Published on February 13, 2017 at 8:54 a.m.
by Kennedy Studdard.
During the fall semester, I saw the highs and the lows of what it truly means to be a public relations student immersed in her undergraduate field.
From extracurricular organizations and classes to interning both on and off campus, I can truly say that I’m both overwhelmed and overjoyed.
The best thing about being where I am is that I literally love staying busy. There’s never a dull moment, and the only time I can truly relax is when it’s scheduled into my day, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
So this is for the PR students who can’t say no but love when their schedules are packed with meetings and appointments. It’s for the people looking to get super involved and become the next PR super student. It’s for the people that want to do everything they can to stand out or improve their résumé. But really, this is for those who want to know what it takes to balance all of the components in a busy student’s life.
I’m still amazed that I’ve come this far without having a serious meltdown (knock on wood), and I wanted to share some personal takeaways for anyone looking to get extremely involved.
These are a few points I know now or that I wish I had known before this semester:
1) Stay true to yourself: This “all hustle, bring the muscle” attitude isn’t for everybody, and I honestly wouldn’t have taken this road had it not been for the amazing friends and peers I have at The University of Alabama. I attributed the semester to them, knowing who I am and never losing sight of what I want.
In public relations, we’re taught that this industry strives to build mutually beneficial relationships between the client and its key publics. But what we aren’t taught is that as practitioners, we must be genuine when presenting ourselves to the client or the organization in order to better inform, persuade or change behavior. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will, so create a unique identity (and brand identity) for yourself so that people will remember you.
I jumped onto the “creating a personal brand” train late, but better late than never, and I’d like to advise any students looking to really make an impact in this field to take a moment and analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Find out what makes you, you, and learn where your passions and talents lie. The public relations industry is extremely flexible, and anyone can find their passion in some form or fashion through challenging themselves to try new things — because you’ll never know unless you try.
2) Get a positive support group: Whether it’s friends in your major, the people you see at your Bible study or your close relatives, surround yourself with people who want to see you grow and succeed. Every time I have any doubts, I turn to the people who can shake away my fears. But I really cannot stress enough that having the right people around you will make or break your college experience, and I was lucky enough to find mine through public relations. If you can’t find people who dream big with you and support all of your efforts and dreams, then they probably aren’t who you should be hanging around.
3) Know your limits: If you know you need to sleep at least seven to nine hours every night, this might not be the path for you. There will be plenty of nights where you’ll be happy with even three to five hours of sleep. But just know that the lack of sleep now will pay off in the end.
Sometimes, I wonder if the long nights and hours spent on campus are really going to make a difference, but every day I see myself growing and how my hard work pays off … especially when it comes to the organizations I’m involved in. I’m overjoyed to see PRSSA members getting involved and making a difference because I somehow provided an outlet for them to shine. Those moments remind me why this major is perfect for me, and why public relations can be the stepping stone to truly making an impact on the lives and experiences of others.
4) Breathe, and whatever happens, happens: This is probably the most important lesson I’ve learned throughout — what I consider — to be the longest semester of my life. Remember to always give everything your all, but know that as students, we can only do so much. I chose this busy lifestyle because I know having a full, color-coded calendar works best for me. But in the times where I have to say no or turn an opportunity down, I realize that it’s because I’m only human and I can’t help everyone with every single thing.
If you recognize that you love saying yes to every opportunity that presents itself, remember to focus some of that passionate energy onto yourself. Being busy has its rewards, but I’ve found that the hardest working people know how to make the most out of their work life and their personal life. Those same people know how to accept mistakes, and work toward making their efforts better.
5) Schedule everything, including time for yourself: Not everyone is okay with a planner that’s color-coded, filled with sticky notes and measured down to the hour, but having something to manage everything that you plan to take on is crucial. But more importantly, scheduling time for yourself and the things or hobbies that you enjoy will also need to be factored into your busy life.
I was once told that if you plan to get super involved, you might have to schedule in fun for yourself or plan what you’ll eat for dinner. At first, I laughed at those ideas, believing that there’s no way planning time for myself was a real thing. But it certainly is, and if you let everything else take first priority, you might miss out on what’s most important — YOU.
All in all, the fall semester was one of the busiest and best of my life. And I doubt I would’ve made it through without any of the above points. The best advice is to immerse yourself in what you love, because if you ever start to feel overwhelmed, you’ll see the fruits of all your labor and become overjoyed.