I just had a flashback to one of the first undergrad PR classes I taught and a bizarre conversation I had with a student. (No, I won’t say where…I’ve taught as an undergrad adjunct professor at three colleges and as graduate adjunct at two.)
I’m currently full-time at Curry College, where I oversee the undergraduate Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses, and part-time at Regis College, where I teach in the graduate Organizational and Professional Communications area.
Anywho…we had had a news release writing exercise (take-home, by the way) and I was handing back the graded papers.
One young lady got an “”F” and was mightily miffed. How dare I give her a failing grade? She did the assignment and turned it in on time!
I commended her (sort of) on actually doing the assignment and suggested that perhaps, the next time, she might want to proofread her work before handing it in…to at least proof the headline of the release in which, for this assignment, there were two (out of six) words misspelled!
I asked her what she thought the reaction would have been if she were working in a public relations firm and produced this particular item.
Her response sticks with me even today, some eight years later.
“If I were working in a PR firm, someone else would have caught those mistakes for me and fixed them.”
Congratulations, my friend. You have just cemented your place in my “What the Hell Were You Thinking?” Hall of Fame!
There seems to be a mindset today among the up-and-coming generation that it’s not their responsibility when it comes to things like accuracy…attention to detail…fact-checking.
But, to bring it back to up-close-and-personal, it is your responsibility.
No, you don’t know everything, and you’re not expected to know everything. I certainly don’t, but I use a ton of reference materials…as well as the Internet…to help me verify things that I say…and spell.
The thing is…when you finally do wander out into the “real” world and start your career in whatever field you’re interested in…you will be expected to pull your own weight…to produce materials that accurately and professionally represent your client or your employer…or yourself.
I say this last aiming specifically at resumes and cover letters.
A friend sent me her resume last week…she’s a senior and has already survived my “Publicity Techniques” class where I go through a case of red pens marking up in-class and take-home PR writing assignments and driving home the absolute importance of proofreading one’s work.
I immediately fired back a response… “We need to talk…soon.”
I quit reading halfway through the resume…typos, verb-tense inconsistency, sloppy sentence structure…the list flows on…
She thinks I’m going to sit and patiently show her every single mistake and tell her what the correct form should be.
Unh-unh. Not going to happen.
I’ll point out the general categories of errors and, perhaps, since I think she actually cares, show her a couple of corrections to give her the general idea of what’s wrong.
But it’s on her shoulders to ferret out the rest of the problems and fix them. Then she can, if she wishes, send the repaired materials back to me for a final review. The responsibility lies squarely with her…or you.
It’s your life…it’s your future. No one else is going to do it for you.
Are you ready??
“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”
Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, “Unkempt Thoughts”