By Krishnan M. Anantharaman, MSU StratCom student
When I embarked on the StratCom program last fall, I was a successful news editor at a B2B publishing company, with four direct reports, a voice in coverage decisions, the respect of my peers and a cubicle with a panoramic view of the downtown Detroit skyline.
Today, I’m unemployed, spending more of my summer weekdays than I ever have on laundry, cooking and shuttling my “direct reports” to their activities, while trying to stay caught up on my academic work. Beyond the picture window in my home office is an unobstructed view of my neighbor’s front lawn. It doesn’t change much.
A failed career strategy? I hope not. I prefer to look at it as the start of a life lived more strategically.
My decision to pursue the StratCom degree grew out of a sense of restlessness at work, a feeling that while my professional skills had gotten me far, they were too narrow to take me much farther beyond that newsroom cubicle. The reason I ultimately decided to give up the security of a paying job and resign altogether from Automotive News had much to do with the rudiments of communications strategy laid out in our textbooks and readings: the SWOT analysis, defining the brand purpose, crafting SMART objectives, outlining metrics, testing, iterating.
After going through these processes and completing the assignments for the benefit of my classroom client, I stayed up nights mentally running through the same exercises for myself: What is my purpose? What are my objectives, my brand promise? What are my strengths and opportunities? Who are my most important “customers,” and how can I best fulfill their needs? How will they, and I, measure my success?
Anantharaman with his “direct reports.”
I can’t say that I arrived at definitive answers, but it didn’t take long to at least conclude that my purpose in life was not helping franchise auto dealers maximize their profit. Having been blessed with a high-quality education in communications and ample opportunity to succeed, I felt I owed my customers — my family, my community — a better use of my resources. And so, alongside my academic program began a personal quest to define a new set of objectives and metrics that could guide Phase 2 of my life as a communications professional. For now, it appears that quest will lead me to a nonprofit or mission-driven organization.
It’s a nice luxury to be able to take time off to ponder these questions while someone else supports the family financially. I certainly don’t take it for granted. And I do want to get back to work as soon as the quest is done. So I set a deadline, Graduation Day 2020. And I continue to do things I need to do to refine my personal strategic plan: write, read, study, meet people and search for opportunities to solve problems through communication.