It’s that time of the year again…start of the new semester at Curry College…unfamiliar faces in my classrooms…alarm jolting me awake at 4:45 am after a restful couple of summer months of “sleeping in” until 7. I’ve been doing this “teaching thing” for more than 10 years, and the routine doesn’t change.
One thing that never fails to intrigue me is the inevitable encounter with new (as well as not-so-new) students with questions ranging from “what should I study?” to “why do I need to take this course?”
The good news for them is that this won’t be the first time I’ve been asked these questions. The bad news for me is that I really want to give solid advice that will either set them off on the right path or help them get a more solid footing on that path.
I didn’t take a “counseling” course in college. Whatever I do or say in response to these questions comes as a result of my own “take off the training wheels and see what happens” experiences. (Note: I actually pedaled straight off a 12-foot embankment!)
I remember so vividly a few years back counseling a student who was having some serious home issues as well as college studies challenges. We talked at length about his plans, his dreams, his realities…
Finally, in frustration, he said wistfully, “But I’m just a kid.”
My response to him was, “You might think of yourself as a ‘kid,’ but you’re not. You’re at the very beginning of your career pathway, and you’re going to have to take control of your life.”
I’m happy to say that he has taken control and is on what I’m sure will be a slow but rewarding climb up the professional ladder.
I’ve written many times about my own totally erratic career path. Undergrad degree in English. Undergrad and grad degrees in business management. Career in public relations: Air Force, Army, high tech, member services, PR firm, healthcare, trade association…cemetery. Now teaching.
Looking back more than 50 years ago, I had absolutely not the slightest intention of doing any of this. Certainly not public relations…I had never even heard of public relations! And being a teacher was as close to the bottom of the ladder as I could imagine.
I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m very happy with the way things have turned out. It’s just that I really would have liked to have had someone offering real-life advice of what and where to go.
So we flash forward to today and my roles both in the academic setting and in the world of public relations. The most comforting assurance that I can offer to my charges is “things will change…many times…and that’s okay.”
I go on to remind them that, much like my earlier student, they are on the way to becoming responsible adults, so they need to start focusing on where they want to go and what they want to do.
So here’s the deal. Start asking yourself, “What am I really interested in?”… “What makes sense given my proven abilities?”… “Which internship(s) did I really enjoy and what job possibilities did they offer?”
Then set (and keep) an appointment with your advisor or your mentor…the person who you feel can give you meaningful guidance.
Then…start thinking of yourself as that professional that you believe you are capable of becoming. Start or continue your networking with other professionals in that area. When they see that you are dead serious about your desire to get a foothold in the career field that they, themselves, have succeeded in, they’re going to offer their own advice and guidance.
But it’s a process, so don’t think you’re going to hit the jackpot right off the bat. Be patient. Be persistent. Be positive. And remember…
The Beatles said it first, “Help!”