Your Career and You: “Setting Priorities”

Publication1End of the semester…beginning of the often weird, usually off-the-wall, queries from my students.

As many of you know, I’m a full-time faculty member at Curry College in the Communication Department where I ride herd over the Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the undergrad PR courses.

I also teach part-time in the graduate Organizational and Professional Communication area at Regis College.

Now to be totally fair, most of my students at both colleges are diligent in their studies, dutiful in their assignments, and full of promise for the future.

There are a few though….

I shut down my computer last night around midnight as usual after having checked my various email accounts and satisfied myself that I had responded to any outstanding requests.

Logged on this morning at about 6, and there it was…a message from a student asking for an extension on a paper that’s due in two days.

The excuse/alibi for the request was something to the effect of “I have a longer paper due for another teacher and I want to do that one first.”

The unstated part was “Your assignment isn’t as important, so I want to put yours off until later.”

Wow! Now there’s an ego-builder for you! “Sorry, Kirk. Your class isn’t as important as the other class.”

Obviously this got me thinking about life after college and the demands of the “real world.” Somehow a lot of students have no clue what life is going to be like once they collect their sheepskin, shake the president’s hand and get a picture taken, and prance off the stage.

I entertain myself occasionally with imagined conversations between former student and current boss.

“Gee, Boss. I know I was supposed to have that report ready for you to present to our biggest and most important client this morning, but a friend was celebrating his 21st birthday and, well, I really couldn’t miss that!”

To paraphrase Dr. Phil, “How’d that work for you?!?”

Life…personal and professional…is about setting and following through on priorities…figuring out what’s truly important, as in gotta do, and what’s “nice but not life-alteringly critical.”

Sometimes making this type of choice is uncomfortable because it requires that you indicate to someone that he or she is not at the tippy-top of your priority list. But it’s a slice of real life…of adult, grown-up life…and you’ll learn from it.

To begin, though…don’t email your professor (or your boss!) and either ask for an extension on an assignment you should have done much earlier or naively tell your boss that something else was much more important than an assignment he or she gave you.

Professional life and school life are about assessing work requirements and setting realistic priorities that will ensure that everything you are expected to do will be done…on time.

Not only will you notice a lot more smiling faces around you; I suspect you’ll notice a lot less stress yourself!

“Observe due measure, for right timing is in all things the most important factor.” – Hesiod, “Works and Days” (l. 694)


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 careers, Communication, Curry College, Graduate Communication, public relations, Regis College, Undergraduate Communication and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Your Career and You: “Setting Priorities”

  1. I’ve also noticed a trend towards sentiments – whether spoken or unspoken – such as, “I ignored/didn’t realize _____ but it’s not my fault.” Or better yet, that the fault is ours, not theirs. Why not just acknowledge that a mistake was made?

    So… what did you say to the student, Kirk?


    • kirkhazlett says:

      My sense, Shonali, is that this generation has been taught (by parents?/teachers??) that, especially in academic areas, deadlines aren’t important….that it’s the *teacher’s* fault for not understanding how *overworked* the student is.

      I’ve actually been told by a colleague that “you have to understand, Kirk…they’re *learning to be adults* so cut them some slack.”

      To which I responded, loosely translated: “@#$%^&*@#%”!

      To the student in question? One word…two letters: “NO.”

      She handed the paper in on time.


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