Your Career and You: “The Rollercoaster Called ‘Life’”


publication1The past several months have been “less than optimal” on my side of the world. There have been some more-than-appreciated “ups”…accompanied by what is starting to seem like an increasing number of “downs.”

Kind of like a rollercoaster…which I rode once more than 40 years ago and swore I would never…ever…do again.

But that was also very early in my professional career. Looking back on it, I now realize that I actually never got off the blasted thing!

Life is like that. You’re going to have those moments/weeks/years where everything goes so incredibly well that you have to pinch yourself once in a while for a reality check. Then…WHAM! Something happens…professional…personal…both…that sticks a giant piece of bubblegum in your hair.

Quite a few meetings with my advisees and other students at Curry College, where I head up the Public Relations Concentration in our Communication Department, revolve around untangling the bubblegum mess.

Maybe it’s a personal thing…boyfriend…girlfriend…roommate.

Or it’s work-related…I’m always amazed at how many of my Rockstar COM/PR friends are excelling in their schoolwork, involved up to their ears in extracurricular activities, AND working one or two part-time jobs.

Or it’s about a particular course they’re taking…or a particular professor who’s teaching that course that they’re taking.

Whatever the case, the rollercoaster has reached the top and is picking up speed on the downward slope. And they’re worried/irritated/scared…pick your emotion.

My basic and unchanging overall response regardless of the cause of the mega-angst is “stuff happens, and most of the time, there’s not a doggone thing you could have done to prevent it.”

I’m not dodging the subject here. I’m trying to reassure them that we all, at some uncomfortably unpleasant time in our lives, have been through something similar. And, to put it plainly, “It sucks.”

But it also happens, so pick yourself up, get the rest of the bubblegum out of your hair, and move on.

Most of the time, the remedy to the problem is simple…ish. You make a change.

I’m not going to go wandering into the romantic briarpatch. It’s your girl-/boyfriend. Time for some serious self-evaluation and (as we/I love to talk about in “Principles of PR”) “two-way symmetric communication.”

Work problems are another thing. Especially for my students, they’re mostly part-timers and, to some extent, “disposable.” But I do recommend that they have a conversation with their work supervisor about the issue and see if there’s a way to resolve it. If not, decision time. Put up, or get out. And a few over the years have chosen the “get out” and have seen a change for the better.

Finally, course/professor… This is a tough one, too, but one for which there are proven steps to take to (hopefully) ease the agony.

If it’s the course, I advise students to have a serious, one-on-one conversation with the professor. Most of the time he or she has had other students with the same problem and has been able to offer suggestions on how to turn things around.

If it’s the professor…hooo boy…change if you can; stick it out and do the best you can if you can’t. I’m a realist here…once in a while you are going to meet someone who you just can’t stand. That’s life. It happens.

I had a professor my freshman quarter at Auburn University when I thought I was going to be the world’s greatest civil engineer. I flat-out did not like the guy, and the course was doing a spectacular job of driving me nuts. So I talked to him. It was obvious he didn’t care. I stuck it out…failed the course…changed majors…and went on to do well academically.

Looking back over my professional life after graduating, there are clearly-defined periods where I was on the uphill climb with success after success piling up. And there are the darker times when life, as I like to describe it, was “going to hell in a handbasket.”

But I always came back, and continue to do so to this day. This is the lesson/advice I try to pass on to my students, to colleagues, to anyone who asks. Have confidence in yourself. Give 110% to everything you undertake. And recognize that life truly is a rollercoaster. Wheeee!

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About kirkhazlett

35+ years' federal government and nonprofit organization PR experience followed by more than 10 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, Education, feedback, overload, PR, PR students, public relations, Thinking, Undergraduate Communication and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Your Career and You: “The Rollercoaster Called ‘Life’”

  1. Howie Sholkin says:

    I’ve had three careers and only one of them did I see coming. I moved from my childhood career ambition of broadcast news to tech marketing communication and finally to a faculty member at two Boston area institutions. I should also add that I’ve worked at 10 companies/higher ed institutions and was laid off three times over 41 years. After TV news, I mostly learned on-the-job and have always believed if one is flexible, adaptable, and willing to learn, one can succeed at a lot of professions. I’ve made so many friends on my career journey and in numerous volunteer activities that I wouldn’t change a thing. That said what worked for me may not be for others so chart your own course.

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