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Communication Consultant---Business Owner

Name: Jim Rae

Tell us about your work---what do you do? I am the owner of a communication consulting company that facilitates human communication, team building, conflict resolution , and organizational development for corporations and small businesses . What skills are needed? You need to be a people person and have a passion for wanting to help people. The ability to be empathetic, ability to listen well, to articulate your observations -- these are all valuable skills in this business. What was your major? I have a B.S. in Biology and Chemistry . I was going to be a dentist. When I went for my masters' work, I took psychology , nutrition and communication . The communication courses fascinated me and I pursued them exclusively. How did you get started in your career? When I started studying communication in earnest, I was at a party and was asked by a person who knew me from school if I wanted to learn about team building. A week later I was in the Arizona desert with people from a Fortune 500 company looking at how they could work better together. I loved it. Today I work with this area, as well as ways to communicate across workplace issues and cross-cultural issues. What experience do you need in this job? A strong foundation in communication theory helps. There are people in this business who have none of that but have 25 years of corporate experience where they just learned it. I know graduates with lots of theory that have no clue how to apply it. It's vital to have the theoretical foundation AND to have practical experience -- get an internship. Work in Human Resources. Human communication skills are soft skills that are difficult to measure, and experience will expose you to the practical side of using theory. Describe your "typical" workday: As a business owner, I must continually market my services and create a client base, so there is a lot of the business aspect to handle on an ongoing basis. With a client, I meet to discuss what their needs are, what they want to accomplish. Together we determine how much time they want to devote to the process. I diagnose what their real needs are -- often they don't know when they come to me. Then I decide what will work for them. Do they need activities, lecture, or interaction? As the process unfolds, I continually diagnose as other issues surface. No two days are ever alike. There are a lot of variables and unique challenges, and I need to be flexible. What is the hardest aspect of your job? Sometimes during the course of a contract, I get connected with people and if the contract isn't ongoing, I may never see them again. There is a sense of loss. In this business, we become good at communicating and building relationships, but not at maintaining them. Some clients can be with you for a long time, but over the years, I've worked with 250 organizations. While the variety keeps the work interesting, the lack of continuing relationships can be disappointing. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? I love noticing people making changes, actually seeing the impact in the dynamics of an organization and its people. I also work with people one-on-one, and seeing them change is always so rewarding. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? Take the core courses for communication, then start experimenting with what areas of communication you are drawn to. Find a mentor or professor that you related to and that can share expertise with you. This person can stretch you, challenge you, and really help you grow.