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Unfair Advantage

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April 2013 Articles:

Unfair Advantage is a newsletter written by members of the National Professional Advisory Board of the College of Media & Communication and our friends. We'll give you insider advice, insight and inspiration so that, when you enter the real world, you are ready to rock it.

Words Matter
By Linda Rutherford
Linda Rutherford

Linda Rutherford

There is a famous quote that goes like this: "Words have special powers. The power to create smiles or frowns. The power to generate laughs or tears. The power to lift up or put down. The power to motivate or de-motivate. The power to teach good or evil. The power to express love or hate. The power to give or take. The power to heal or harm. Choose your words carefully."

Good oral and written communication skills are a must for anyone, but certainly for Tech College of Media and Communication graduates, the bar is high. For those of us who broker in words, images and stories, there is a high expectation that we be superb at collecting, writing, sharing, and presenting compelling stories. That means we have to write well, and we have to articulate.

You have to be naturally inquisitive to ask the kinds of questions that draw out interesting information. You have to apply organizational and creative skills to put that information into a great story—could be a news story, video, blog post, advertising copy, or communication plan. You have to have a keen editor's eye to know when you're using words just to be flowery or for maximum punch to drive home a point.

Spend time studying the way things are written; explore different writing styles; contribute to blogs; be an avid user of all “citizen journalism” outlets to not only share your own stories but also to take in others' stories—what they write about, how they present information, what descriptive phrases are used, what new vocabulary words can you learn, etc. Watch TED Talks, YouTube videos, and attend speeches. Listen for what captures your attention and understand what about the story or delivery made it memorable. See if that is something you can adapt into your presentation style. When you get a job in the communications and media business, being comfortable presenting and defending ideas, having productive debates about projects, and being able to effectively share your perspective will be what sets you apart from the “average” professional.

Linda Rutherford currently leads the Communications and Strategic Outreach efforts at Dallas-based Southwest Airlines. She also serves on the Tech College of Media and Communication Professional Advisory Board, on the board of directors for the Texas Tech Alumni Association, on the board of directors for Friends of Texas Public Schools, on the board of directors of the Lewisville ISD Education Foundation and the on the board of directors for the Metrocrest Chamber of Commerce.

She is married to Mike Rutherford and has two children, Allison and Matthew.


Ready. Set. Go To Work.
by Rich Flora
Rich Flora

Rich Flora

Sharpen Your Tools

So you're through with College. Now what? Take another class (online or in person). Take notes on everything. Take time to learn a new skill. Make yourself even more valuable than when you graduated. It'll help you land a job and it'll help you get the next one. Never stop learning to improve.

Stay In Touch

Part A) Remember to let people know where you are. Send emails or texts, stay up to date on your social media network. Part B) be quick to thank people for their time, their advice, their suggestions, their support and the contacts they've shared with you. An attitude of gratitude goes a long way.

Help Someone

There were plenty of folks who helped you get to this point, so do your part to look back and help someone who's coming up behind you. It's the right thing to do, and you'll add new names to your network. Offer advice or encouragement at your College, in the organizations you've participated with, or at your counselor's office. Wherever you can, whenever you can, do what you can.

Prepare To Change

Take a good long look at that diploma. Because it suddenly doesn't matter what your major was. The job market calls for people who can adapt, flex, go with the flow – fast and often. Maybe that means tackling a new skill, new software, a new industry, a new city. Whatever it is, the more open you are to change, the more likely you'll benefit from it. Things change. Be someone who embraces it.


Rich graduated from Texas Tech in 1978 with a degree in Telecommunications, thinking it meant Teleportation. Dismayed but none the wiser, he jumped into advertising and studied under Stan Richards for thirteen years, impressed at Tracy Locke for a handful of weekends, and has delighted clients as a fearless Creative Director since 1995. The same year, Rich was named an Outstanding Alumni of the College of Mass Communications. He taught at Texas Tech and has interviewed and provided counsel to thousands of students in person, over the phone, via email and texts. Rich is proudest of his three children whose careers have easily eclipsed his.


Give before you take
by Joe Fairless
Joe Fairless

Joe Fairless

The best networkers scoff at the thought they actually network. They don't consider what they do “networking.” You won't find them voluntarily attending traditional networking events because they'll too busy acting on ways to help others out. They believe in the pay-it-forward approach. They identify problems others have and come up with solutions. Then, they share those solutions. For their effort, they are confident they will eventually be rewarded in the future even if they have no idea what that reward will be.

“I get thousands of emails from people wanting an internship, a job, or something from me,” says Matt Britton, founder of MRY an advertising agency in New York City. “But I might get one email a year from someone who looks into our business and suggests something for me. Send a point of view on my business, create a video or write a blog post. People think oh they'll never look at it' but the reality is nobody ever does it.”

“You should never ask something from someone until you've done something for them. I always   look for opportunities where I can make connections for people and help them out. I had somebody who worked for me who wanted to start a software company. So he did. I helped fund it, and now he's the CEO of a software company. Whether it's networking or getting ahead in business, the theme is to give before you take.”

So, nobody is doing it but, when we do it, we'll instantly stand out from everyone else. Ok sold.

But what about if we're a college student or recent graduate and attend a conference where the president of Pepsi is speaking? How in the heck can we help them?

“Tell the president you spent the last six months thinking about how Pepsi can reach millennials and create a video on your findings. Bottom line is you have to do something for the person. You can't feel entitled to ask the president for something because everyone else is asking for things too. The worst case is that they don't watch it. But eventually with that approach you'll find people who will and then you'll connect.”

I came across a similar scenario when I was introduced to TTU alumnus Dirk Dieterich. Dirk is a tremendously successful entrepreneur, and I was struggling to figure out how I could help him. Three minutes into our call I had my answer. I learned his son was interested in law school, so I offered to connect his son with my friend, Jerry Beard, a federal defense attorney who won a Supreme Court case. He took me up on my offer and was very grateful. It established a more meaningful connection between us and, even though I've never met him in person, I am willing to bet that he'll continue to return my phone calls.

Joe graduated with an advertising degree in 2005. He moved to New York City right after and worked his way up to become a vice president at an award-winning ad agency before his 30th birthday.

He recently left the advertising agency world to focus on buying apartment complexes, teaching professional development classes and writing his book which is due out in 2013 (www.jointheremarkables.com). His life motto is “help enough people get what they want and you'll get everything you want.”