Professional Development Q&A with Chris Yandle

This post is the first in a series of Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational. Each of these individuals possesses a skillset that I believe you will find valuable. They have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them in this series.

Name: Chris Yandle (@ChrisYandle)
Profession: Communications Specialist, St. Tammany Parish Public School System (former college athletics administrator)
Degree: B.A., Public Relations (Louisiana-Lafayette, 2004); M.S., Athletic Administration (Marshall, 2007); current Higher Ed Leadership Ph.D. student, Mercer University (estimated completion: 2019)

I first met Chris during my time with Conference USA from 2006-2010. Chris was a graduate assistant SID at Marshall University and served as the media contact for various sports, which I also handled, for the conference office. We stayed in touch as he climbed the ranks in college athletics at various schools, while I began working in digital media on the corporate and agency side.

We’ve stayed in close contact as he and I have both been making career moves. Chris is one of the smartest and most driven people that I know. Despite what he may think, he was at the top of my list of people to profile for this series. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from Chris Yandle.

1) How does your current profession align with the degree you graduated with? If you have held other jobs, how closely have they been aligned?
My entire professional career has been in the public relations and communications field. Before my current role, I spent 15 years in communications for college athletics. That career allowed me to learn many skills and juggle many job demands which ultimately prepared me for the next step in my career in K-12 education. The beauty of having PR and communications skills are that you can work in any industry; you learn to become very versatile and multifaceted.

2) What did you ‘plan to do’ after college and how close is that to what you’re doing at this point in your career? Were there any deviations along the way and did they help/hurt your path to your current job?
That’s an interesting question. Before starting college, I didn’t know the athletics communications field existed. I thought I wanted to be a sportswriter, but I quickly fell in love with college athletics. But because I devoted my entire life to the field, it consumed me and I fell out of love with it. I learned that there was more to life than a career. Looking back on my career, I think I accomplished all that I could accomplish. I wish I would have enjoyed more of the journey than I did. I didn’t celebrate the small victories and the little things. I was so consumed with conquering the big events and big victories. I think not enjoying the journey ultimately led to me falling out of love with my career. On a positive note, that lesson has helped me in my new career. I’ve celebrated more small victories in eight weeks than in the previous 15 years.

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3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
Make the big time where you are. Don’t continuously look for the next big thing. The big thing should always be where you are.

4) What do like the most about your profession?
Being the K-12 sector now, I get to visit our schools regularly and interact with the kids on a daily basis. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed being on campuses and telling the schools’ stories.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession?
The biggest challenge in college athletics was the constant rat race. It was never-ending and it was a constant fight for the next title and the next big thing. While college athletics offered upward mobility, K-12 doesn’t offer the same mobility. I think that’s the biggest challenge I would face, but I am not looking for the next big thing. I want to enjoy the journey.

6) How has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
Social media has changed everything in how we communicate and do our jobs. When I started in college athletics, website video wasn’t a thing yet. Now, it’s hype videos, live videos, graphic design, digital recruiting, and 90-hour work weeks. Because of the constant need for information and attention, the purpose of college athletics forced PR and communications offices to change their focuses.

7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they leave?
People in college athletics get burned out easily because of the long work hours and no time for decompression. You’re constantly on the go. I worked weekends constantly for 15 years. Now that I’m in K-12, I have my first M-F, 9-5 job in my life. I can totally relate to why people leave the field. It’s hard to have a family and work 70-90 hours per week. It’s demanding, it’s a grind. I don’t know how my wife put up with it for so long.

8) Are you considering leaving your current field or company?
I was contemplating leaving college athletics for a few years before I was let go from my last school. It was unplanned and certainly led to several months of struggles for me and my family, but it probably was a good thing it happened. For the first time in my career, I am happy with what I’m doing in K-12. I feel fulfilled.

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
My wife and kids will you tell – in unison: Twitter. I like the real-time and 1-to-1 interaction with people. You can instantaneously comment and respond. It’s where I get my news.

10) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
I am currently reading ‘Do Over’ by Jon Acuff. It talks about making a career change and it’s helped spark my creativity for a book I’ve always wanted to write. The last TED talk for me was ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek. We watched it in one of my higher ed classes. I also read his book, too.

11) Where do you receive your news and information? 
A. Print Newspaper – New Orleans Advocate
B. Online Newspaper – New Orleans Advocate, USA TODAY
C. Television – NBC News, local New Orleans stations
D. Twitter – New Orleans media, national writers
E. Facebook – #FakeNews 🙂
F. Other – Nope

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
My hobby in the fall was coaching my son’s U6 soccer team. Now that I have more time on my hands, my hobbies are reading, playing with my kids and probably doing homework on the weekends 🙂

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