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Alumni offer career advice to communication students

Published on May 01, 2024

Alumni offer career advice to communication students

‘Dip your toes into anything you can’

From left: Nick Aconfora '15, Damon Gray '16, Ryan Gable '22, Adam Shepherd '17, Dominick Conte '20 and Professor Andrew Utterback

Lauren Rovella '15 (left) and Elana Deslandes-Murphy '05

A spring 2024 communication course at Eastern Connecticut State University offered perspectives from many alumni on how to advance professionally.

“COM 460: Personal Branding and Career Building,” taught by communication Lecturer Nick Aconfora ’15, featured guest speakers throughout the spring semester in communications-related fields including sports, news, banking, aviation, sales, marketing and health and human services.

Organizations represented by the guest speakers included ESPN, Mystic Aquarium, WWE, Connecticut Public, Dime Bank, the American Heart Association and NBC Universal. Positions held by the speakers included associate producer, lead videographer and storyteller, news producer, director of development and associate director of communications.

Beginning a career

The first guest discussion featured Damon Gray ’16, Dominick Conte ’20, Ryan Gable ’22 and Adam Shepherd ’17, all producers and editors at ESPN. They offered advice on finding one’s niche professionally. “Find out what you don’t like,” said Conte, associate producer. “Dip your toes into anything you can,” said Shepherd, video editor.

Elana Deslandes-Murphy ’05, senior video editor at Mystic Aquarium, emphasized authenticity. “Don’t change to try to fit in somewhere,” she said. “Resist the urge to compare yourself to others.”

Chris Weedon Jr. ’15, account executive in advertising sales at NBC Universal, emphasized tenacity in a competitive industry. “Lean into your strengths,” he said. “You have to be bulletproof. Eight out of 10 people will tell you they’re not interested.”

Chris Weedon Jr. '15

Lauren Sposato '13

State of the market

The job market has changed since many alumni graduated. “Now, it’s a candidate’s market,” said Megan Saunders ’15, producer at NBC10 Boston. “We have college students working at NBC10 Boston and it took me 10 years to get there.”

Connecticut is a “great starter market: big enough, but you can make mistakes and it’s not the end of the world,” said Saunders. “All the talents can interchange and it’s easy to pivot.”

Career changes

Career changes were another important topic in guest discussions. Lauren Rovella ’15, a former news reporter, is now the lead videographer and storyteller at Avelo Airlines, a position with less demanding hours. “Once you set boundaries, people start respecting you,” she said.

TJ Snopkowski ’12, development director at the American Heart Association, left a career at arts and talent agencies in Los Angeles to enter the nonprofit world. “Your interests are going to change, and that’s totally okay,” he said.

Megan Saunders and Dave Wurtzel
Megan Saunders '15 (left) and Dave Wurtzel '13

“Networking” was a buzzword throughout the course, and for good reason. Most, if not all, guest speakers stated the high importance of relationships in the workforce. “Build and rely on your network,” said Alex Eliasof, senior associate producer at WWE in Stamford.

“Feedback is a gift,” said Lauren Sposato ’13, assistant vice president and associate director of communications at Dime Bank in the Norwich/New London area. “If someone is giving you feedback, it’s because they care.”

“At the end of the day, it’s going to be your family you come home to,” said Dave Wurtzel, visual journalist for Connecticut Public and freelance filmmaker. “Treat them the best instead of your career.”

Written by Noel Teter