As the digital economy, social networking and media landscape continue to evolve at remarkable speed, there's one skillset that's more in demand than ever: communication.
In fact, traditional industries like journalism and public relations are no longer the only areas looking for professionals who can think critically, problem solve independently and collectively, and communicate strategically.
Large corporations, government departments, start-ups, NGOs and household brands are just some of the organisations increasingly favouring communication graduates for business-focused roles.
'Faster-paced work environments and changes in technology have increased the speed of information distribution and response times, so businesses have had to become proactive in their communications, rather than reactive,' says Dr Katrina Clifford, says Dr Katrina Clifford, Senior Lecturer in Communications at Deakin University.
Promoting effective communication
What sorts of communication skills do employers value? According to Associate Professor Kristin Demetrious strong writing and analytical skills are among the most important – whether you’re working in public affairs for a health insurer, digital communication for a multinational or content production for an NGO.
'It comes down to really good writing skills – that you can understand and put yourself in the shoes of the reader,' she says. 'So much of communication is about appreciating the field and the ways in which meanings are constructed and how people exchange ideas.'
Good judgement and a strong moral compass are also highly sought after. 'You've actually got a lot of power when you're dealing with communication,' says Assoc. Prof. Demetrious. 'So, you've got to be very measured in how you use that power and make sure that it's ethical and that you're not leading your organisation into trouble.'
Dr Clifford agrees that along with technical knowledge of a chosen specialisation, attributes like emotional intelligence and professional ethics, as well as a sense of global citizenship, are in demand among employers. And, importantly, these skills are adaptable across a range of occupations.
'Knowledge and skills in professional communication have become increasingly valued across a wide range of industries, particularly at the strategy and management levels of organisations, both locally and globally,' she says.
Honing your communication skills
Deakin's postgraduate courses – the Master of Communication, Graduate Diploma of Communication and Graduate Certificate of Communication – hone the communication skills employers demand and teach graduates to adapt to ever-changing workplaces.
'Throughout their studies in our postgraduate communication courses at Deakin, students are challenged to not only learn and apply their chosen specialist knowledge – for example, in digital media, public relations, journalism or visual communication design – but to develop many of the soft or transferrable skills valued by employers, including problem solving, initiative, leadership, attention to detail, creativity, reflexivity, flexibility and adaptability, teamwork and resilience,' says Dr Clifford.
'Our courses are designed to build a student’s strengths in understanding the fundamentals of the changing media and communications landscape, providing valuable insights into current and future industry trends and practices, both locally and globally.
'They are taught by staff who are expert and experienced in the field, and we combine theory with practice by asking students to apply what they learn to tasks that mirror the kinds of activities they would perform in a real-world work context.'
Assoc. Prof. Demetrious says the courses draw students from a wide range of backgrounds, including professionals with industry experience, Bachelor degree graduates, international students and mature-age students.
In the workplace
For Deakin graduate Rebecca Hunt, studying the Master of Communication helped her transform a brief stint in marketing into a fully-fledged career and develop the skills she needs to keep up with a fast-paced industry.
'I was working in retail and got some experience in the brand’s marketing team, and I knew I wanted to study communication,' she says. 'I was really interested in the way public relations and the communication of a brand can influence consumers and how much that can influence your brand proposition. I landed on Deakin's course because I could specialise in public relations as well as pick up other study areas such as marketing, which is where I've ended up working.'
After graduating, Rebecca moved to New York City and worked in public relations, before returning to Australia for a stint with a marketing tech company. She's come full circle and now works as a marketing communications coordinator at Deakin's Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment.
'Communication skills are so vital across every industry and so adaptable to different career paths, and we're seeing that across politics, science, technology and more,' she says. 'Studying at Deakin has really prepared me to adapt and change over the course of my career.'