Thursday, August 26, 2010

Making Students Have a Personal Plan

This is my first week back to work. Feels good to sit in my office again. Fits like a nice old pair of jeans. Perfect.

As I settle into my classes, I'm consistently teaching my students the importance of not just being good PR technicians, but strategic thinkers. From the moment I introduce myself to students in Introduction to Public Relations, they are taught to construct what I call Dennis Wilcox's "eight-point" plan. The components of the plan are situation, objectives, audience, strategies, tactics, calendar, budget and evaluation. This process allows students to really understand how and why they create specific tactics and exactly what each will do to help meet organization goals.

What I realize after speaking to so many students at the end of each year is they don't bother to see how creating a personal plan could benefit them. It makes perfect sense. They could create a one-year plan, four-year plan or simply a "how am I going to get a job" plan. For the latter example, the exercise of researching the industry landscape, city where they want to live and companies currently hiring is great. Possible objectives are meeting at least six recruiters over the next two months and asking for informational interviews or forming a relationship with one industry expert willing to become a mentor and facilitate an easy transition into the workforce. Even the budget aspect of the plan is very important. I have students who want to work in Hollywood. However, none know or realize they must pay their way to Los Angeles for interviews, or they haven't budgeted the costs of shipping their cars or renting apartments.

Students spend so much of their lives living semester to semester. They have short term goals of finishing this paper or that assignment and long-term goals of getting a 3.5 gpa for the semester. However, little to no students think in terms of full academic years. Do they really stop to think what they want to get out of the entire college experience, and more importantly, strategically think about and plot the ways to achieve it?

I plan to challenge my students to make a personal plan this year. One that takes them toward their personal objectives of being successful entry level PR professionals. We can talk media mogul, PR trailblazer and/or popular public intellect later. Today, I think they should focus on what they can do now to get their first jobs when they graduate in May 2011.