Growing up in a printing family, I always had aspirations to go into the family business. During summers between high school and college years I basically worked in every aspect of the printing company. When it came time for the almighty college tour, my father had added Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to the list of stops, much to my dismay. I was searching for “college,” basically, a noun to me that meant non-stop partying. My father and I couldn’t have been more disconnected. RIT to me wasn’t “college”—it was work that we didn’t even get paid for!
Fast forward 10 years, I’m back at my alma mater —of course RIT —looking for the next generation of hires. When I came to RIT in 2002, I was seeking the Print Management major. Little did I know, that year, the major was changed to New Media Publishing. Sounds cool, right, but what did this major include? I had no idea, and I’m pretty sure no one else did either. This was the beauty of it all; RIT knew that the need for Print Management was dwindling and they reinvented it. They knew that with an ambiguous major like New Media Publishing, they could teach us anything that was relevant in the marketing communications environment—with the idea that we would be suited to take on a wide role of careers in that industry. Not just Print Management! So my class was the first in this new major, and when we graduated in 2006 we really were setup to be hired in a multitude of different responsibilities. No one knew what we could do, except us. We were able to take from that major what we wanted and go towards a career that we were passionate about.
So back to RIT in 2012, the major is now being renamed again from New Media Publishing to Media, Arts and Technology. The more ambiguity, the more opportunity. My colleague, John Carew and I met with several candidates, and I know I can speak for both of us in saying that we were very inspired. The level of relevant course work and outside experience these candidates possessed was even more valuable to me than anyone with 5-10 years of experience in the industry. The hardest part of this whole experience is going to be picking one or two to bring on board. Sure, I may be biased, after all it’s my alma mater, but it wasn’t my idea to go recruit there. This came down from our management who has seen how RIT grads can deliver, and has had a hunger for more.
So what’s the point of this whole rant? It’s about staffing your company for future growth. Take a look at the universities that fit your mold, find out what they are teaching, talk to their fourth year students, and heck, maybe even attend their job fair! It is the universities job to teach the students what is going to be relevant in the industry when they graduate, not what is relevant 10 years ago. For many established companies, it’s foreign to bring on college grads to hold important roles in your organization. But, I would always argue; with the right education, a homegrown employee is always going to be more effective in your organization than someone who comes in with his or her old habits. After all, isn’t it hard to teach an old dog new tricks?
Author: T. John Mehl