A letter to my students: Do as I say, not as I did!

Today I celebrate my 100th post on ToughSledding, barely 6 months after this inauspicious start. Since I launched this blog to support my teaching and research, it only seems appropriate to dedicate this one to my students.


Maybe one reason I get along with my students is that I’m so much like them. At least I was back in the day.

Yeah, I’m 30+ years older than most of them now, but I made all the same dumb mistakes. So I feel this kinship with them, know what I mean?

photo-5.jpgWe all know that nobody’s perfect, yet I walk in that classroom every day and tell students nothing short of perfection will do. And lemme tell you, it’s tough to live up to that standard when those same students find typos in your blog posts, and sometimes even your syllabi. But you press on.

This isn’t the first time I’ve gone on record to admit my foibles. I’ve understood my own fallibility for a good long time. But part of being a blogger, I think, is a willingness to put yourself out there — to “showcase the headcase” as it were.

If what follows sounds like a lecture from Dad, it’s because I’m concerned that too many of my “kids” are letting opportunities slip by them — and for all the wrong reasons. So I mount my soapbox today to say, “Do as I say, not as I did.”

Here’s what I learned by screwing up in college.

dog.jpgTime is all you have. Manage it. I look back at my days in Athens and wish I could recapture a fraction of the lost productivity — or at least half of the time we spent hangin’ out and reading National Lampoon. But hey, I can still recite the punchlines from the “Churchill Wit,” — just not in mixed company. This is my all-time favorite Lampoon cover. These guys were a huge distraction, and just as much fun as X-Box.

Work for experience, not for money. I didn’t do an internship in college. Could that be why my first job was in a tire store in Cleveland? I could easily have spent summers working on my hometown newspaper or in the sports info office at the local university. But I never asked for the chance. Instead I worked as a grease monkey and spent my evenings with good friends and 16-oz. PBRs. Fun, but more lost opportunity.

Don’t worry how much the internship pays or if it pays at all. Extend your student loans if you must. But get experience in your field, and lots of it, before you get that diploma.

fearandloathing.jpgRead. I’ve always read a good bit, but seldom what was assigned. As a result, much of that textbook wisdom assigned by my professors never had a chance to sink in. I caught up in grad school. I did read a lot of magazines and novels, which helped me become a half-decent writer. Thank you Rolling Stone and Hunter Thompson.

Good writers read good writing. Get in the habit.

Use what the university offers you. My school didn’t have a PRSSA chapter, or if it did I was unaware of it. I was the toga2.jpgsocial chairman of my fraternity, which should have helped me with the “party planning” aspect of PR. But not one of my clients ever hosted a kegger or a toga party. Imagine that.

Here at Kent State we have an award-winning daily newspaper, a student TV station with 10 weekly newscasts, four or five magazines and a student PR firm. If you’re whiling away your hours on Play Station or YouTube, knock if off and get in the real game. Those who do land great jobs. Those who don’t sell tires in Cleveland.

Ask for help. I’ll go out of my way to help a student be successful. But I can’t reach all 160 PR majors, even with all the help I get from my colleagues. So please guys, do something I didn’t. Stop and see me or another member of the PR faculty. Ask us about internships and job leads. Get advice on resumes.

I can tell you about employers who need interns now. I can point you to standout seniors who’ll coach you with your projects. I can help you find a job. But you gotta ask — something I never did.

confessional1.jpgIt’s about time I leave this confessional and get back to work. I feel better now — you know, cleansed. But I still gotta proof this damn post so you don’t email me about the typos.

I should probably say a few Hail Marys to atone for the sins of the 70s, but regret has never been my strong suit.




9 Responses to A letter to my students: Do as I say, not as I did!

  1. Andy Curran says:

    I bet you never would have guessed that I would be the first to respond to this. LOL! After all, I was right there by your side on the front lines at OU! If I may chime in, let me offer this advice. I did the “side” work at the student-run All-Campus Radio Network (ACRN), which led to a full-time job at WATH-AM/WXTQ-FM, the local commercial stations in Athens. I started out part-time as a junior and had a full-time gig halfway through my senior year. My last two quarters were hell, let me tell you, but worth it. My problem was that my grades suffered because I spent too much time doing radio shows (not to mention drinking Weidemann and Hudepohl…I guess I was destined to live in Cincinnati!). Make sure you keep things balanced so the GPA stays healthy. That will help if you want to go to grad school. I got turned down by three different master’s programs before I found one that would accept my 2.7 GPA: Education! Go figure!

    Do students heed the sage advice of their learned educators? When I catch a glimpse of MTV’s Spring Break, I really wonder! But, who am I to talk?

  2. Shelley Prisco says:


    I know a few things about regret. I look back and wonder what I could’ve done to somehow enhance my experience before and shortly after graduation (’03). I enjoyed learning and applying my PR/magazine journalism education in two PR volunteer experiences (’05) and my journalism internship at Northern Ohio Live (’03), plus 3 semesters on the Stater and 2 semesters on the Burr. In retrospect, I think why wasn’t this enough to land an entry-level job or something related?

