Since graduating from college in 2002, I’ve often reflected on how well prepared I was to enter the “real world.”
And honestly, I’m not sure I could have done much more than I did.
I studied with vigor, made good grades, was president of my Public Relations Student Society of America chapter, had three internships, networked hard, actively participated in all of my PR courses and got to know my professors on a personal level.
PR was and still is my hobby.
So, one would think I would have walked right into a PR job upon graduation, right? Wrong, wrong, blanketed with a big, fat nope! Man was I frustrated about that, too.
There I was, a competitive, college graduate with all the ambition and enthusiasm in the world, still hyping how tasty the guacamole and fresh tortillas were at Don Pablo’s in Murfreesboro, Tenn. While there’s absolutely nothing dishonorable about being a restaurant server, a job I think everyone should try, I was sick of it. After eight years of working for tips and smelling like what I served, I was done! Fed up! Ready to move on! I was ready for a “real job.”
Then it happened.
I was working a typical afternoon shift at Donny P’s, as we called it. From across the restaurant, I saw new guests at one my tables. Like I had done hundreds of times before, I loaded up a chip basket, filled a ramekin with salsa and headed their way. Little did I know, this would be the most important chips and salsa delivery of my life.
After greeting them, taking their drink order and returning a little while later, I noticed the gentleman’s Palm Pilot. I asked him a question about it, and quickly learned he used it for work. I don’t remember if I asked him what he did for a living or if he volunteered it. Regardless, once I learned he was the Public Affairs manager at a local Air Force base, I pounced. Before I knew it, I had grabbed a chair, was seated at the end of the booth, and fired off my credentials. He appeared surprised and then probed. Little did I know, I had just entered into an interview for a job.
Three months later, I was the newest member of the Public Affairs team at Arnold Air Force Base.
After all that studying, networking and interning, it all came down to luck, fate, divine intervention or whatever you want to call it. So, in hindsight could I have just partied more, blown off some classes, and skipped one or two internships?
Absolutely not. If I hadn’t have had PR experience to tout, developed professionalism and confidence, and learned how to pitch myself, I firmly believe I wouldn’t have been offered the job later on. I may not even have been offered a “real” interview several weeks later.
After talking with my now former boss, that day in the restaurant pretty much sealed the deal I learned. But, again, I can’t overstate the importance of working hard to, not only prepare you for employment, but also prepare you for unexpected auditions that can happen at anytime, anywhere.