby.

“One former student did consider the van life route,” recalled Professor Nimkoff, “documenting their travels in a van life way, trying to build a social media following.” 

“She did not enjoy it!”, Professor Nimkoff said. He explained that the alumni learned this lifestyle did not suit her, nor was she able to build a significant social media following. She is now working as a reporter and podcast operator for a newspaper in Colorado Springs, CO. 

 “I would think you might need to have an actual relevant skill set,” said Professor Nimkoff when asked what is necessary for success in this field, if not a college degree.

“And, you’d need to be a good writer,” added Professor Nimkoff, as he believes that “the video and audio skills are things that would be somewhat easier to learn on the go given how recent technological shifts have made multimedia production easier and easier.”

“The key with job search is that with an open-marketing focus, employers look for experience, personality, a natural ability to connect to people, understand their brand and how to produce and pitch it,” Frechette said, also mentioning the advantages of having experience with events and customers. 

“There is no doubt some skill set involved in creating compelling self-portraits and in integrating all the product placements in a way that feels charming to followers,” Professor Nimkoff said.

When asked about how AI will intervene in this field, Frechette replied, “It’s exploded,” and it is, “entering a lot of markets quickly.” 

However, “there will always be a need for people,” Frechette added, in regard to the job’s lucrativeness. “People still need to talk to people, they still need that human contact.”

“We offer a partnership with Parker Douey,” Frechette said, on behalf of WSU’s Career Center, explaining remote, short-term, paid internships in a wide variety of fields that rotate continuously. Frechette also mentions WSU’s partnership with Forage, which focuses on virtual studies with branding and employers. 

WSU’s Career Center constantly holds events to bring professionals and alumni back to campus for networking opportunities as well as 6 job fairs a year, and offers free websites for students to start developing their own online portfolios and websites.

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