Name: Rhett Register
Job title: Communications Program Leader
Company: Michigan Sea Grant
Basic job description: Michigan Sea Grant (MSG) supports a variety of projects led by research teams based at universities in Michigan. The program also supports extension educators located in coastal communities and communications specialists that support public outreach. As communications program leader I help set communications goals and strategies for our program. I work with communications staff to define and develop brochures, fact sheets, conference proceedings, press releases, tip sheets, and other informational publications. I represent MSG in meetings and public forums, and assist in researching and producing required reports on behalf of the program. I also explore grant opportunities to expand MSG's communications resources and programming.
What does a typical day or week at "the office" look like for you? It changes every day. Tomorrow, I will be working on our newsletter. That means writing a story, editing another, working with our designer on layout. Last week, I contacted state and federal legislators to inform them of an upcoming event we are hosting and gave a presentation to our advisory board. I have numerous ongoing outreach projects including posters, videos, and factsheets, which are in various stages of production. I am also in charge of supervising communications staff, including hiring, conducting performance reviews, and helping to arrange professional development.
What were your graduate studies in? What aspects of your graduate training do you feel have made you more successful in your position? I studied marine resource management. It was worthwhile in that it introduced me to the group that I work for now, gave me a wide range of communications experiences and provided me with a solid grounding in coastal science.
What skills are essential to be effective in your career? How did you acquire these skills? Did you acquire any of these skills while in graduate school? Listening. Continuing to ask questions until I fully understand something. Attention to detail. How to structure a story. How to get quotes and where to put them. Copy editing. Understanding how grants are given and received. What it means to run a project. How to work with a group as well as on my own. I began to get these skills in the field prior to school and continued to build them through numerous internships and work-study jobs. I learn something new about writing, communications and outreach every day.
What was your career path after leaving graduate school? What jobs/experiences helped you transition into your current field? An internship that I received in graduate school turned into a job in D.C. for a year. After that, a position came open with North Carolina Sea Grant. After working there for two years, my current position came open.
What makes a CV/resume impressive in your field? A breadth of experience and also experience in what it is that I am looking for. Attention to detail and a cover letter that makes assertions then back them up with specific examples.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job? Keeping on top of a number of different projects with multiple deadlines.
What is the salary range for your position/career? Very widespread but I would say between $40 and $80K a year.
What are the current job prospects in your field like? I think they are good. Communications is a necessary part of any organization. I frequently see opportunities in a lot of different areas including state and federal government, non-profits, education, and industry.
Are there other related careers that graduate students should look into? Extension is very interesting. It allows someone to work closely with a community to solve pressing problems. Extension professionals facilitate dialog between groups and bring the power of research universities to bear on difficult issues.
What kind of hours do people in your profession usually work? Do they tend to bring work home with them? More than 40 -- it depends on the week. Yes, people tend to bring it home with them.
Do most people with your job have a post-doc? If yes, what additional training is acquired in a post doc to make an applicant more successful in this career? No
Do you have any other useful advice for graduate students interested in your field that hasn't been covered yet? People in my position have a wide range of degrees but I think that a doctorate is still in the minority. I have a master's.
What do you find most rewarding about your job? Opportunities to learn about the coastal environment and the people that live there. Ability to continue to grow as a writer and editor.
Does your job involve travel? If so, please elaborate on approximately how many times a year you might travel and the nature of these trips (ex: workshops, conferences, presentations, etc.) I frequently travel around the state to report on our group's activities as well as to represent our program at events. I also travel nationally for network meetings and anticipate some international travel as our state and region work closely with Canada to manage the Great Lakes.
Is publishing research a part of your job? If so, please elaborate. No, though I do help produce a lot of "gray" literature including white papers, fact sheets, reports, etc.
How did you find your job? Listservs, and multiple people mentioning it to me including my graduate advisor.