Saturday, February 9, 2013

Your Career and You: “Life's Journey-Finding Your Way”

I had a somewhat frustrating conversation recently with a friend…professional colleague…about one of my would-be PR students.

  • The good news is, the student had contacted him about an internship and had gotten an interview.
  • The bad news is, that same student gave absolutely no indication whatsoever that he really was interested in the internship…or anything for that matter.

According to my friend, the fellow basically sat there grunting one- and two-word responses to questions. And, when asked about his plans for that terrifying “life after graduation,” he appeared to be clueless.

Didn’t seem to have given any consideration to his plans, ambitions, hopes, or dreams.

Now this young fellow is a graduating senior. He has indicated a budding interest in public relations. He has already completed one PR-focused internship.

So what happened? Where did we miss a connection?

Part of the answer is the good ol’ “well, you’re young and don’t know what you want to do.”

Part of the answer is “somehow we (professors/advisors/counselors) haven’t ‘cracked the code’ yet.” We haven’t figured out how to really communicate with you when it comes to “life.”

I am known to “preach” about the future to my Communication students at Curry College, where I head the undergraduate Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses, as well as to my graduate Organizational and Professional Communication students at Regis College. They all get the sermon.

But somehow the connection isn't being made, and it’s starting to bug me big time.

Yeah, I figured out my own life trajectory on my own…didn’t have anyone to sit me down and have the “what do you want to do?” discussion.

Not saying my parents weren’t supportive and encouraging. They were. But there was no “what do you want to be when you grow up?” conversation.

So what to do about these situations where, in spite of my best efforts to guide and advise you, we’re not making the connection?

Maybe I’m banging my head against the wrong wall. Maybe I’m not supposed to be able to point each and every aspiring future professional toward his or her destiny.

But I want to help you get started. I want to share my own experience and knowledge with you in the hopes that you will find inspiration.

It’s a two-way street, though. You have to do some serious introspection and some soul-searching about “the future.”

It’s not going to just come tumbling merrily over the fence and land at your feet.

You’re going to have to hunt for it…do some “inner-self” digging to get an idea what you’re really interested in…or think you’re interested in.

Then we can have the serious conversations, and I can point you in the direction of some places that might be a good starting point.

It’s trial-and-error. It’s life. And, in the end, with hard work on your side and some thoughtful advice and counsel on mine, you’ll find your place.

It may not be the last stop on your journey, but it will be a start.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” - (Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu, 64)


  1. Students have four years to hone in on a topic of interest and emerge with a degree. By the time you graduate if you’re asking yourself why you selected your major, it’s a little late, but not too late! Regardless of your major, no one gets a job in PR because have a piece of paper saying you have a PR degree. PR are jobs are reserved for those that are educated and ready to do what it takes to be successful. A basic skill in the PR business is being able to adapt and focus on what is important to your client or your business (if you’re in house). It’s not about you – it’s about what you represent.

    1. Well said, Anonymous. The piece of paper says you passed the courses; it doesn't say you have a clue about the future. You have to demonstrate an interest in the topic at hand and an ability help a client or employer solve a problem of some sort.

      I really appreciate your reading and commenting!

  2. Careers are among the hardest things in life. Like fingerprints no two are alike. So it can be overwhelming to the point one freezes up. Another issue is some people think electronic search is it and someone will find you.

    The power of networking (not the social nets) is not embraced enough. Of my 9 jobs, only one did not involve some firm of networking

    1. Absolutely correct, Howie. And we keep hammering that concept home in class after class after class. It sinks in for some...others not so much. Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting! Happy Chinese New Year! 新年快樂

  3. As an educator, you can only do so much.
    Some, but not all, students have the "C=Degree" mentality, which is hard to change.
    In my experience, older students better understand the importance of listening and being fully engaged in the learning experience to aquire the skills package necessary for a successful and fulfilling career.
    Older, so-called 'non-traditional' students are also largely in charge of their own destinies, including degree plan choices and paying for college. They are generally highly invested in the outcome and don't want to waste time or money along the way dropping classes they aren't interested in.
    Meeting the real world after graduation is the perfect wakeup call, and the best teacher.

    1. Very true, Anonymous. But I can't not keep trying to guide and advise all who cross my path. The more I can help be prepared BEFORE the grim reality of "Graduated, Now What??" hits...the better!

  4. Hi Kirk,
    I love your posts and found myself in similar situations this past week. I had several interviews with prospects for both internships and for full time opportunities and in those instances, the candidates had no questions, no background on the company. It was frustrating and an opportunity wasted. Sadly, it happens. Thanks for the posts!

    1. Thanks! Good (in a sad, sad way) to know I'm not the only one who has experienced this. I really appreciate your reading and feedback!

  5. Hi Kirk:

    I've seen both ends of the spectrum. We recently fired a Georgetown graduate who had everything you would want on paper but the only thing he delivered was disappointment. We tried to help him find his "passion" and I remember giving him his review and telling him what he needed to do in order to keep his job. I then told him to think about it and we would revisit the following week. When I circled back and asked what he thought, he said "I'm o.k. working here for now..." Seriously? Needless to say it was his last day at the firm.

    Conversely, we had an intern with us for the month of January who was so engaged, energetic and willing to learn I actually put her in front of a new client and she presented one of her ideas to him.

    I am always willing to spend time on the phone or over a cup of coffee with students who are thinking about a career in PR - usually, I tell them if they don't have the passion, initiative and ability to solve their own problems, they should rethink their plans.

    1. Hi Tara ~

      I think I also responded on the LinkedIn site, but I do want to thank you for your insightful comments...sounds like you've experience both ends of the spectrum on this. I also appreciate your willingness to spend time with hopeful young professionals helping them get a handle on their future. The more genuine and personal advice they can get from professionals, the better (hopefully) their chances of finding the right spot.

  6. Hi Kirk,

    What a great piece and I agree completely -- a professor is there to stimulate and provide a spark to stimulate curiosity, but it's the student's duty to walk through the door and express interest and enthusiasm.

    That's something one can only do for oneself.

    I think your students are lucky to have such an interesting, motivating and thoughtful professor!


  7. Thanks very much, Cynthia! And you're right...we can only do so much. After that, it's on the student to "close the deal." I'm not giving up yet! :-)

    Thanks, too, for your kind remark. I truly do love what I do for a living, and I hope it's making a difference for at least some of my troops!

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting! ~ Kirk

  8. Now this young fellow is a graduating senior. He has indicated a budding interest in public relations. He has already completed one PR-focused internship.

    Public Relations