    If I had known better at the time, I could’ve been a member of PRSSA in my undergrad years, even though I was a news major. That could’ve been a great way to apply the writing skills and develop planning skills, too. There were also things that I could’ve done in deadbeat Ashtabula (in non-profit organizations) that could’ve helped. I didn’t know this until after I graduated and took 2 PR classes a year after my graduation. I’m sure I would’ve saved a couple of years of job-hunting.

    Even though I’m going to school for physical therapy now, this is something that I will always play in the back of my mind. Luckily, I like what I’m studying so far. It’s a completely different way of learning than what I’m used to, though.

    I’m a student member of the American Physical Therapy Association now, and I’ve come across some PR and publication committees in the Ohio chapter of this organization. I plan to do a little bit as a student and a whole lot more when I’m out of school in December 2008. It’s just too bad that it’s going to take about 5 1/2 years after my initial graduation for all of this to come together. As the cliche goes, “it’s better late than never.”

    I guess a couple of things that I’ve learned is what kind of a writer/planner that I want to be and what environment I could thrive in successfully. I know it’s something that encompasses a human interest quality and invokes inspiration and overcoming adversity. Physical therapy has a great deal of that.

  3. Andy, I can beat that: 2.6.

    By the way, 160? Damn, I’m missing out on some good PRSSA nights out these days, aren’t I?

  4. Brian Wooley says:

    “If you’re whiling away your hours on Play Station or YouTube, knock if off and get in the real game. Those who do land great jobs. Those who don’t sell tires in Cleveland.”

    Uh oh…someone’s going to have some splainin’ to do to a lot of resentful rubber retailers in Northeast Ohio.

    But seriously.

    All of this great advice. On more than one occasion when I was polled for pointers for the current crop of PRKenters, I stressed that reading was… well, fundamental. I’m glad to see you pushing this as well.

    I also can attest that being proactive works. That’s how I landed my internship–I simply approached one of the presenters at the PRSSA District Conference and asked about interning. You never know until you try; at worst, they’ll say no. At best, you find what you’re looking for.

  5. Bill – I couldn’t resist the opportunity to plug for intern candidates! What do you get out of your ONE YEAR LONG Goodyear Internship?
    * How about the chance to plan and execute the corporate HQ United Way campaign?
    * How about the opportunity to work full time and file about 300 news articles on our global intranet (38,500 page views of the home page daily)?
    * How about a chance to work on events like our quarterly town hall meetings for 1,500?
    * How about covering speakers, doing research, writing a multi-part series, working on photo shoots, and amassing a haystack of clips for your portfolio? Oh, and did I mention that all our former interns found full time PR jobs within two months of graduation?
    * Innis Maggiore, Akhia, Aultman Hospital, James J Roop Co. and others now employ former Goodyear interns.

    You get a summer of full time important work that kick-starts your experience and turbo-charges your skills. You get two full semesters at half-time and you do real work, not photocopying and filing and getting people coffee.

    Still not interested? How about all of that at $12 an hour? Of course, you could work in the cafeteria, or the library, or at a tire store (a fine profession, but it’s not PR…)

    So how about it? Bill has the posting and submission info and requirements.

    Maybe then you won’t look back at the missed opportunities once you graduate.

  6. Gary Schlee says:

    A wonderful journey, Bill. I’m not so sure I’ll be as keen to bear my sole (sic) to my students – but then, my 100th post is still dozens away. Your time was frittered away with National Lampoon, ours was devoted to Sesame Street – new to the tube and oh-so-cool to be watching. Maybe I’ll just move from posting 99 to posting 101.

  7. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks to all for your comments here, especially you old guys with GPAs lower than mine. Dino, I suspect stuff like Structural Mechanics had an impact on that 2.6. Just so you know, the folks upstairs are still eating their young.

    Sean, the experience you offer is an outstanding one and we’re beating the drum here at KSU. STay tuned.

    And for my crack about selling tires in Cleveland, Breeze, that really was great experience. I learned to talk people into spending money on something that does nothing but lose value the whole time you own it. And I learned to manage expectations of customers, employees and bosses.

  8. Carrie says:

    I felt the need to comment on this post because I couldn’t agree with you more on a number of your suggestions. I’m set to graduate in just a few weeks and there are a million things I wish I would have done. Forget freshman orientation, I think there should be a junior-level class based on these suggestions.

    The best one you gave, which I was lucky enough to have listened to, is the importance of internships. I’m graduating with three under my belt. I’ve truly learned the most from my internship experiance and I’m so thankful that I did them.

    Some of that thanks goes to you, you helped me find two of them. So as I sit here applying for hundreds of jobs, hoping one decides to hire me, I just wanted to say thanks for all of your help over the last five years. It’s been a great ride, and I couldn’t be happier that I was a member of this program.

  9. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks, Carrie. And know that the program will be there for you AFTER you leave. We just keep on giving. Your comment reminds me, and I’m sure all of us in academe, why we do what we do. It’s the best job in the world.

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