I was recently asked to speak at my alma mater and talk about my experiences as both a student and a PR professional. I immediately felt nervous and began to scramble for memories I could reflect on; memories of substance that could, in fact, be a teachable moment. As a college student, you feel every ounce of anxiety as the impending graduation date sneaks up on you and you question whether the knowledge you’ve gained has effectively prepared you for what’s to come.
When I went back to my college to speak, my college advisor asked me if I felt prepared for my job once I graduated and to be honest, I did. I felt like her guidance, and the education I was provided, taught me the language and skills necessary to be successful while behind my computer screen. The one thing that caused me concern when entering my career was navigating the professional environment and the intricacies of client relations.
As a young professional, I began to realize that there are a few things you can’t learn in a classroom; certain procedures, processes, and mannerisms come with time. I walked into my career with three internships under my belt and a solid education in my field, but when it came client calls or meetings, navigating networking events and attending interviews with clients, I had to learn through doing. You can be taught how to do your job in the classroom, but you have to grow into being a professional.
The educational process prepares you for the daily tasks. If you’re in a great program, it also prepares you for the intimidating interviewing process post-grad. But when it comes to client relations and the nourishment of professional relationships within your growing network, it takes some trial and error. You were taught about communicating but when it comes to actually communicating with people who aren’t just your colleagues, there’s a learning curve.
There are moments in your professional career when you realize your education and your experience of learning on the job meet somewhere in the middle. It’s essential to have a foundation and solid background in your field, so you’re not blindsided with your new 9-5 routine of “adulting,” but there will always be moments where preparation isn’t plausible. Reading a textbook about crisis management may provide the process of easing a problem, but the rush of adrenaline when a crisis strikes can knock your graceful step off balance the first time around. Where experience and textbook education meet, a professional begins to grow.