One question I am asked most often is: “Where do I go next?”
Most of the time it’s from young professionals who have just gotten a start in their career and are eager to move onward and upward. I get similar questions, though, from many of my Curry College Communication students…especially those in the Public Relations Concentration who have tasted the nectar of the PR world and want to experience more.
My answer is similar regardless: “What do you want to do? What makes you excited?”
I love this quote from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” where Alice comes to a fork in the road and asks the Cheshire Cat which path she should take.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a great 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.”
In other words, you need to have a plan. Sure, you might be just starting out, but you need to have some idea “where you want to get to.”
Of course, the famous New York Yankees manager Yogi Berra also had a pretty good take on this with his own pronouncement: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Hmmm…
The point here is, we all sooner or later reach a point in our professional (or personal) lives where we feel like we need someone smarter than us to help guide us along the path to success. In professional parlance, this person is called a “mentor.”
The Public Relations Society of America’s College of Fellows has a mentoring program through which senior practitioners provide advice and guidance to other public relations pros to help them navigate the choppy waters of their careers. Not only did I take advantage of it myself back in my “PR professional” days; I also volunteer as a mentor at PRSA’s International Conference each year, meeting with and offering advice to PRSA members.
Regardless of what your career field is, there are folks out there who are ready and willing to share with you their own knowledge and experience to help you “sort stuff out.”
How do you find these people?
- If you’re in college, start with your professors and your career services folks. Believe it or not, they are there to help you!
- If you’re out in the working world, check out the professional organizations in your area. I mentioned this in my last post, but it bears repeating.
For those of us in the communication arena, national organizations include PRSA, IABC and AMA. Each of these has local chapters that are readily accessible. In addition, especially in major cities, there is a “Publicity Club”; here in Boston it’s the Publicity Club of New England. (There are other, similar organizations in cities around the country, and this is just a sampling. Check ‘em out!)
Bottom line here is…you’re not in this alone. There are others out there who are more than willing to help you. But they’re not mind-readers. You have to start the process by asking the simple question: “Where do I go next?”