People ask me all the time: “Why do you want to work in social media?” In light of the advice last week telling me to get personal, it’s time I answered.
I started out at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire as an elementary education major. I had done a stint student-teaching at my old elementary school during my senior year of high school, and I fell in love. I loved watching students’ eyes look around aimlessly as they tried to figure out a problem, and I loved seeing them look up suddenly when you knew, they got it. I have such tremendous respect for teachers because after my first year, I felt that something was off. I don’t have that God-sent patience to teach younger children. I wish I did, because I truly enjoy teaching and working in a learning environment, but I don’t have the patience to be the kind of teacher every child deserves. So I sought some advice from those who give it best.
I talked to my dad over the winter break during my sophomore year in college. I told him I wasn’t having fun in my classes and in the classrooms I taught in, and I wasn’t sure what to do. My dad, always being the one to cut the crap and solve problems as efficiently as possible, asked me, “What do you actually spend most of your day doing?” I had to be honest, and tell my proud dad that instead of studying all day, I spent most of my time on Facebook and Twitter. Instead of chastising me, he looked at me like I was a bit dim.
“Well, do that, then,” he said. I felt kind of dim. He told me to find a way to make a living by working with social media. So the next day I went onto my student center, declared a PR major, and didn’t look back.
Social Feels Right.
After declaring that major, I went through the process of registering for all-new classes, joining new organizations, and taking all the activities I was involved in and seeing how they fit into my new PR-focused resume. Turns out, I was already headed down that path, working as the Vice President and Event Coordinator of my dorm government, and starting a recreation event organization on campus. In introducing myself to my new orgs (PRSSA!), I always said, “My name is Allie, I’m a PR major, and I’m working toward a career in social media.”
I’ve always felt at home with social media. And when I say that, I don’t mean that I simply always have the “Facebook” tab open on my laptop (I mean, I do, but…). I mean that I understand it. Internet culture fascinates me. After my roommate freshman year introduced me to Tumblr (thanks, Liz), I started thinking about how people communicate differently on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. People use different language. They use different tactics. People themselves present a different persona, and all of it enthralls me.
My classes fell into place. Because I’d spent my late high school and early university years involved in organizations that planned events, promotion and relating to publics felt natural. Something else clicked, too. As a member of generation Y, I suffer from the same attention-span shortening as nearly everyone else I know. I’m a self-admitted procrastinator, and I study in short shifts: 15 minutes of work, 5 minutes of reading, or a card game, etc. I can’t keep my focus on something for three hours at a time. So I’m using that to my advantage.
Public Relations is a field that’s always “on.” Whether the CEOs of big business like it or not, they need PR the moment any crisis happens. They need PR when they want to talk to the media. They need PR when there’s a new social platform to speak from. The PR professionals or an organization have lots to do, and as soon as disaster strikes, they have to be on all channels. This is where I excel. My short attention span, while prohibiting me from working on lengthy projects all at once, has conditioned me to work quickly and efficiently when tackling several different projects on different platforms at once.
I attended a lecture recently at the UWEC 2014 Ann Devroy Forum, at which Scott Wilson spoke. Wilson is the current White House Bureau Chief at The Washington Post, and his lecture gave an insight I’m glad I caught. He said that the nature of journalism is changing, because social media is coming up on the scene like a freight train.
“The nature of ‘the scoop’ is different today,” Wilson noted. And as a student who is looking into social media in every blog, journal, and TwitChat I can, I hope I can use my background to help my employers succeed in today’s fast-paced information environment.
I do have an advantage on social media over those who grew up without it. But more important is the work I’ve put in to truly understand internet culture. I love the internet, and I’m excited to start my career putting that love to work.