Beating the Back-to-School Blues

You know the drill.
It’s your third or fourth year in college. You’ve gone through all your basic introductory courses and boring gen-ed classes. You’ve now moved up to the theoretical classes, causing you frustration and overwhelmsion.
The world must be against you. Practically no time for yourself, it seems.

As frustrating as it is, it’s hard to believe that this feeling is so common.

I’m not very fond of lists, seeing as how millions of other blogs seem to contain the same content over and over again. I’m not going to give you these same cookie-cutter ideas. Rather, I am going to talk about what I do to recover from the back-to-school blues.

1. Join a new group.
This school year, I took the initiative to join our improv club, Chainlink. Having done theatre in high school, I was in dire need of some entertainment and stress relief.  And boy, did I get it. Because of my involvement, doing homework became a lot easier because I had less stressful thoughts weighing on my shoulders.
Yes, being involved on campus is time consuming. You don’t get paid for it (most of the time), and sometimes it involves more work.
But think about it this way: is it really going to hurt you to take time to get away from your mundane responsibilities just to have some fun? Student organizations are just interest groups, designed to bring students of similar mindsets together.
What’s more, showing leadership and involvement on campus has a lot more worth on your resume than does your part-time job waiting tables. Employers like to see that you are willing to invest some time in your school, which may translate to your job as well.

2. Read about your major.
You probably read this headline and scoffed. But I’m serious.
Though this is more geared towards those majoring in Communications, this is still an important part of developing yourself, regardless of your career goals.
I joined Twitter about a year ago, not quite sure what to do with it. I first started following Amy Burger (@justwannawrite), a St. Louis PR professional/freelance writer, who came to campus to present on the revolution that is Twitter, thus convincing me to join. I started to notice Amy posting articles on the PR profession, and I became intrigued. Through her, I found a huge network of PR practitioners and media communications specialists. With them came a plethora of articles about career opportunities, how to maximize my career potential, and more.
I can honestly say I’ve learned more from these articles than from my classes. Classes are extremely valuable, of course, but voluntarily obtaining this valuable material will motivate you to keep reading. So by the time you’re out in the “real world,” you’ll have this knowledge that many other people may not have!

3. Take time to make time.
I. LOVE. MY. PLANNERS. (Yes, I have two.)
When you’re a student, living day to day without any guidance can sure be a  hassle. Organizing a planner is one of the most tedious tasks you’ll have to deal with, but when it’s all said and done, you will find your whole life (or week, at least) laid out in front of you. There is no guessing involved.
With this new visual of your own life, you can *gasp* find time for yourself.
I have personally made time for myself every Wednesday evening so I can catch The Middle, Modern Family, and Cougartown with some friends. This means going out and leaving anything and everything school-related at home.

4. Devote your electives to your personal well-being.
I’m not going to say not to minor in anything. A minor is a great supplement to any degree. However, this is why I am not getting a minor.
Having a minor means dedicating yourself to another field of study outside your major. This means taking intermediate and advanced classes for a subject you won’t even get recognition for on your diploma.
Instead of getting a minor, I have dedicated my elective credits to myself. In the past I have taken a beginning ballet class, a strength & conditioning class, and this semester I am learning yoga. A major part of “surviving” college is a healthy amount of exercise. Why not get credit hours for it?
It doesn’t even have to be exercise. I’m also taking an introductory photography class because it interests me. I don’t want to major in it, and I don’t plan on doing anything with it. Yet it proves theraputic to me because it is a subject I would like to learn about.

As I mentioned before, in no way am I saying these are the perfect solutions for everyone.  But these are what work best for me. And I hope that, even if you think my ideas are irrelevant, that they will inspire you to find your own.

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Self-Branding via Dialogue

I had an interesting conversation yesterday about developing your own brand through dialogue with others.
The subject of said conversation was a former (retired) principal of a South County St. Louis-area high school. Because the inhabitants of South County have a more “southern” accent, this principal, also from the area, spoke the same way in both casual and professional environments. Words often used in her dialogue included “ain’t” and the like.

The question was, why did this educator, who had a master’s degree, speak so unprofessionally when she knew very well how to sound professional?

Then I got to thinking. Perhaps, rather than using proper grammar and such to affirm her position as principal, was she speaking more causally because her main audience (students, parents, and teachers) spoke the same way?

Later on yesterday evening, I watched an episode of Sex & the City, paying my usual particular attention to the character Samantha Jones.

One of the most important things I’ve learned about working in public relations is that you must know your audience at all times. Whether it’s developing your own brand or speaking on behalf of another, you must know who you’re speaking to and how to best reach them.

Samantha, a PR pro herself, demonstrates this almost too well. In an episode of Season 4, Samantha must deal with three transsexual prostitutes on her street who consistently make too much noise in the wee hours of the morning. In her first attempt to quiet them, Samantha struts her stuff outside to talk to them.

She says, “Ladies, hello. I live right up there, the loft within earshot. As much as I respect a woman’s right for a little somethin’ somethin’ with certain New Jersey gentlemen, I have a request. I have a very early business meeting. And I think we all know, there are certain dark circles even the best make-up can’t cover. Am I right?” (Source)
And just like that, she alleviates the problem. Well, at least for the night.

So thinking back on the aforementioned principal, perhaps she was doing the right thing.

Yes, it is important to maintain a proper dialogue, good grammar and all, to keep your professional composure. But when you’re dealing with a particular audience, it is better to cater yourself to your audience to build a closer connection. That way, in the long run, they are better able to trust and identify with you and your brand.