Saturday, April 01, 2006

What you don't know can't hurt you?

High school prepares you for college and college prepares you for a job, right? Or some might say college prepares you for the “real world”—as if they world I’m in right now isn’t lively and crucial enough. A phrase such as that suggests there is something more “real” than what I am living.

I’m starting to wonder how much college—any college—can prepare you for life post-graduation. Regardless of your anticipated profession.

Recently my professor, Nina Flournoy, brought in a few SMU to grads to tell us what they’re doing with their Corporate Communications & Public Affairs degree from SMU. This was our chance to see where we might be in a year or two.

They are Assistant Account Executives from Edelman. I don’t think half my class knew that they might be an “AAE” next year. I’d heard the title before, but never in the classroom. And forget what the job is called, what do you do all day?

Although I have had internships, constantly put my “feelers” out into the field of PR, and even daydream of my first full-time job après-SMU, I don’t know what it is that I thought I’d actually be doing. I think the Edelman AAEs visit to my classroom was a good wake-up call.

All I could think as these young ladies went through job details about income, holidays, job perks, day-to-day tasks, etc., was “when was I going to find out about all this?!” If they hadn’t given me the heads up now, who would’ve? There’s nothing worse than facing major surprises as you search for and accept your first job after college.

PR has become such a vast and nebulous field that there is no right path to take. While a company like Edelman might be one route to start on, I could easily find a job that fits my interests and capabilities outside of a huge public relations firm. The options are endless. I love that.

I think those “above” me—in both their work experience and power held through certain institutional hierarchies—scoff at the sentence, “I want to work in PR.” They don’t think we know what PR really is. Partially true. How will I truly know PR until I give it a try? Communications students hold an awkward position in the PR field: we have the fire in the belly and are green with skills needed for the job; we just don’t know what that job might be.

No one is to blame. Since when has a professor had the responsibility of a sitting an undergrad down and giving them the nuts and bolts of life after that fateful day in May? I think half of what I know about PR is from the classroom, the other half is from my in-field experience. You can’t know PR without being out there and doing it. At the same time, that can’t be held against us—how will we know PR unless we try it?

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