Thoughts on Life and The Awesomeness of College

It’s official…I’m a college graduate! On May 10 I walked across the stage and had the opportunity to celebrate with my family and friends. It was such a bittersweet day. Although I’m sad to see college career come to an end, I’m excited to take the next steps in my career.

Let the future begin!

Let the future begin!

As we all know, college isn’t just about the books. There are so many life lessons the college experience teaches so well. Here are five of my favorites:

1. If you want to achieve goals, make them happen…starting now.

The summer before I went to college, my church’s youth pastor and his wife coached me on college readiness to help prepare me as much as possible for life as a college student. One of the most valuable pieces of wisdom they shared with me was that if I wanted to instill a new habit, I had to start as soon as I arrived to campus or as soon as my semester started. If not, busyness and routine would take over and any hopes of accomplishing that goal would most likely slip through the cracks.

This was GREAT advice. Right when I got to college, I set aside the time I needed to reach my goals, such as going to the gym, staying in touch with family and friends and practicing (I was a music major at the time).

As I plan out what my life will look like in the future, I know it will be more of a challenge to set good habits, as more responsibilities add up. However, it isn’t impossible and achieving goals is important no matter what stage of life I’m in.

2. Mom and Dad are cool.

There’s this shift that happens usually right before high school ends or halfway through the first year of college where mom and dad are suddenly cool! When I left for college I remember being excited to be on my own, but every time my parents made the trip up to Denton for the weekend I was always very excited to spend time with them.

Not only are they cool but also smart, contrary to what my teenage self credited them. I’m thankful that my parents were so involved in my college experience. My mom basically knew more than my advisors and quickly became a pro at helping me plan out my schedules so I could graduate with a degree and a half in four years. I’ve grown rather close to my parents, as I should. They’re the only ones I have.

3. Detours are sometimes the best things that can happen to you. 

I was a double major in music and public relations my first and second years of college. I knew I loved music and also knew I loved to write, although I wasn’t exactly sure I knew what PR was quite yet. As a music student I participated in music ensembles, took lessons and learned theory and music history at one of the most prestigious music schools in the nation. I really enjoyed it, but quickly saw my passion fading after hours on top of hours of practicing and struggling through my music theory assignments.

I finally came to a point where I had to choose. PR won and I’ve never regretted that decision, nor have I regretted the time spent making music at the University of North Texas. Some of my closest friends were made through the marching band and some of my favorite memories were in the music building and performance hall.

4. You don’t have to be the smartest to stand out.

I was honored as the Outstanding PR Student of the Year at the journalism banquet in May, an award chosen by the Mayborn School of Journalism’s faculty. It was a very exciting moment, that’s for sure.

A lot of people who congratulated me said things like, “Wow! You must make really good grades!” The truth is I’ve never been an extremely academic person. I worked VERY hard to make good grades in school, which paid off in the end, but certainly wasn’t a walk in the park for me as it was for some of my friends growing up.

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2014 Outstanding Public Relations Student in the Department of Strategic Communications at UNT

I think the key to being successful and standing out is hard work and being passionate about what you do. During my college career I had seven different internships, was the president of UNT’s Chapter of PRSSA and was the kind of person who attended networking events and watched webinars on her days off. People would always comment on how busy I seemed, but I was just doing what I think is fun! Those internships and tough classes flew by because I absolutely love what I do.

As my youngest sister and cousin graduate from high school this year I sincerely hope they fall in love with their major as I did. It makes college (an life)THAT more awesome and rewarding.

5. Friendships are a gift, not a guarantee

After I graduated high school I started to lose touch with some of people I considered best friends during middle or high school. It was sad at first, but as I changed and grew, my old friends were changing and growing too.

These two drove four hours to come see me graduate! Lindsay (left) has been a best friend of mine for 11 years and Kelsey (right) is a friend I met my freshman year. She transferred to UT Austin for nursing school, but we have stayed close ever since :)

These two drove four hours to come see me graduate! Lindsay (left) has been a best friend of mine for 11 years and Kelsey (right) is a friend I met my freshman year. She transferred to UT Austin for nursing school, but we have stayed close ever since 🙂

There are several friendships I have that have lasted more than ten years, but college taught me the value of learning when to fight for those friendships and when to let go to make room for others. Letting go of friendships is bittersweet, but I can’t think of a time where new friendships weren’t blossoming. I’ve been blessed with wonderful friends and as I’ve grown older, I’ve been even more thankful for these gifts and realized that they are blessings that I am not entitled to.

Here are some of the friends that made college such a wonderful time in my life:

This month I’ll be moving to Dallas, standing by one of the friends I’ve known the longest as she marries the man of her dreams, starting the next chapter in my career and vacationing with my family in Boston. I’ll miss the ability to plan my own schedule, nap times between classes and exciting intern adventures as a college student, but I’m so excited to see what the future has in store.

“ Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21

What are your favorite things about your college experience?

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Anyone Can Be an Alchemist

I visited an agency about a year ago and met an insightful account executive who recommended Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist when I asked her for reading recommendations. I finally had time to read it during my time off from school and work during the holidays and I’m glad I did. Although it didn’t directly pertain to PR, it provided inspiration that easily applied to my career and life in general.

The Alchemist is a story of a young boy, Santiago, who embarks on a mission to find his treasure. Along the way, he falls into snares and consequences of naivety, makes immense sacrifices, finds and loses love, and learns life lessons from an infamous alchemist.

As I read The Alchemist, several major themes kept returning:

1. Find your Personal Legend

This book placed an emphasis on chasing after your dreams.  Santiago was on a mission to find his life’s purpose. As many others can relate, Santiago didn’t always know his personal legend and reason for life. If you don’t know, that’s okay. Part of the fun is discovering that one thing that makes you happy and makes you different from anyone else on earth. Are you hoping to discover your personal legend this year? The beauty of this concept is that making a decision is only the beginning of a lifelong journey that can be extraordinarily rewarding.

What are you most excited about in life?

2. Don’t fear the desert

In The Alchemist, Santiago took a journey through the Sahara Desert to go to the pyramids, where he believed the treasure was buried. This was an apprehensive time in his journey. The caravan through the desert was long and dangerous and at times Santiago was tempted to give up.

Sometimes your life’s calling will require you to take a detour. Instead of feeling inconvenienced by these perceived setbacks, see them as opportunities– even in the midst of suffering. You might be thinking, “That sounds a lot easier than it is.” Coelho cleverly wrote, “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself… No heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” You’re not alone in the desert and when you reach an oasis or your final destination you will be reminded of life’s blessings and be thankful for life in and of itself.

What are you most afraid of? Why?

“Immerse yourself in the desert. You don’t even have to understand the desert: all you have to do is contemplate a single grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation.”

3. “Where your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” 

During Santiago’s journey, he finds a beautiful woman and falls in love. She tells Santiago to follow his heart and find his treasure, and then he can come back and they will be together. I admired this selfless aspect of love because she wanted him to pursue his dreams enough to let him go.

As Coehlo wrote, “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

How can you do a better job of loving your family, significant other or coworkers?

Life is Golden 

The alchemist book

Add this one to your booklist.

I admit… when I picked up this book I wasn’t really sure what an alchemist was, but now that I’ve finished this book I understand that life is less about a treasure hunt than transforming what you see as lead to gold.

Would you say your life is more like lead or gold?

Although life will never be perfect, it’s rewarding to follow after your personal legend even if it means you’ll have to travel through a desert for a while. You have everything you need right now to see your life as the sparkling gold it is.

“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”- Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist

Interview Playlist

IMG_3441It’s interview season! Soon to be graduates are interviewing for full-time jobs and students are locking down plans for the spring semester. Interviews can be tough. Just thinking about them can make you feel tense and shaky.

Music has the power to change our mood, get us energized and help us feel optimistic. Why not listen to some upbeat songs that speak encouragement to you as you drive to your next interview?

Below are ten songs that are on my interview playlist, some funny, some serious and the rest are somewhere in between. These songs will help you get pumped up and help you get in the mindset to get the job (fingers crossed!)!

Good Day, Sunshine– The Beatles

Feeling anxious? Cheer up. It’s a new day and you’re about to destroy your competition. Listen to this one while you’re picking out which tie or pair of shoes to wear.

The Coffee Song– Cream

If you’re like me, your morning is incomplete without your coffee. (Coffee is so wonderful it deserves its own playlist, but that’s a playlist for another day.) Listen to this one while you wait for your coffee to brew or as you wait in the Starbucks drive-through.

We Belong Together– Mariah Carey

At this point you’re on the road, coffee in hand, hopefully feeling optimistic. I like to daydream about what my schedule might look like if I worked for the company I’m visiting for an interview and all that I could do to help them accomplish big things. We belong together.

Billionaire– Travie McCoy

Okay, so maybe in public relations I’ll never be a billionaire, but if I’m passionate about what I’m doing, I’ll never work a day in my life. Right?

Roar– Katy Perry

I may or may not actually like this song, but it’s pretty energizing. Think of the skills/attributes you have that you can emphasize at your interview. Think of possible questions they might ask you so you have an answer ready. They’re ready to hear you ROAR.

Fighter– Christina Aguilera

At this point you might be about a third of the way there, still feeling good but maybe a little nervous. I often reflect on past interview questions I’ve been asked and think of how I can answer them better this time around. To my past interviewees… Thanks for making me a fighter 🙂

Stronger– Kelly Clarkson

You’re getting closer. This interview won’t kill you. I guarantee walking in with a good attitude will help you learn more about yourself and make new connections even if you don’t get the job. Just keep breathing and trust that you’ll leave stronger than when you walked in.

