Two IUP Journalism alumni who graduated amid one of the worst recessions of the latter twentieth century told majors attending a January 27, 2010, career-planning workshop that skills acquired in class today will be their best job insurance in the current economic downturn.
Dianne Frye DeLisa (IUP Journalism/Communications Media, 1987), of Johnstown, a former TV news producer and now a technical writer and communications specialist at a Johnstown nonprofit consulting firm, told two dozen students at the Society of Professional Journalists’ second J-Jobs Boot Camp that life skills like personal attitude also can spell job security. She advised students to like what they do and where they do it—“or at least act like you do.”
Furthermore, she advised, “Be likeable” and “indispensable” at work. Those bywords helped her hold onto full-time jobs and support her husband and two children through good economic times and bad, DeLisa said. Louis Estrada (IUP Journalism, 1988) agreed.
“Have the right attitude,” Estrada reiterated. “But be yourself.”
Estrada, of Falls Church, Va., was a reporter for the Washington Post for ten years until 2006, when he left the full-time job to become primary caregiver to his infant son. He continues to contribute articles, mainly advance obituaries, to the Post.
He offered good and bad news for prospective media employees today.
“Things are bad out there,” he said. “But the good news is that turmoil means opportunity.”
Turmoil in news industries is opening freelance-writing and entrepreneurial-partnering opportunities, Estrada observed. He added that job applicants need a “hook” to stand out from the competition. His hook, he said, was his fluency in Spanish and an interest in Latin America. That helped secure an internship following graduation from IUP. The internship led to his job at the Post.
A question-and-answer period followed. Students asked about the speakers’ proudest moments of their careers, their biggest embarrassments, and their employers’ attitudes about undergraduate degrees awarded by non-Division I universities.
DeLisa and Estrada were asked whether the recession that began with a stock market plunge in October 1987 affected their job prospects when they graduated soon after. Both said no. Companies tend to lay off older, higher-paid workers in recessions, which makes room for younger workers at lower salaries, Estrada said.
Both speakers offered contact information to students with follow-up questions:
Photos by Patrick Farabaugh