Earl Capps is a Charleston native and one of the first students to enter the MCOM program at its inception in 2005, and was one of the first MCOM graduates in 2008. He is currently the Human Resources and Safety Manager for Filters Fast and has worked with companies like US Group, Inc., General Precast and Thomas Dougherty and Associates in the past. Additionally, he served as an Adjunct Faculty member in the Communication Department at the College of Charleston and currently teaches two classes at the USC regional campus. His specialties include occupational safety, public and media relations, corporate communication, organizational development, governmental relations, teaching/training and development, technical writing, worker’s comp, general liability issues, state and federal regulatory compliance, recruiting and interviewing. If you have any questions for Earl about his time as an MCOM student or any of his professional experiences, please send him an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A Day in the Life of an MCOM Graduate: Human Resources and Safety Manager
By: Earl Capps, M.A.
Many likely envision the Communication graduate program as a ticket into teaching or a career in a communication or marketing focused-field, but there are others for whom the program will be a stepping stone along a different path, including myself. While communication studies may not seem very important to my career as a human resources and safety manager, the reality is much of what I do is communication – and learning experiences from the graduate program have given me valuable tools needed to help me advance in my career.
Sometimes it’s not so different. While the tasks in my job may seem to vary greatly from the typical day in the life of a Communication graduate student, in some ways it’s not as different as one might think. For example:
Like students, I juggle numerous tasks and projects, some lasting days, weeks, months and maybe even years.
Like students, I communicate with others about how to get work done, learning how to overcome obstacles and sharing knowledge and insights with others.
Like students, I spend time considering how to take what I’ve learned and apply research insights to help understand situations in hopes of finding constructive solutions.
When you enter the workplace, you’ll be challenged with applying these skills in different ways. I regularly apply skills learned and refined as a graduate student, including:
Human Resources Management. Many studies, as well as my personal experience, show effective communication is a major challenge in workplaces. I apply skills sharpened in graduate school in many ways, including assessing situations, leading group meetings, conducting in-depth research, meeting with employees and applicants and coaching co-workers. As a graduate student, you learn the mastery of communication techniques such as speaking strategies, organizational and small group management, effective non-verbal elements, applying research to persuade effectively as well as how to communicate strategically. These are all much-needed skills in many workplaces.
Managing my company’s safety program. My thesis work focused upon workplace hazard communication, with much guidance from a number of faculty members, especially Amanda Ruth-McSwain, Vince Benigni and Elena Strauman. My hazard communication course taught me that workplace safety outcomes are very dependent upon behaviors that are motivated by concerns and values. Understanding these concerns and values are crucial to improving workplace safety. In my career, these insights are invaluable in empowering workers to become knowledgeable and effective partners in my company’s safety program.
Research, research, research. In many aspects of my career, including understanding regulations, identifying and managing workplace hazards and legislative advocacy, research matters. The graduate program helped prepare me to approach situations armed with the knowledge and communication skills to effectively present and defend my positions. If you can survive a semester with Robert Westerfelhaus’ (as well as others) very high standards for conducting and applying research precisely, you are on your way to being the most-informed person in the room when it really matters.
I’d like to discuss something which may be little off-subject but is of vital importance to your career:
LinkedIn Matters: As a human resources professional, I have seen the future of career networking and development – and it is LinkedIn. People really do use this social media service as a networking tool in their careers and HR pros use LinkedIn to identify and assess potential candidates for job openings. Surveys show hiring managers identify it as among the top three online resources for hiring so if you’re not using it in a well-developed and informative manner, you’re missing out.
There is a dire need in many contemporary American workplaces of those who can communicate and coordinate effectively. While people come to a workplace with many useful skills and knowledge sets, those who study communication at an advanced level bring critical skills and abilities which allow them to bring those talents and abilities together in a meaningful and productive manner. As skills sharpened in the graduate program helped me advance in my career, these experiences will help you achieve success and make a difference wherever your career and life journey takes you.
If I can be of help, please reach out anytime!