Your Career and You: “Smiles Go Miles”

One thing I’ve become aware of as I wander aimlessly around campus and around town is the growing number of otherwise intelligent humanoids patrolling the pathways with their faces stuck in some sort of mobile device.

Eye-to-eye contact apparently is neither practiced nor, it would seem, encouraged.
It suddenly (today starting out dark and dreary) occurred to me that I’ve overlooked an important aspect of career advice when discussing careers, internships, job searches, and everything in between with my undergraduate Communicationstudents at Curry College, where I head the Public Relations Concentration, as well as with my graduate Organizational and Professional Communication students at Regis College.

I hammer home the absolute necessity of having good writing skills, being able to conduct basic research, and having some degree of creativity in program development and planning.

But I haven’t been talking as much as I should about the fact that, at least in the public relations profession, human contact is kind of part of the whole package.

At some point in your life, you will be required to interact with others…employers, co-workers, potential clients…media.

And “texting” isn’t going to cut it. You are going to be required to actually looksomeone in the eyes and talk to him or her. (Cue anguished wail)

A good way to become comfortable with this (alien) concept is to start practicing as you roam about campus between classes, on your way to lunch, heading back to your residence hall…

Instead of feverishly checking your phone to make sure you didn’t miss that all-important IM from your friend who you just saw three minutes ago in class, look at fellow students…and professors…who might be walking in your direction.

Make eye contact.

Say “good morning/afternoon” as you pass.

You might be surprised to see that they won’t suddenly burst into flames or turn to stone.

In fact, they just might talk back to you!

Now I know I’m suggesting something very foreign to your current level of experience, but trust me…really cool things happen from these adventures.

You meet interesting people. I often tell my students about starting a conversation with a fellow in an elevator at a PRSA International Conference several years ago. I commented on the interesting attire that he was wearing. He turned out to be the Director of Tourism for Kenya, and he was on his way to a function where he would be recognized for the amazing PR programs he had created to promote tourism in his country. Very cool!

You make new networking contacts. I try to attend two or three events…public relations, community, social…a month, and, each time, I walk away with a minimum of four or five business cards of interesting people I’ve met. Some of them make it into my database depending on circumstances; some don’t. But the database steadily grows…and I have contacts not only for personal activities but also as potential resources for my students’ internships and jobs.

You find jobs. I often (some would say “too often”) talk about my move from Massachusetts to Hawaii in search of a new start on life. I hit the ground running, with more than two dozen informational interviews scheduled before leaving Massachusetts and dozens more within a couple of weeks of hitting Hawaii. I scored three serious job interviews within a month of arriving…all from contacts made at PRSA Hawaii, AMA Hawaii, IABC Hawaii and other meetings that I either finagled my way into or was invited to attend. And I wound up with what probably the whole world now knows was the BEST public relations job I’ve EVER had!

All this and more has happened for one simple reason.

I looked at, smiled at, and spoke to someone.

“Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.”
Christina Georgina Rossetti, “Remember” [1862], l. 1

About kirkhazlett

35+ years' federal government and nonprofit organization PR experience followed by more than 20 years' undergraduate and graduate college teaching experience. Community and media relations expertise, as well as a fanaticism for quality service and customer satisfaction. PR for healthcare and member services organizations ranging from Blood Bank of Hawaii to Medical Area Service Corporation to Boston Harborfest. Consulting services for Manila and Singapore Red Cross.
This entry was posted in Communication, Curry College, internships, job search, networking, professional organizations, PRSA, Public Relations Society of America, Regis College, Undergraduate Communication. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Your Career and You: “Smiles Go Miles”

  1. Kirk, I enthusiastically co-sign your post. People often say to me, "Oh, you know everybody!" It's because I will approach and talk to anyone, anywhere… in line at Starbucks, shopping in the same aisle, waiting for an appointment, and social functions are like a candy store to me. Great public relations people are great storytellers. You've got to be interested in the person and his or her story before you can tell it well. Your social muscles will only get better with practice. So use them in the low stress environments when impressing a hiring manager or key contact isn't on the line. I once secured a client for my PR firm when I started talking to her over a pair of jeans in a Marshall's store; another client was the appointment after me with my hair stylist. True.


  2. Wow…thanks, Gayle! You give exactly the successes I'm alluding to in this post. It does take practice. For some, it comes naturally; for others, like myself, it takes hard work. But the payoff in the end makes the effort all worthwhile.Congratulations on your successes, and thanks for sharing!


  3. I completely agree with Gayle on all points. I tell my interns the same thing… and that "you get more bees with honey". Bees can't get pollen via text messaging. Complex subjects require more than 140 characters. And really great stories can be told visually, but there's no better visual than a person's eyes, and face, and human interaction. I love talking to people in airport terminals… a captive audience and relatively "safe" because it's easy to exit. ("Oh look, my plane is here!") Great post and a really important point. I only wish I could thank you for writing it… in person.


  4. Thanks very much, Julie! If we all keep hammering home the same message, sooner or later they'll realize that we're all speaking from experience.And you're right about airports/train stations/etc. Excellent "escape hatches" if needed!See you either in S.F. at the PRSA International Conference or in November at the PRSA Boston Annual Meeting?!?


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