By Gina Rizza
Media convergence has drastically altered the job market for recent graduates with Journalism and Media Studies degrees. Students often hear that they must be well-rounded and willing to pick up new skills. Recent graduate Heather Brookhart, J/MS 2010, will be the first to say this is true.
Brookhart works as the creative services coordinator for Jaffe Communications in Newark. Her job encompasses everything from public relations to reporting to web design. Over the past several years her position has both shifted and expanded.
“My position actually spans a couple different areas,” noted Brookhart.
She began at Jaffe with writing press releases, pitching stories, and reporting. Now, she added, “There’s been a shift towards more digital needs for our clients. My position now is more marketing focus and also graphic and web design.”
In addition to providing design and social media content for her clients, Brookhart is a reporter and editor for many of the firm’s hyper-local newspapers, which are distributed to residents in Central and Northern New Jersey.
She interned for the firm in the summer of her junior year and was asked to return for her last semester after staying in touch with her boss, Jonathan Jaffe, also a J/MS graduate from 1993. The position transitioned into full-time when she graduated.
“When I started working full time there was a pretty big need for [design], and I was able to fill that need for our clients,” said Brookhart.
Being four years into the business, Brookhart seems to be on her way to being an expert in all aspects of the media. Many of her skills, she said, were developed during her undergraduate career.
“A lot of what I learned at Rutgers definitely prepared me,” said Brookhart. “I’d say probably the most useful courses that I attended while I was at Rutgers were more the skill-based classes—all of those things I use day to day in my job now.”
Like many students in J/MS, she expanded her skills outside of the classroom as well. Brookhart started at the Daily Targum her freshman year and became metro editor by her junior year.
“There are things I learned that I don’t know I would have learned otherwise—just little ins and outs of business and the industry overall,” said Brookhart.
Brookhart said she was doing “real-life reporting” at Daily Targum while covering New Brunswick news.
“At the time I was on the other side; now I’m in PR,” said Brookhart. “I had that insight from being a former reporter.”
Brookhart also worked as a graphic designer for RU-tv. That provided her with a “creative outlet” since graphics were a hobby and passion of hers.
During this time she also experimented with the Adobe Creative Suite and taught herself skills that she would find herself using at her job.
As a successful and talented J/MS graduate, Brookhart stressed the importance of taking advantage of the resources at Rutgers.
Brookhart landed her internship through Professor Steve Miller, who provided her with a list of contacts, one of them being her current boss.
“You should start in the industry as soon as possible,” said Brookhart. “Get yourself in the door as soon as you can whether it’s through an internship or early on. Do what you can to learn first-hand.”