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