In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve neglected my blog. And for good reason too. I hit the period of final exams for my first semester of graduate school. These last few weeks have been some of the most intense that I’ve experienced.
And to risk sounding cheesy, I believe I’ve learned a number of things. These are both about the specific program I’m in and about myself.
1. I’ve re-affirmed why I’m in graduate school. I want to get my master’s degree so I can one day be in a management position in the PR and communications industry. As fun as school is, I’m on a professional track and will end classes when I graduate.
2. I have to get things done early (when I can). My stress tends to accumulate over time. I’m much happier when I complete assignments earlier. It’s difficult and sometimes impossible, but I prefer to complete tasks early.
3. I need to relax a bit more. I’ve been so tense the first semester because I’m still getting settled in the program. Next semester I’d really like to get out more and go to cultural events in the school and community. I want to be more engaged with what’s going on around me.
4. I have to budget more effectively. At times, my checking account has dwindled to a dangerously low level. I need to prioritize my spending so I can have more financial cushion.
5. I’m still not a statistician. I like to pretend that I can do in-depth research, but I don’t have the skills (at least not yet) to run real analyses. I’ll be in a stats class next semester, so hopefully I can improve my skills a little more.
There are plenty more lessons, but these five stand out the most. Even though school has been crazy, I’ve still managed to work on a few creative projects, like a short book and a feature length script. It’s challenging without a doubt, but grad school hasn’t gotten the best of me yet.
In the spirit of National Novel Writing Month, I’m writing a book. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is an initiative for writers all over the world to pen a novel in a month. In order to win NaNoWriMo, you must successfully write 50,000 words in November. It’s an opportunity for writers to create without fear in a short amount of time. With NaNoWriMo, you’ll want to write first and edit later.
Even though I have a particularly busy month, I couldn’t resist at least giving NaNoWriMo a shot. Technically what I’m doing is a book and not a novel. It doesn’t classify as a novel because it isn’t fictitious. Instead it’s a book about the basics of public relations. I’m naming it after this blog “All Things Communications.” The book will be intended for young students or professionals looking to start in the industry.
So far I’ve written 10,000 words, or 20 percent of the book. I still have 40,000 words to go before I finish. I plan to do about 2,000 words a day to get it done. I also have a research proposal, presentation, work articles and family events this month. If I don’t reach my goal, I won’t be entirely surprised. I’m still going to do my best to get as close to 50,000 words. The important part of NaNoWriMo is giving it a try.
I was having a conversation with a classmate today and we were talking about the struggle of balancing work, projects and school. Both us work as graduate assistants and we’re in our first semester of our graduate programs. While we both knew the first semester would be difficult, we didn’t realize how stressful it would be.
For the last four years, I’ve worked and gone to school. I maintained this balance through the majority of undergrad. I would hold (at least) a job, serve in an extracurricular organization and take a full load of classes. I made it through each semester, earning the grades I wanted and saving money at the same time. Eventually the work paid off and I was able to send myself to Europe (twice) for short vacations before I graduated from college.
That’s not to say I didn’t burn out at times. A couple of semesters I seriously struggled. I had a problem turning down opportunities and loaded my schedule with too many commitments. That’s why I knew that I had to change my habits when I started graduate school.
Since the start of my program, I’d like to say I’ve been more successful in my school and work balance. I’ve made sure not to take on more tasks than I can handle. I feel like I have just enough to keep me productive, but sane.
My schedule allows me to have a few free afternoons a week. With this time, I can either study more or do things for fun. With my schedule, I’m able to visit local bookshops, get coffee or go to yoga class if I feel like it. The important part of maintaining the work-school balance is to include some downtime.
And while I can’t deny that graduate school is more stressful, I think it’s worth it. Most of the time my stress has motivated me to work harder. More stress absolutely comes from handling both school and work, but luckily this stress is short term. How it changes my school work will be a long term benefit.
A photo from orientation, two months ago.
Somehow it happened. It’s the midpoint of the fall semester. I’ve already gone through two months of grad school. It’s been a ride for sure, but I’m loving the experience. I’m looking forward to seeing through the end of first semester. Most of my classes finish up around Thanksgiving, so it’ll be crunch time soon. I apologize if that means even fewer blog posts than usual! In the last two months, I’ve learned a number of things about this grad program:
1. Make a schedule and stick to it. It’s so important to prioritize assignments. Look at what has to get done first and focus on that. Procrastination doesn’t work well in grad school.
2. Always overestimate school assignments. It’s better to do more work than less. It takes some time getting used to what the professor expects. Aim high when it comes to submitted work.
3. Learn how to read and analyze academic articles. I read so much each week, mostly journal articles about mass communication. I have a system now for finding the key takeaways of each article.
4. Take advantage of opportunities. I’ve been able to know professors better due to smaller class sizes. For me, I’ve found more one-on-one time with instructors than I did in undergrad. I feel like I’m in a more tight-knit community.
5. Free time doesn’t mean play time. I don’t have class every weekday, but I still use that time for homework and class prep. It’s hard to get ahead on work, but if I have the opportunity, I’ll start on assignments early.
Image via prpartners.co.nz
The public tends to think that public relations professionals mostly do damage control after a crisis. In fact, that’s only a very small portion of what practitioners do. Some PR pros never even have to deal with major crises. Instead practitioners are taught to be proactive, instead of reactive, about communication. Being proactive can make all the difference, especially when a crisis does occur.
In order to be proactive about PR, a number of steps are recommended:
1. Define your key goals and objectives. What is your company all about? Where it is looking to go in the next five to 10 years? What goods or services does the company provide? Come up with answers to these questions. Be prepared to share this information regularly.
2. Develop your brand. If you’re part of a newer company, develop a media kit and corresponding documents. These should include boilerplates, white papers, press releases and corporate biographies.
3. Know your audience. Conduct surveys, send emails and make phone calls to better understand your audience. Who buys your good or service? What would they like to read about? Always keep the audience in mind.
4. Plan regularly. Make yearly and monthly plans. Create content calendars to keep track of press releases and social media.
5. Create relationships with the media. Get to know the reporters and journalists in your area. They’ll be more likely to work with you if you have an existing relationship.