It seems like a lot of my conversations with students at Curry College, where I teach most of the Public Relations courses in our undergraduate Communication major, lead off with the question “Where do I start?”
Most of the time they’re talking about their job or internship search. But occasionally we’re talking about their future at Curry…what should they study…what’s best for them and their interests…should they stay at Curry??
I often assure (or perhaps frighten) them that we all have had to start somewhere…that there are no cleanly and clearly marked roadmaps to show them the way.
But there is guidance available:
- There are personal examples, which I share willingly and readily.
- There are the experiences of others just like them who have gone before them.
And sometimes they just have to forge their own path.
Whatever the case, my message always contains the reassurance that they’re not in this alone…that we all (or at least some of us) started out unsure of ourselves and where we thought we should be heading.
I’ve told my own story countless times…
- Started out wanting to be a civil engineer building highways and bridges.
- That idea didn’t work out so well, so switched to English thinking I would be a college professor (note: this was 1966!).
- Wound up after college in the Air Force first as an English language instructor, then as an audiovisual specialist.
- Stumbled upon the concept of public relations and the rest, as the saying goes, “is history.”
The funny (probably better said as “ironic”) thing is, I had no one to show me the way until I got into the Army’s public affairs intern program. I just made it up as I went along.
Thinking back on it, until I moved to New England and subsequently joined the Public Relations Society of America’s (then) New England Chapter…now Boston Chapter…I did not know one single soul outside of the military who worked in the public relations arena!
But that was then, and that was me.
Today, I would argue, is better. College students today have more resources to call on, from professors like myself who have spent a substantial amount of time working in a particular profession to others…career services folks in particular who keep their fingers on the pulse of the business community-at-large but also alumni who are ready, willing, and able to talk about their own experiences and lessons learned.
But it all has to start somewhere…asking questions…listening to advice…following up on recommendations…taking action.
There will be, as I so often caution, bumps in the road that threaten to derail plans. There will be opportunities that, on the surface, seem ideal…until you actually “see how the sausage is made.” But it all counts. It’s experience. It’s lessons learned. It’s life.
And it all has to start somewhere. Have you started??