Unintended consequences — how a capstone project expanded my professional network

From the onset of my graduate career, it was important to me to draw parallels between my professional life as a public affairs officer for a federal government agency and my continuing education. Not only did this approach help gain the support of my colleagues, but it also underlined the connection between my work to my studies. So, without hesitation, I chose a capstone project that proved to be as enriching professionally as it was academically.

My goal was to develop a resource guide for my public affairs colleagues, especially the newcomers. What I had no way of knowing was how the project would morph into a major networking opportunity.

Asking the right questions
Initially, I was admittedly hesitant and felt that I was “above my pay grade.” But as the semester rolled on, so did my research and preliminary findings. I initiated conversations with co-workers by asking questions and feeling out how receptive they were to my project ideas. With each bit of positive feedback, I felt emboldened to delve deeper, asking keener questions that solicited honest, and sometimes vulnerable, answers.

Serendipity in action
Halfway through the capstone, I had the opportunity to meet with my counterparts from across the country for training on crisis communication. The experience was eye opening. There were approximately 120 colleagues in attendance, representing a wide range of experience and skill. There were some new hires as well as veterans.

I had the opportunity to step into their shoes and understand, if only for a moment, the challenges they face. Through my conversations with them and assessment of communication channels  and orientation materials, I drew valuable conclusions about how my agency can best equip us – as communication professionals – to fulfill our roles and obligations to the public.

The dimensions of professional growth
Yes, I completed the resource guide. But in the process, I also expanded my professional network dramatically and enhanced my own reputation. Prior to this project, I often felt like an observer among my colleagues. Now, I am an active participant in our dialogues and I feel empowered to share my thoughts and suggestions. That is a testament both to the outcomes of the capstone course, as well as the entire Organizational Communication master’s program.

Posted by Liz McCarthy, CPS’19

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