I had been out of college maybe a year or two when I called my mother after a particularly tough week at work and told her that for all of the great stuff I had learned in college, I was completely and utterly ill-prepared for the ‘real world’. I wished someone who practiced PR could have told us that PR plans are written in a week, not a semester and that there were very specific resources people use to research reporter information (back in the olden days those were Bacon’s books). Beyond some of the rudimentary aspects of the job, it would have been great to know what employers expected and how I could have been more day-1, job-1 ready once I left UW-Madison’s hallowed halls.
Instead…I learned on the job, made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons. And in the back of my mind, I hoped the day would come that I could share the benefits of my experience, knowledge, and yes, mistakes, with the next generation of PR professionals.
Earlier this month, I was able to do just that. I, along with my W2O colleagues, attended Social Commerce Days at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. For two days, we attended classes to provide real world case studies, answer questions about the integration of theory into day-to-day practice and provide students with an honest and candid look into what life is like in this crazy world of integrated communications.
The students we met with absolutely blew me away. They were engaged and asked thoughtful questions about everything from how to apply analytics to a campaign, to managing a client when they say something to the media that they shouldn’t (because that never happens), to the characteristics I look for in an entry level individual. In one of the research classes I attended, the students showed us the initial research they had done for an anti-bullying campaign. One group in particular was really led by the research and created a strategy of leveraging teachers as an influential audience to stem bullying in schools. The application of their research showed me an advanced level of analytical thinking that to me represents the next generation communications professional – analytics prowess and media/influencer savvy.
My favorite part of the experience was the 1:1 networking with the students. I met some very talented individuals, many of whom I would not hesitate to hire. Contrary to some of the stories we hear about millennials, these students were humble, had realistic expectations of what their first job will be like and are ready to enter the workforce at the ground floor to make their mark. I’m energized about the promise of these up-and-comers and hope that they heard a few of my ‘tricks of the trade’ suggestions to help make them ideal candidates wherever they go.
I am grateful to the staff and students at Newhouse for putting Social Commerce Days together – it was a fantastic experience and I’m excited to welcome these newbies into the fold. I have no doubt that for whatever I might have taught them in my limited time, they’ll be able to teach me a thing or two back here in the ‘real world.’