Better at Work: How MCMS Helped me Grow in the Comms Industry

When I decided to study the Masters of Communications and Media Studies at Monash University, I never once considered how it would benefit my abilities at work. All I knew was that having a master's degree would afford me a more robust resume. However, instead of just graduating with a piece of paper that made me seem more impressive, I graduated with a transformative set of skills and knowledge that has radically advanced my approach to working in the communications industry.

While every student approaches their studies differently, gaining vastly different experiences from their education, I do believe my entire class learned two significant lessons. The first is a set of "useful and relevant research skills for media and communications". The second is how "critical and agile thinking is necessary to understand media practices and its conventions". Both lessons have acutely improved my working style, helping me grow in ways that I never expected.

These lessons seem generic at first glance, as most communications and media programs aim to teach their students something similar. However, thanks to the way that these lessons are taught, they take on a different weight—something of greater importance.

Research Skills

From the first semester, every student was taught an arsenal of research skills and methodologies. At the start, we didn't quite understand the significance of these methodologies and how it would help us with our careers. After all, why would anyone need to learn how to interview a research subject and collect relevant data? What was so crucial about coding media texts? How would a textual analysis ever be useful?

Our lecturers drilled these research skills into us throughout the entire program. Along the way, each of us developed an understanding that research provides us with a deeper understanding of a particular area of media. More importantly, we learned how to turn our research into relevant and actionable data. And while I can't speak for all my classmates, these research skills have drastically changed the way I approach my work.

For example, I am a freelance writer at the New Straits Times, and I am also a social media manager at a digital marketing agency. A substantial aspect of both my jobs is understanding a competitor's content and producing more impactful work. Since I knew how to conduct a content analysis of media texts, I decided to apply it.

I have started to code and analyse competing articles, social media posts and videos. By breaking down my competitor's work and generating data, I am now able to understand how others create their content, their potential motivations and even the structure of their work. With my collected data, I am now able to produce work that has a greater impact for my editor and my clients.

Critical and Agile Thinking for Media 

Most universities teach some form of critical thinking. The same goes for Monash. We learned to look at research objectively and form relevant and insightful judgments. However, the program also taught me "agile thinking", which is the ability to shift my thought processes for problem-solving, specifically in a media and communications environment.

Over a year and a half, I came to think of the media industry as a massive network of interlocking actions, processes and actors. Despite having spent my adult life in the communications industry, I never considered the varied abundance of media issues, ethics, conventions, ideologies and processes that are born from this media network.

Suddenly, I was better able to understand how to solve problems at work. For example, in my final semester, I wrote a comprehensive essay on Netflix's communication strategies in Malaysia. Through the essay writing process, I was better able to understand the importance of applying localised content to encourage engagement with a specific market. I am now also able to adapt Netflix's effective strategy for my social media campaigns.

Another example would be how to navigate the problem of ethics when creating media content. My final research project was on the difference between how Malay and English news publications framed suicide. While I might never write about mental health, I now have a better understanding of ethical news reporting. More importantly, I understand the need to create compassionate and understanding content that doesn't negatively impact a group of people. In a sense, I am now better prepared to avoid creating controversial content that could adversely affect my career.

Impact on Career

The most important aspect of these academic skills is that they are incredibly adaptable to most communications industry situations. Being taught how to think, how to solve problems and how to approach media work are all great tools to help advance one's career. Ultimately, I believe that marrying academic conventions to industry issues is the key to having better performing communications professionals.