Pharmaceutical sales representative. Wife. Dog mom. Volunteer. Student?
It wasn’t a title I’d necessarily seen myself having again but, on January 4, I took the plunge and began my first graduate school course for the online Master’s in Strategic Communication program at American University. I’d been tossing around the idea for about a year, because I was ready for a change and a challenge. And, honestly, I missed learning. It didn’t mean, though, that I wasn’t nervous or that it hasn’t been a challenge to juggle having a full-time job, keeping my house (semi) clean, and maintaining a social life with classes.
It’s been a balancing act but, halfway through American’s MA in Strategic Communication program, I can confidently say deciding to get my master’s degree has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. While I was worried about how I would adjust to going back to school after being out for several years, I’ve been amazed by what a positive experience it has been. One of the things I really love is how I can relate what I’m learning to both my job and my professional experiences. I received a great undergrad education, but like most students, I also wasn’t working in the “real world” yet, which made everything somewhat theoretical. Now, I can learn a concept, discuss it with my classmates, and apply it to my job the next day.
I encounter a lot of people from varied backgrounds throughout my workday. I’m communicating with people who want to talk to me, who don’t want to talk to me, who live down the street, and who once lived halfway across the world. I’m communicating with people who have a lot on their minds and who may find my visit a welcome – or unwelcome – interruption. Regardless, it is up to me to communicate effectively. Two courses I’ve found to be particularly helpful are my current international communication class and the principles of strategic communication class. Both of these classes in particular have helped me think purposefully about how I am communicating.
Sometimes I get five seconds with my customers, and sometimes I get to spend their entire lunch break with them. Either way, for me to be effective at my job, it is important that what I say stays with them long after I’ve walked out the door. In principles of strategic communication, I was able to examine a real pharmaceutical campaign to better understand what “sticks.” Being able to choose a campaign that directly related to what I do not only made it interesting but also extremely useful. I was able to examine communication successes and gaps in the pharmaceutical campaign and adapt what I learned to my own job. It has undoubtedly made me a better communicator because I think I better understand how my messages are – or aren’t – making an impact and how I can do a better job of making my message stick.
International communication has really opened my eyes to all of the elements that many, including myself, take for granted when communicating with someone of another culture. In the course of my day, I can encounter someone from Russia, India, and Pakistan. This course has helped me become more aware of cultural communication patterns and adapt my communication style to better relate to and understand my customers. I have a new appreciation for the assumptions that are made when communicating with someone from another country. In a few weeks, I’ll be putting together a final presentation on my adopted “home country,” and I am really excited to see everything I’ve learned come together.
Being able to apply what I’ve learned has been an eye-opening experience. I would encourage anyone who is considering grad school to learn more about American’s MA in Strategic Communication program whether it is to further a current job or explore a new career path. So far, it’s been a rewarding journey, and I am excited to see where the rest of the program takes me!
To learn more about American University's online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication, request more information or call toll free at 855-725-7614.