A Letter to My Freshman Self
Well…we made it. It’s currently 25 days until graduation and, believe it or not, you will be receiving a diploma! Right now you’re probably worrying about how you’re going to get to your grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving—because no car—and little do you know that you’ll drop your phone down an elevator shaft the night before break. Yes. . . that really does happen to people. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the next four years, and something I wish I would have known way back then. The advice is this:
Accept advice, but don’t follow it mindlessly.
You will meet countless people over the next four years who will try to tell you what you should do with your life. They’ll tell you what is “impressive,” what the best career path or job opportunity is, and sometimes they’ll rattle off a list of people in the workforce who have “made it”—whatever that means. Those people will have good intentions, and many times those opinions are informed by valuable past experiences they have had. Don’t ignore them. Absorb what they have to say and recognize the wisdom they can impart. That being said, my advice to you is to take all of that with a grain of salt (oh yeah, heads up. . .the expression isn’t a great assault). Don’t let their perspective or opinions dictate the way you live your life or the choices you make. You are the one who has to live your life, and you are the one who is going to stay up until midnight writing cover letters and submitting job applications. Be independent enough to recognize your own intelligence, and that what is good for one isn’t necessarily good for all.
Pursue the things you love
In the public relations industry, there is a seemingly endless list of job possibilities out there. It can be overwhelming and it might take you awhile to figure out what you want to do. That’s okay. Give yourself time to explore those other opportunities. That being said, don’t be afraid to explore something you love just because someone else thinks it’s “dumb.” One day you’ll hear great things about one industry, only to hear someone else bash it for those very same reasons. Certain professors will emphasize the merits of various career paths, your friends will talk about their interests, and your parents might have some strong opinions too. But at the end of the day, pursue what you love. Apply for that nonprofit internship even though “nonprofits don’t pay anything.” Apply for that agency internship even though “they work like 80. Hours. A. Week.” Take those fine arts electives even though “they don’t even relate to your major. Ew.” As long as you are following your interests and doing what makes you happy, that is the only thing that matters. Every opportunity you pursue gives you a unique experience that may set you apart from 80 other applicants in the future, and who knows, it might even reveal what you want to do with your life.
One of the great things about the University of Alabama PR program is that you are surrounded by some of the most brilliant people you’ll meet in your life. Your friends will be ambitious and intelligent and teach you so much about who you are and where you can go. The flip side is that when it comes time to apply for internships or organizations on campus, chances are they’ll be applying for those same positions too. Don’t let that scare you. Be confident. Don’t compare yourself to your classmates and think, “She’s applying for that internship too? If she’s applying I definitely can’t, because she’s way more qualified than I am.” Those thoughts are normal, but do your best to reject them. Like I said earlier, every experience you have is uniquely your own, and it could be the determining factor in getting the dream job. Have confidence in who you are and the experiences you have and that you are interested in specific positions for a reason. Someone else’s intelligence and experience doesn’t diminish yours, and don’t let the fear of failure keep you from pursuing your dream. Yes. . . you still use corny expressions four years later.
So, all of that being said, be confident. Embrace who you are. Pursue what you love. Listen to others’ advice, but don’t mindlessly follow it. These four years will be the best of your life, and I can’t wait for you to see where you’ll end up. Who knows. . . maybe you’ll even land your dream job.
This blog post was written by Sarah Parker. She was in the media relations department in Capstone Agency.