Don’t Stop Believing– Journey

Maybe you’re having doubts. Don’t! Just relax and believe in yourself. If you believe in yourself your interviewer will notice. Think of a moment in your career that you were the most proud. Capture that moment and think of how you felt then rather than exploring your doubts.

Overcomer– Mandisa

As if Stronger didn’t get you pumped up, listen to this one if you’re having doubts. You can do this!

Hakuna Matata– The Lion King

This playlist wouldn’t be complete if there wasn’t a Disney song, so here you go. Hakuna Matata. It means no worries, so walk in with your head high and whether you make it or not, it’s okay.  Good luck!

In the Driver’s Seat

Used car shopping has consumed the past few weeks of my life. After days of research, phone calls and dealership visits I decided what make, color, price and mileage I wanted. After spending nearly every second of my free time looking at cars online and evaluating all the options in my price range, I finally found the one.

The red, four-door Mazda6 I found was the car of my dreams. It was beautiful and sleek and looked like exactly what I hoped would be my next car. Unfortunately, it was a little over 100 miles from my apartment, which was the only problem I could see from the profile online. My parents, who faithfully guided me down the path to purchasing my first “big girl” car drove up to visit the dealership with me.

We pulled into the lot and there it was, glittering in the sun. The car salesman handed me the keys and I hurriedly unlocked the door and sat in the driver’s seat. Before I even put the keys in the ignition I couldn’t help but realize the car reeked of cigarette smoke.

“I can get past that,” I thought as I decided to overlook the scuffs on the passenger seat as well. It drove well, but I wasn’t fond of the fact that it didn’t have automatic windows or locks, a complaint I had about my previous car. The last straw was the check engine light that came on, which the salesman couldn’t explain.

I drove it back to the dealership, a little saddened that we had come all this way to visit my dream car and it wasn’t much of a dream after all. Letting go of my “non-negotiables” allowed me to see the striking blue Toyota Corolla, which was parked right next to the Mazda that I hadn’t even noticed when I arrived.

Car shopping is a lot like job seeking. Buying a car is a lot of work and takes a lot of preparation. The experience was a little stressful, but totally worth it in the end. Here’s how I found that the process related to job seeking:

  1. It’s important to research your options: How can you know what you want if you don’t know what’s out there? As a job seeker, it’s a good idea to know what you want and to develop reasonable expectations. Besides, in PR research skills are essential.
  2. Communicate effectively: In public relations, communication skills are essential. When buying a car, it’s also important to be a good communicator and ask the right questions. How will you know your dream car is really what you’re looking for if you don’t know how to read between the lines and ask the right questions? It’s not just about verbal communication, though. Nonverbal cues say a lot about you as well. If you go to test drive a vehicle and you seem desperate, they will pick up on it. That is the same for interviews. No one wants to hire a desperate jobseeker. Relax and be confident. It’ll work out better for everyone that way.
  3. Know how to negotiate: Sometimes it’s okay to negotiate your salary just like it’s okay to negotiate the price of a car. Be reasonable and know when it’s a good time if you’re planning on negotiating your salary. It can be a slippery slope, but negotiating skills will take you far.
  4. Invest in your future: Car salesmen won’t sell you a car if you have bad credit. Similarly, you won’t get a job in PR if your portfolio is lacking. As a student it’s important to develop your skills and showcase them in your portfolio. It will pay off during interviews.
  5. Dream Big: It’s okay to dream! Just like I imagined myself driving down the highway in a shiny red Mazda it’s okay to imagine yourself as a VP in the corner suite. However, dreams without a plan are just dreams. If you really want something, you have to be willing to do the legwork or save the money to get there. It’s okay to start off as an intern after graduation and work your way up. Everyone has to start somewhere.
  6. When all else fails, remember this too shall pass: Just like any car will eventually be worn out and you’ll have to buy another one, most employees don’t stay at the same job for their entire career. In the beginning we build up the moment of that test drive, carefully observing the features and weighing the cost just like we view the job description, interviews, salary and benefits. From the outside everything may seem perfect, but it doesn’t matter how cool your car looks if the engine falls out. All in all, perspective is an important consideration. The point of a car is to get from A to B. Similarly, the point of a job is to pay the bills. It’s fun to add in challenges, a stimulating work environment and even a cushy salary, but let’s not elevate work (or a car) into something it shouldn’t be.

I could’ve driven off the lot with that sporty, red Mazda that day, and I probably would’ve been happy with my purchase for a while, but eventually I’d have to figure out what was wrong with the engine and maybe even try to scrub out the stains on the seats. This story has a happy ending though. After a few hours of negotiating and filling out paperwork I drove off the lot with my new-to-me Toyota Corolla. It’s not the car I’m planning on driving forever, but for now it’s absolutely perfect.

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I named him Blue Steel.