It’s a well-worn “rut”…with the new year comes, for many students at Curry College, where I head our Communication Department’s Public Relations Concentration, the final semester of their studies before we kick them out into the cold, cruel world.
While I do try to help them stay on track as their advisor, once in a while plans go kerfluey and varying stages of panic set in.
Try as I might, I can’t persuade all who cross my threshold that planning ahead is part and parcel of “real life,” especially for those of us who have chosen public relations as a career path. Our PR textbooks talk about planning. I talk about planning. The cases studies that we read and analyze talk about planning. But…
Here we are, setting our sights on that long-awaited “I’m all growed up” day when everyone gathers in a tent, speeches are made, diplomas are handed out, photos are taken…and reality sets in.
Now I’m totally not the one to say “Do as I did.” If PBS wanted to do a “Nova” segment on cluelessness as a college senior trait, I would have been the perfect example.
> Didn’t ask anyone for advice…actually didn’t know you could ask someone for advice.
> Didn’t put any serious thought into what I really wanted to do…figured, as Doris Day sang, “Que sera, sera.”
But that was then, and this is now. And, if anything, I want to help…emphasis on “help”…not force…my students to plan ahead.
But I also have to remember that, to paraphrase one of my favorite lines, “They is me.”
So what to do? How to encourage “the future is now” thinking without also inciting panic?
Maybe it’s not perfect, and I’m sure there’s someone waiting gleefully to tell me I’m an idiot (stand in line, sport…lots of folks ahead of you!), but I introduce “real life” into every single communication class that I teach.
Yes, we talk about the theories of communication, and we talk about the history of the various communication specialty areas. But we also talk about present-day events, to drive home the point that “life happens and you need to be prepared for it.”
The result…occurring more and more frequently…is that the troops start asking questions earlier…“What should I do?”… “How do I know?”
And it falls on my…and my colleagues’…shoulders to be able to start the conversation that will help these young future professionals find the answer.
An emphatic “No” here…we should NOT give them the answer. We should help them find the answer based on their own interests, abilities, and knowledge.
But the conversation should start now. The planning should start now. The future is now.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
Lewis Carroll, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”