The only constant this semester has been change. New opportunities, new classes, new people, and a new Michigan weather change every other minute has really thrown me for a loop. It's very easy to get caught up in one aspect of your college life and neglect the rest. Balance is incredibly difficult, and lately I've been feeling like I've failed to even step on the scale – as I like to say, I've been floating through space and time all semester.
Needless to say, I've been having a hard time staying motivated and finding the worth in my work. There's been a lot of me asking myself, "What's the point?"
Then I went to AdCon, an advertising and public relations conference held by AdCraft in Detroit every year that brings professionals and students together to talk about the industry. I wanted to learn more about PR and jobs in social media management, so I decided to attend. I didn't think I'd leave feeling like I could take on the world.
But, enough of my clichés; here's what I learned from my experience at AdCon, and why you should consider attending next year:
1) The money will come.
One of the panelists offered great wisdom: if you continue to work at improving your skills and take every day as new experience, the money will come. No one in this creative and fast-paced industry wakes up a millionaire after one day. This might mean you have to work side jobs, but the craft is something you hone over time.
2) Always think, "What's best?"
What's best for the client? What's best for the consumer? What's best for me?
That last question is one I tend to forget when contemplating taking on a new project or joining a new team. We have to remember to think about our trajectory, how we want to grow, and if we can handle the new responsibility without shirking any of our current obligations. As far as asking what's best for the consumer and client, it is vital to be ethical and effective with our work – this is a concept we learn very early on in WRA202, for all you PW majors reading along.
Learning to balance these facets of good business while maintaining sanity is quite difficult.
3) Learn how to write.
HA! We've got a leg up with that here in the WRAC department – most of us live and breathe writing. No matter what field we venture into, no matter where we see ourselves in five or ten years, it's vital to know how to write effectively.
Some of the panelists enthusiastically advised experimenting with writing in new mediums, and others placed more emphasis on continuing to write for yourself in order to preserve the passion. As a WRAC Communications intern, I've learned a lot about writing for a website, versus Twitter, versus Facebook, and that experience will be invaluable as I move forward. (See how the WRAC Comm. Team is learning how to effectively use Twitter, @msuwrac!)
4) Volunteer your time.
Doing work for free is a great way to gain real-world experience and to make professional connections. Internships allow us to gain insight about the fields and subjects that simply can't be taught in the classroom – even by the incredible WRAC faculty! There is so much value in offering to take on projects for free, and that won't go unnoticed by future employers.
5) Follow your passion.
This one's the kicker: almost every panelist and professional made it very clear that passion can be turned into a career.
This is something my parents started telling me at a young age, so it's been rattling around in my head forever. Hearing other people say it, not just Mom and Dad, made me realize just how right they are. We never know what's going to happen, so we must keep engaged in work and activities we're passionate about, and it just might turn into a career. For me, that's music – writing about albums and shows, interviewing artists, and DJing. I'm not saying I'll be the next Ryan Seacrest, but I don't want to stop going down this path.
6) Brand yourself.
We are all aspiring young professionals, and will constantly have to sell ourselves to others. It's important to decide how we want to be perceived and understood early – a clear vision of who we want to be takes us one step closer to becoming that person. Personal brands will change depending on goals, age, and situation, so be flexible and open to adjustments. Learn how to market "you," because you might just find that you're the most valuable product on the market.
7) Do your research.
Don't walk into an interview or a meeting blind. Be knowledgeable and prepared to learn more. Set yourself up for success – you deserve to be there just as much as the next guy, so prove it.
8) We are all human.
We hear this all the time, but when working in a progressively more digitized and impersonal world, it's hard to remember there are people behind the screens. It changes everything to think about your audience as individuals rather than a mass of faceless people – that's how we effectively communicate and connect.
In one panel on social and emerging media, a panelist suggested the whole group of professionals on stage say one of their most embarrassing moments in the industry. Hearing stories of first encounters with open bars, to accidental email attachments, to the classic pants-ripping, made all of these big, scary professionals so normal. We're all struggling with something, so learning early and repeating often that we are all human and allowed to make mistakes will only make us better.
AdCon was an incredible experience, and I learned so much more about myself than I ever thought possible on one Saturday in Detroit. If you think AdCon is something you’d like to attend, you can find videos of the keynote speaker, information about the companies that participated, and more about AdCraft as a whole, check out their website: http://www.adcraft.org/.