Developing the next generation of communicators is one of the profession’s greatest priorities. This rings true for Jessica Nunez, founder and president of TruePoint Communications, whose passion for continued learning and creating opportunities for young professionals led to the development of TruePoint University’s Work Readiness Program. The program, which kicked off in February 2022, serves first-generation college students, predominately those who are Black, Latino/Hispanic and Asian, through virtual trainings designed to prepare them for a professional career in marketing and communications.
We sat down with Nunez to learn more about the creation of TruePoint’s Work Readiness Program, its curriculum and actionable ways seasoned communication professionals can support the development of new graduates as they transition from college to the workplace.
Congratulations on the launch of the Work Readiness Program. Can you share some background about the program, including its relationship with TruePoint University?
About six years ago, we launched TruePoint University, which served as our internal training and professional development program for team members only. It started out as “Fiesta Fridays” (just fun Friday learnings) and then shifted into “Brainy Breakfast” where one team member taught the team about a new or evolving skill in the industry. We soon noticed that we have a culture of learning — and TruePoint University was created.
After three or four years, we launched a student career day that was born out of TruePoint University. We heard our team’s feedback that new graduates weren’t really ready for internships or that they didn’t know enough about the field to easily get started.
We saw a clear opportunity — why don’t we offer students the learning we think they need? The career day became an annual event that we hosted at our offices and then virtually in 2020. We had professionals from a variety of industries come in and share their firsthand experiences and help students understand the different opportunities within the marketing and communications profession. We taught students how to get a job, the do’s and don’ts of the field and real-life advice such as, “You do not show up on a virtual call without your video on!”
After the raw reality of 2020, we took a hard look through the lens of the historically oppressed people in our industry. We realized that minority graduates and young professionals are disproportionately paid, and they have a disproportionate skillset. As a first-generation college graduate and first-generation professional, I know it is hard to graduate college when you don’t come from a family where everyone else has done it before. It’s hard to break into a profession when you don’t have introductions, too. I couldn’t imagine all the other challenges that minority students and graduates would have to face, and that’s where my heart led me for this program.
Why is it necessary to create a program that supports a different type of learning experience for students and young professionals?
We can help close the disproportionate pay and skills gaps. I envision this program to grow well beyond where it is today. Not everyone has to go to school for four years and get a master’s degree to be a great communicator. There are people who have innate skillsets, and with the right kind of training, development and direction, they can be great at digital media or writing.
College is oftentimes off limits to a lot of people. If it is a reality, they’re buckled down in debt. With the way our society is going, we must provide people with other means of becoming educated and building a network. Imagine the challenges that already exist if you’re a first-generation college graduate breaking into the workforce. On top of that, with the transition to virtual you don’t have places to go and meet people. You have to leverage your own network that you may not have and build it from the ground up.
Statistics show that when a first-generation college graduate goes into a work readiness program like this, they are 33% more likely to land a job than if they just graduate college and don’t have a support system.
You mention that you are a first-generation college graduate who navigated the workforce on your own. What will the Work Readiness Program provide young professionals to ensure they have the resources for success?
We don't want these young professionals to come for six weeks and then not have the muscle memory to apply what they learned. There are two weeks where they will have interview preparation and resume building skills development. Students who pass the interview portion of the program and complete each of the six modules will be considered graduates. They’ll get a digital certificate that they can put on LinkedIn, and we will submit their profiles and resumes to prospective employers in our community for summer internships or full-time jobs.
We’re telling employers that these are people we would put on their account at TruePoint, or we would hire them if we had an opening. In many cases, we’ve told some of these students that we have openings and we want them.
We also provide profile assessments to get insights on students’ strengths. We can tell them that they’re good at analytics; if they have an interest in that, we can create an opportunity for them.
I have told prospective employers that success for this program is the students having a job lined up before they graduate college. That is one of the most exciting accomplishments a college graduate can achieve. I want these students to have the confidence to have something lined up if they’re qualified and ready.
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The Work Readiness Program’s curriculum focuses on topics such as aligning passion with skills, building a professional brand, hybrid working, a career in communication and more. How did you decide on these topics, and why are they so crucial for those who are new to the workforce?
Our entire agency leadership contributed to that. There was a lot of back and forth about what students need, so we started with the behavioral assessment to understand who’s in the class, and from there it’s very entry level. We talk about roles in marketing and communications. In our first session, they had no idea that there were so many types of jobs to look for.
Then I talked to employers, who advised that the students should be ready to work in a virtual environment. Make sure they understand that bedhead is not OK on a Monday morning! They should know how to put up a virtual background and have a quiet place to work. Make sure they understand how to read a paycheck. These are basic things that will be really valuable to them in the long run.
The last session will focus on what they need to know now that they are professionals. This will cover what it means in our profession to provide counsel. They may think that because they are young, people will not want to hear what they have to say. We’ll remind them that they are backed by an entire agency that will support them, and the only way to hone the skill is to practice. These tenured executives and communication professionals are leaning on them to learn what’s relevant. I want these students coming out of our program to have a voice.
What advice do you have for other communication professionals who are seeking ways to support students transitioning into careers?
One topic we’re covering is how to show up virtually, for work and networking. Others can help these students by reaching out to colleges for speaking opportunities. Professors need content, they need a foot in the professional world, and if you have an experience you can lend, do so.
Don’t just think about the schools that are the most well-known. We reached out to community colleges and all types of schools. We found the schools that have the highest concentration of Spanish-speaking students, inviting them to host and participate in programs in the future. It’s important to think beyond the schools that have great sports teams.
What is one actionable step new communication professionals can take today as they transition into the workplace?
Get internship experience. There are so many opportunities for virtual job experience. You learn on the job, so go get that experience as quickly as you can — it’s never too early. Reach out and find someone who interests you. Ask them to share their experience. I would tell any young professional to make the biggest jump they want to make to start their career.
Morgan Manghera, Featuring Jessica Nunez
Jessica Nunez is the founder and president of TruePoint Communications, an integrated marketing communications agency representing global brands. Launched in 2006, Nunez has grown TruePoint to be among the Top 100 PR agencies in the U.S., earning rankings under Best Places to Work and Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies.
Nunez has served as a communications advisor for Fortune 50 companies. She is a well-rounded communications leader with deep experience in directing integrated marketing campaigns and large-scale PR and social media strategies. She is known for creating innovative, first-of-its-kind campaigns that propel brands forward. Nunez is an expert in crisis communications, helping organizations navigate and mitigate issues that impact reputation and revenue.
For more than 13 years, Nunez has served as a brand spokesperson. She is a regular guest on HSN and has appeared on TV in almost all of the top 100 U.S. cities. Nunez’s on-camera experience coupled with crisis expertise enables her to provide valuable counsel for executives and brand spokespeople.
Nunez joyfully serves to propel others forward by mentoring young professionals, helping female business owners accelerate their business growth and guiding leaders in Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). She is a founding member of Social Media Club Dallas, serving three consecutive years on the board, and a founding board member of One Hundred Shares Dallas, a nonprofit organization that brings 100 women together to financially propel other nonprofits. She graduated magna cum laude from University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) with a bachelor of arts in communications with a concentration in public relations and a minor in marketing.